3 Days in Gatlinburg Itinerary: What to See & Do (2024)

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Welcome to Gatlinburg, a charming town nestled at the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. As someone who has visited this area multiple times, I can attest to the magic and beauty that this destination holds.

Gatlinburg is the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is a must-visit for any nature lover or adventurer. With its stunning natural beauty, abundant wildlife, and diverse array of activities, it's no wonder why millions of visitors flock to this area each year.

I've created a done-for-you itinerary that ensures you get the most out of your visit to Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains. Whether you're looking for hiking trails, waterfalls, scenic drives, or local dining experiences.

Rest assured that my recommendations come from personal experience and a deep love and respect for this area. I'm here to help you make the most of your time in Gatlinburg and create memories that will last a lifetime.

So, pack your bags and get ready for an adventure in one of the most beautiful and captivating destinations in the United States.

Have more time to spend in the area? There is easily plenty to keep you busy for more than three days! If you need more ideas, drop me a message, and I'll send you more ideas!

🤩 If you want to skip the driving while visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, consider a tour!

Tip: Parking tags are required if you park your vehicle anywhere within the Smoky Mountains park boundaries. Information about parking tags can be found here.

Day 1 Gatlinburg Itinerary:

A view from the Alum Cave Trail - a lovely trail to include in your Gatlinburg Itinerary!

Morning: Alum Cave Trail hike at the Smoky Mountains

If you're looking for a trail with stunning views, the Alum Cave Trail is definitely worth checking out! This 4.4-mile roundtrip trail is rated moderate in difficulty and offers plenty of opportunities to stop and take in the beautiful scenery.

Plan on spending around 3-4 hours on the trail, depending on your pace and how often you stop. If you're up for a challenge, you can extend your hike by continuing on to Mount LeConte or exploring the nearby Rainbow Falls Trail.

The trailhead parking can be found on the Newfound Gap Road, about 8.6 miles from Sugarlands Visitor Center or 20 about miles from Oconaluftee Visitor Center.

My most recent hike on Alum Cave Trail was foggy, which diminished the view – so you may want to skip this on a foggy morning. If you are lucky and get a sunny morning, you will find that the trail is also well-shaded, which makes it a great option for a hot summer day.

As you make your way up the trail, you will be blown away by the stunning views of the mountains and valleys. The trail itself was not too difficult, and there were plenty of opportunities to rest and take in the scenery along the way.

Creek view found in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Afternoon: Sugarlands Visitor Center at the Smoky Mountains

The Sugarlands Visitor Center is a popular destination that offers a variety of displays and exhibits that will help you learn more about the park's history, wildlife, and natural features.

Check for ranger-led programs during the Spring-Fall seasons. The ranger programs provide a great opportunity to explore the park with a knowledgeable guide.

I love the ranger-led programs; they offer a unique outlook on a variety of topics, from flora to wildlife and local history. Some just take place at the visitor centers, and others include walks in nature.

But that's not all – the Sugarlands Visitor Center is also surrounded by plenty of fun things to do! You can take a leisurely stroll along the nearby Fighting Creek Nature Trail or hop in the car and explore the picturesque Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.

🤩 Consider purchasing a self-guided driving tour that includes many great locations throughout the Great Smoky Mountains National Park!

A view of the Gatlinburg Strip.

Evening: Gatlinburg Strip

Are you looking for a fun and lively place to spend your evening in Gatlinburg? Look no further than the Gatlinburg Strip! This bustling area is filled with all sorts of exciting attractions, from quirky souvenir shops to classic arcade games.

But one of the best things about the Strip has got to be the food! There are so many amazing restaurants to choose from; Howard's Restaurant is a classic and the oldest restaurant in Gatlinburg. The portions are large, and river views are available.

After dinner, there are plenty of other things to do on the Strip. Catch a show at the Iris Theater, or if you're in the mood for something sweet, make sure to swing by Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen for some mouth-watering fudge and other treats.

