Great Smoky Mountains for Visitors on a Budget

It might surprise you to learn that Great Smoky Mountains National Park, located on both sides of the Tennessee-North Carolina border, regularly draws more visitors than famous places like the Grand Canyon, Yosemite or Yellowstone. 

Two key reasons for its popularity: it is located within driving distance of many major East Coast and Midwestern metropolitan areas (representing about 60 percent of the U.S. population), and there is no admission charge for entering the park.

Visitors arrive to find scenic beauty, superb hiking and other recreational opportunities. Although there is no admission charge (a term negotiated by the families that donated this land to the park service), you will have to pay for camping sites and a variety of optional services within the park such as horseback riding, hayrides, and pavilion rentals.

Reservations are wise for camping and other services, especially in the summer and during fall foliage season, which this far south can run into November. 

The region is...MORE served by airports in Knoxville, Tenn. and Asheville, N.C., with Knoxville providing more convenient access. Drivers use Interstates 75 and 40 to arrive here.

The linked articles will provide an overview of the national park and the attractions and accommodations offered both within the park property and in the nearby Sevierville-Pigeon Forge-Gatlinburg area, which offers the closest and most expensive array of services such as hotels and restaurants.

On days when the weather doesn't cooperate, a visit to attractions in town can salvage a vacation day that otherwise would be dull or unpleasant.

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    Great Smoky Mountains National Park on a Budget

    Smoky Mountains Foothills Parkway West
    ••• GreenStock/E+/Getty Images

    This brief overview will help budget travelers get acquainted with the most popular national park in the U.S. Included here are tips on budget airlines, sites within the park and links to detailed information about everything from back-country camping permits to a mountain lodge only accessible by foot. The best amenities require planning and reservations, so take careful note of experiences you'd like to have here and plan accordingly.

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    Great Smoky Mountains - Accommodations

    Budget accommodations are available in the Great Smoky Mountains.
    ••• Mark Kahler, licensed to

    In an area that attracts millions of tourists from all over the world, you might expect to find most accommodations are expensive -- perhaps overpriced. But in the Sevierville-Gatlinburg area, it's possible to find reasonably priced hotel rooms that offer jacuzzi suites, fireplaces and private balconies. Camping options and cabin rentals round out the attractive options for overnight stays. Travelers should pay careful attention to the calendar, as vacancy rates vary with the seasons.

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    Great Smoky Mountains - Area Attractions

    The Sevierville area offers a host of attractions.
    ••• Mark Kahler, licensed to

    The natural attractions within the park are the main attraction, but the Sevierville-Gatlinburg corridor is filled with secondary destinations. Not all of them are worth your time and money, but the attractions that appear here merit consideration as your budget and interests dictate. It's possible to take a break from the mountains and enjoy some unique attractions and eating establishments in the Great Smoky Mountains. These are places that could replace a rainy day in the mountains with a day of family fun.

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    Great Smoky Mountains - National Park Attractions

    Cades Cove is one of the most scenic areas in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
    ••• Mark Kahler, licensed to

    From towering waterfalls to one of the world's most famous hiking trails, Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers a host of natural treasures. Beyond the introductory overview, this article introduces budget travelers to specific locations within the park that shouldn't be missed. Make your own "must see" checklist and map out a satisfying itinerary that will be both memorable and budget friendly. Experience the beauty and splendor of this national park without spending too much money.