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With more than 522,000 acres, Smoky Mountain National Park straddles the North Carolina and Tennessee border and is America’s most visited National Park. Summer is the busiest time to visit, and during the fall the vibrant foliage puts on a show. Accommodations within the park are primarily campsites, so many travelers bunk down around Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tenn., on the northern edge of the park (about a 10 to 20-minute drive). These two areas are geared toward tourism and have a slew of attractions including wax museums, racing tracks, mini golf, and amusement parks like Dolly Parton’s famous Dollywood. Accommodations range from low-key lodges that are perfect for taking in mountain views to budget digs in the heart of these touristy towns. Still not sure where to stay? Here are eight of the best hotels near the Great Smoky Mountains.
Best Overall: Inn on the River
Once a Hampton Inn, the remodeled Inn on the River has a super prime location that's just steps away from the attractions of Pigeon Forge (like Christmas Place and the Hollywood Wax Museum), and offers 128 rooms and suites in a peaceful riverside setting. TripAdvisor users love the upper level rooms overlooking the river, however not all rooms offer those views, so be sure to ask when booking. The hotel features a scenic outdoor pool, heated indoor pool with a hot tub and a patio. Standard Rooms have maple wood furniture, mini refrigerators, flat-screen televisions and baths with granite counter tops. Many rooms also have private balconies or gas fireplaces and a free breakfast buffet is included with each stay.
Best for Families: Inn at Christmas Place
The Inn at Christmas Tree Place celebrates the season of giving year-round with a Bavarian-Christmas ambience, a singing Santa who performs in the lobby and holiday decorations like a Black Forest clock that plays Christmas carols. The 145-room inn has many amenities for families with little ones, such as a 95-foot water slide, outdoor swimming pool, indoor pool, hot tub and character visits during breakfast (included in the rate). Many rooms have private balconies or courtyard views, while suites are ideal for families and have full kitchens and sleeper sofas. The inn is located near all the main Pigeon Forge attractions, just 10 minutes (driving) from Dollywood and Parrot Mountain and Gardens, or five minutes from the Titanic Museum Exhibit.
Best Lodge: Buckberry Creek
More of the rustic type? Located about a 10-minute drive from central Gatlinburg, the Lodge at Buckberry Creek has 44 suites, unbeatable views and a outdoorsy atmosphere (think plaid couches, wood-paneled walls and nature-themed artwork). Hand-carved sculptures, taxidermy and wood furnishings can be found in every corner of the lodge, including the lobby and pavilion – an open-air public space with commanding views of the mountains. Grab a seat on the patio to start the day off right with the included breakfast buffet, or reserve a spot at dinner for upscale American fare (which TripAdvisor members highly recommend experiencing). Suites have gorgeous fireplaces, full kitchens, private balconies (although not all suites have a room with a view) and spacious baths with soaking tubs. Guests can explore the property’s hiking paths and meander along the trickling Buckberry Creek.
Best Spa: Riverstone Resort
Adjacent to the Gatlinburg Golf Course with views of the Smoky Mountains, the Riverstone Resort and Spa has all the ingredients for a peaceful wellness vacation. Relieve stress at the full-service spa with a body treatment such as an herbal mud wrap or a hot stone massage. The resort also has a lazy river, indoor pool, nature trails, picnic tables set along the river, as well as a playground and game room for the kids. Accommodations are pet-friendly and include luxurious, condo-style rooms or private two-bedroom, loft-style log cabins with pool tables, fireplaces and wrap-around porches. Even the smallest condos have Jacuzzis and conveniences like modern kitchens, dining tables and washing machines and dryers. The resort is less than three miles from Dollywood, MagiQuest and the Lumberjack Adventure Show.
Best for Couples: Berry Springs Lodge
A rustic, luxury bed and breakfast, Berry Springs Lodge is a tranquil romantic hideaway in Sevierville, a 25-minute drive from Smoky Mountain National Park with gorgeous views of the mountains. Each of the nine rooms has its own color scheme, design, and furniture, but include home-like touches such as poster beds with quilts, rocking chairs and upholstered recliners, as well as premium amenities like plush robes, nightly turndown service and free WiFi. Many rooms also feature balconies, fireplaces and hot tubs. Guests can explore the 33 acres surrounding the lodge on foot or by mountain bike, enjoy lunch at the picnic tables, take the canoe out on one of two ponds, or challenge other guests to croquet or horseshoes. Breakfast includes the option of dining with other guests or individually, with homemade items like Belgium waffles with fresh fruit, stuffed French toast or Western-style scrambled eggs.
Runner-Up, Best for Families: Clarion Inn Dollywood
For a reasonably priced family stay near Dollywood, Wonderworks and the Island in Pigeon Forge family entertainment center, Clarion Inn Dollywood is an excellent choice. A wide range of amenities include a massive breakfast with plenty of hot and cold options, free WiF, an indoor pool, hot tub, lazy river and outdoor pool with a waterslide – a favorite with TripAdvisor members. Spacious rooms accommodate up to four people and have contemporary décor and Keurig coffee machines. A friendly parrot greets visitors in the lobby, and cookies and popcorn are available in the evenings.
Best Motel: Mountain Breeze Motel
If you're on a really tight budget and are willing to sacrifice some amenities (but still want to be close to mini golf courses, go kart and arcade centers), then family-owned Mountain Breeze Motel is a comfortable, clean and affordable option in Pigeon Forge. Each of the 71 rooms and suites are well kept, but have old-fashioned décor (think carpeted floors, wooden headboards with matching dressers, tube televisions and rocking chairs). There’s also a heated outdoor pool, hot tub and free breakfast. Many TripAdvisor users were returning guests who appreciated the free donuts, coffee and popcorn from the machine in the lobby. They also appreciated the close proximity to many restaurants (within walking distance) including options for southern-cuisine, pizza and barbecue. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is about a 20-minute drive.