🤩 Catch a Magic Show at the Iris Theater!

Day 2 Gatlinburg Itinerary:

Enjoying a drive along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail - a 5.5 mile winding drive near the Gatlinburg entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Morning: Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail in the Smoky Mountains

Are you ready for a scenic drive through the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains? Then, you won't want to miss the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail! This 5.5-mile drive will take you on a winding journey through lush forests and past babbling mountain streams.

Some park visitors complain that the road gets too crowded and don't enjoy it. We've never experienced it to that extreme, but if you have that concern, just arrive early in the morning (like by 9 a.m.).

To get there, simply head to the Gatlinburg entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and follow the signs to the Roaring Fork area.

Along the way, there are plenty of things to see, including historic cabins and mills, stunning waterfalls, and panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.

One of my favorite spots is the Rainbow Falls Trail, which leads to a spectacular 80-foot waterfall. Plan to get to the trailhead parking early to get a parking space and for better chances of seeing a black bear!

The trail is challenging and will take about 3 hours if you are a quick walker like me! If you are a “normal” paced walker, plan 4 hours to make the trek to the falls and back.

Don't miss the chance to explore the old grist mill at Ogle Place, which gives you a fascinating glimpse into the lives of early mountain settlers. If you visit in the spring, the wildflowers in the area are very pretty!

🤩 Consider purchasing a self-guided driving tour that includes many great locations throughout the Great Smoky Mountains National Park!

A view from the walk up to Clingmans Dome - a great idea for your Gatlinburg Itinerary!

Afternoon: Clingmans Dome in the Smoky Mountains

Standing tall at 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest peak in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and the observation tower at the summit offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

To get there, head to the Clingmans Dome parking area and prepare for a half-mile hike to the summit. The trail is steep, but the stunning views make it well worth the effort. There are several benches if you need to stop for a rest.

I'm a runner and in what I'd consider better-than-average shape. The walk up to the dome was a workout despite being short in length. Michigan is flat, and this trail is steep – so yes, I had to take a break to catch my breath and drink some water. Be sure to have some water with you.

Once you reach the top, be sure to climb the observation tower to take in the spectacular views. And don't forget to check out the visitor center at the base of the trail, where you can learn more about the history and ecology of the area.

If it's foggy, I'd skip walking to the observation tower that day and try a different day again.

Usually, you should be able to tell before you even get there if you would be able to see anything. We got a few miles toward the tower but turned back because the fog just got thicker and thicker.

🤩 Don't want to do your own driving? Check out this tour that will take you to Clingmans Dome and teach you about the area along the way!

Hillbilly Golf is just one of the many putt-putt golf places in Gatlinburg.

Evening: Enjoy dinner at Peddler Steakhouse and then play a round of putt-putt golf or enjoy a haunted walk!

Peddler Steakhouse is situated right on the Little Pigeon River and offers stunning views of the water and the surrounding mountains. Reservations are recommended.

The menu is focused on steaks, but they also offer a variety of seafood and chicken options. The Salad Bar is included with the entree or can be purchased without an entree. Prices are on the higher end, but the food quality and stunning views make it well worth it.

Now that you are full from dinner, how about a little putt-putt golf? There are many putt-putt golf courses throughout the town, with plenty of different themes to choose from.

From a farm-themed course complete with a wide array of farm animal characters to a course that takes you into a Hillbilly atmosphere, you're sure to find a putt-putt course that tickles your fancy.

Growing up, we just had to make a stop at every putt-putt place we saw – my parents never took us kids to Gatlinburg…I wonder why. LOL!

As an adult, I've limited my putt-putt play. We've only played two of the many course options in Gatlinburg.

Or maybe you love a good ghost story? The Gatlinburg Ghosts of The Smokies Most Haunted Tour is a must-do for anyone who loves spine-tingling tales and spooky experiences.

This tour takes you through Gatlinburg's dark and eerie alleys and streets, revealing the chilling and often disturbing history of the city and its inhabitants. From tales of ghostly apparitions to haunting encounters with restless spirits, this tour will keep you on the edge of your seat.

It's a hard pass for me on anything related to ghosts, but obviously, people like them since so many places offer them. If you enjoy them, what's holding you back? Book the tour already!

🤩 Ready for a haunted walk? Click here to book!

Day 3 Gatlinburg Itinerary:

Morning: Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community

If you're looking for unique souvenirs and handmade crafts, the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community is a must-visit spot in Gatlinburg. The community is a group of over 100 artists and craftsmen, with everything from pottery to paintings, jewelry to woodcarvings.

You can easily spend a few hours wandering through the various shops and admiring the beautiful craftsmanship. From stunning Native American-inspired artwork, one-of-a-kind pottery pieces, and yummy chocolates, there is a bit of everything.

We arrived early in the day the last time we were in the area and were disappointed that most places didn't up until a little later in the day.

I recall that we got some delicious chocolates and were able see a very limited number of artists in action.

Visiting the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community is a great rainy day activity!

Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway sign. The tramway is a fun activity to include in your Gatlinburg Itinerary.

Afternoon: Ober Gatlinburg

Ober Gatlinburg is a must-visit destination for visitors of all ages! You can easily spend a full day or more at this mountaintop amusement park. With a variety of activities available, there is something for everyone.

You can take the scenic chairlift ride to the top of the mountain, go ice skating, ride the alpine slide, and even go skiing or snowboarding during winter.

Additionally, there are plenty of shops and restaurants to explore, making it a great place to grab a bite to eat or pick up some souvenirs. Don't forget the breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains from the observation deck!

A view of the Gatlinburg SkyBridge.

Evening: Gatlinburg SkyBridge or a Wine and Shine Walking Tour

If you're looking for a thrilling adventure in Gatlinburg, be sure to check out the Gatlinburg SkyBridge! The longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America, the SkyBridge stretches 680 feet across a deep valley, offering breathtaking panoramic views of the Great Smoky Mountains.

You can spend as much time as you like walking across the bridge, taking in the stunning scenery and snapping photos.

At the end of the bridge, you'll find the SkyDeck, which features a glass-paneled floor for a heart-stopping look at the valley below.

For an added dose of excitement, check out SkyBridge's SkyTrail, which takes you through the treetops on a series of suspended bridges and platforms.

Whether you're an adrenaline junkie or just looking for a unique way to experience the beauty of the Smokies, the Gatlinburg SkyBridge is a must-see attraction.

Alternatively, you may consider the Wine and Shine Walking Tour, where you explore the rich culture of Gatlinburg while tasting some of the best wines and moonshines the region offers.

During the 3.5-hour-long tour, you will learn about the history of moonshine making in the area, as well as the process of winemaking, while visiting three establishments that produce these beverages.

This tour is perfect for those who enjoy sipping on fine wines and tasting unique spirits while learning about Gatlinburg's fascinating history. Whether you're a wine connoisseur or a casual drinker, the Wine and Shine Walking Tour is a great way to experience the city's vibrant nightlife scene.

Best Time to Visit Gatlinburg

The best time to visit Gatlinburg is during the spring or fall seasons.

In the spring, you'll have the opportunity to see the area's beautiful waterfalls in full force, thanks to the seasonal rain. You'll also be able to spot a variety of wildlife, including black bears and elk, who come out of hibernation during this time.

The average springtime temperatures in Gatlinburg typically range from the mid-40s to mid-60s Fahrenheit, with occasional dips into the 30s at night and highs in the 70s during the day.

It's a great time to visit as the weather is usually comfortable for outdoor activities, and the trees and flowers are blooming, making for beautiful scenery.

In the fall, Gatlinburg experiences mild to cool temperatures, with an average high of around 70°F (21°C) in September and a gradual decrease to around 50°F (10°C) in November. The nights tend to be cooler, with an average low of around 40°F (4°C) in November.

The fall season is a popular time to visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, as the leaves of the trees turn into beautiful shades of orange, red, and yellow, creating stunning views throughout the park.

Springtime purple wildflowers in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Where to Stay in Gatlinburg

  1. Margaritaville Resort Gatlinburg: This upscale hotel is located in the heart of Gatlinburg and offers stunning mountain views. It features spacious modern rooms and suites with comfortable amenities and a variety of on-site amenities, such as a pool with waterslide, a bar, a full-service spa, and a restaurant.
  2. Hilton Garden Inn Gatlinburg: This hotel is just steps away from the bustling Parkway and offers easy access to popular attractions. The rooms are well-appointed, and the hotel offers amenities such as an indoor saltwater pool, fitness center, firepit area, and an on-site restaurant.
  3. Baymont by Wyndham Gatlinburg On The River: This hotel is located on the banks of the Little Pigeon River and offers comfortable accommodations at an affordable price. The hotel offers amenities such as an indoor pool, hot tub, firepit overlooking the river, great views of nature, and a complimentary breakfast. Conveniently located next to a trolley stop.

🤩 Margaritaville Resort Gatlinburg is my #1 Choice for Accomodations!

Getting Around Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg is a relatively small town, and walking is one of the best ways to get around. Visitors can take in the town's sights, sounds, and smells and not miss anything.

For those who prefer not to walk, check out the Gatlinburg Trolley. The trolley system is a free and convenient way to get around town, with various routes and stops.

Visitors can drive to explore the surrounding area, but parking can be challenging during peak tourist season. I suggest walking or taking the trolley if possible.

Banner promoting '75+ Themed Road Trip Ideas' with a clickable link, depicted on an olive green background with white and yellow text and directional arrow graphics, suggesting a resource for travelers to plan their next adventure with unique themes.

FAQs: Gatlinburg Itinerary

How many days in Gatlinburg?

The ideal length of stay in Gatlinburg can vary depending on your preferences and the activities that you plan. However, to truly experience all that Gatlinburg has to offer, staying at least 3 to 4 days is recommended.

This length of stay will allow time to explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, enjoy various outdoor activities, visit popular attractions, dine at local restaurants, and shop at the unique boutiques and stores in town.

How much money do I need for three days in Gatlinburg? 

The amount of money you'll need for three days in Gatlinburg depends on your travel style and budget.

As a general guideline, budget travelers can expect to spend around $200-$400 daily, while mid-range travelers can expect to spend $400-$600 daily. This also depends on the size of your travel party.

This should cover accommodation, food, transportation, and activities. Planning ahead, researching prices, and looking for deals or discounts on attractions and activities is always a good idea.

Additionally, consider setting aside some extra cash for unexpected expenses or souvenirs.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park sign.

What are some must-see attractions in Gatlinburg? 

Some must-see attractions in Gatlinburg include the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg SkyBridge, Anakeesta, Ober Gatlinburg, and the downtown area with shops, restaurants, and museums.

🤩 Visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park needs to be on your list of things to do! Enjoy a tour where you can sit back and enjoy the views.

Final Thoughts: Gatlinburg Itinerary

As you can see, Gatlinburg has a lot to offer for visitors of all ages and interests. From hiking the beautiful trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to enjoying the unique attractions on the Gatlinburg Strip, there is truly something for everyone.

Love wildlife? The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to lots of wildlife – yes, you might see a black bear!!

Whether you're looking for adventure, relaxation, or a little bit of both, you won't be disappointed with a trip to Gatlinburg. So pack your bags and get ready for a memorable trip to Gatlinburg!

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Images: babbling brook, view with the skywalk and tree covered hills, Hillbilly Golf sign, Ober Gatlinburg sign
A night time view of Gatlinburg.
photos from Smoky Mountains: babbling brook, cars driving down tree lined road, view of the Smoky Mountain landscape

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