Planning a trip to Gatlinburg with your significant other and looking for some suggestions on what to do? Then you have come to the right place! In this post, I have gathered a list of the best things to do in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge for couples.
Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are two towns, only 8 miles apart, located in the Eastern corner of Tennessee right across the state-line from North Carolina. These two mountain towns are extremely popular with vacationers escaping the nearby cities to relax in a cabin in the woods and explore the Great Smoky Mountains.
Keep reading for the top things to do in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge for couples!
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- The Best Time to Visit Gatlinburg / Pigeon Forge
- Where to Stay in Gatlinburg / Pigeon Forge
- #1 Hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains
- #2 Scenic Drive Through the Smokies
- #3 Do Go Chasing Waterfalls
- #4 Wine Tasting or Couples Massage at the Blackberry Farms
- #5 Explore the Wears Valley
- #6 Dinner and Views from Anakeesta
- #7 Enjoy Sunrise or Sunset in the Great Smoky Mountains
- #8 Wine or Cider Sampling in Downtown Gatlinburg
- #9 Visit Dollywood and Watch the Fireworks
- #10 The Old Mill at Downtown Pigeon Forge
The Best Time to Visit Gatlinburg / Pigeon Forge
There is something to do for every type of traveler during every season in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Skiers will flock to this area in the winter to experience the slopes. Photographers make there way in the fall to see the bright orange and yellow hues of the trees. Adventure-seekers are here all spring and summer exploring the best of the Great Smoky Mountains.
Depending on what type of activities you prefer, see below for my suggestion on the best time to visit!
Visiting Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge in the Summer
Summer is by far the most popular time to visit Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge and the Smoky Mountains. The days are warm and great for exploring the waterfalls and the night are cool and enjoyable.
July is the busiest month of the summer season as with the weekends during the summer. The summer month’s high temperatures range from high 70’s to low 80’s. The summer month’s low temperatures range in the mid 50’s.
Visiting Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge in the Fall
Fall is the second most popular time to visit Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge and the Smoky Mountains. The fall foliage starts to peak in mid-October which brings lots of crowds.
October is the busiest month of the fall season as with the weekends during the fall. The fall month’s high temperatures range from low 70’s in September to mid 50’s . The fall month’s low temperatures range from 50’s in September down to high 20’s by November.
Visiting Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge in the Winter
Winter is the least crowded season to visit Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge, but many still visit for skiing in the mountains. The winter month’s high temperatures are in the mid 40’s and the lows dip down into the 20’s.
Where to Stay in Gatlinburg / Pigeon Forge
Hands down the best place to stay in Gatlinburg for couples is in a private cabin in the woods!
Booking an amazing cabin in Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge is such a big part of the experience in the smokies. Half of our trip was spent cooking, lounging, watching movies or spending time in the hot tub at our cabin.
Some of the most incredible sunsets we saw were right from our own private porch. It doesn’t get better than that!
Related Post: The Best Cabins in the Smoky Mountains with a View
#1 Hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains
One of the best things to do in Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge for couples is to escape to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the United States, but it is also Free! There are over 500,000 acres to explore with cascading waterfall trails, hikes ending in sweeping views over the Smokys, or scenic driving routes. If you want to get out and put your legs to work, here are the hikes I would recommend you doing as a couple!
Chimney Tops is one of the most popular hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains. This trail is rated hard by AllTrails, with only 3.6 miles out and back but over 1,286 feet in elevation gain.
At the top, you are awarded the most breathtaking views of the Smoky Mountains making every step worth it. The trail is very well marked throughout. Once you reach the top, there is a observation platform that allows you to see Mount LeConte and Sugarland Mountain.
Due to some devastating wild fires in the area in 2016, the last quarter mile of the trail has been closed for restoration. For the time being the further you can hike is to the observation deck.
The Charles Bunion via Appalachian Trail is an 8-mile out and back trail in the Smoky Mountains. The trail starts out gradual for the first mile and is mostly tree covered, however there are a few spots along the way were the trees open and you get a view.
A mile past the Ice Water Spring Appalachian Trail Shelter, you will continue onto a side trail that is well marked pointing you toward Charles Bunion.
Be on the look-out for Elk! There has been numerous spotting reported in this area.
Alum Cave Bluffs
This is a 6-mile round trip hike that can be continued further to Mount LeConte making it an 11-mile hike. Alum Cave Trail starts out as an easy walk along the Alum Cave Creek with many opportunities to stop for a photo opportunity. At 1.3 miles in you will arrive at Arch Rock (pictured above) and the trail passes right through the natural arch.
At mile 2 you will arrive at inspiration point which offers sweeping views over the Smokys. Shortly after inspiration point at about mile 3, you will arrive at Alum Cave Bluff. If you want to stop here and turn around you can, or you can continue on to Monte LeConte and even stay a night in the LeConte Lodge.
Other notable hikes in the smoky mountains that are good for couples include:
- Andrews Bald
- Rocky Top
- Gregory Bald Summit
#2 Scenic Drive Through the Smokies
If you aren’t much of a hiking couple, another great way to see the Smoky Mountains National Park is via a scenic drive. A scenic drive is rated one of the top things to do in Gatlinburg for couples, especially in the months with the fall foliage!
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a 5.5 mile one-way loop that allows you to take in the scenery from your car. It offers views of mountain streams, an old-growth forest, log cabins, grist mills, and my favorite, the sunset. Even though on many parts of the road there’s too much vegetation to catch a good view of the sunset, if you bear right near the end of the trail, you’ll run into lookout points that offer fantastic views.
You will also find many hikes to waterfalls along this route including: Grotto Falls, Rainbows Falls, and Baskins Creek Falls.
Scenic Route 441
The Scenic Route 441 highway starts in Cherokee, North Carolina and continues through the center of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, crossing Newfound Gap and finishing off in Gatlinburg, TN. The complete route is 33 miles one-way and includes many pullouts with mountain views and a variety of forest types as you ascend approximately 3,000 feet in elevation up into the Great Smoky Mountains.
Cades Cove is a loop road that takes you on a drive through the valley which was home to many settlers prior to the days of the national park. The drive can get quite crowded in the summer time with lots of families.
To be honest, we were not that impressed by this loop drive due to how crowded it was and general lack of views besides the view of the valley. I would suggest a trip during the fall to see the explosion of colors from the trees, or early morning to increase your chances of seeing wildlife.
Lakeview Drive or the “Road to Nowhere”
The Road to Nowhere is a 6 mile drive along Lakeview Drive in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park which dead-ends at an abandoned tunnel. You can park your car here and explore the tunnel only or continue through the tunnel to find a couple of trail heads: the Goldmine Loop Trail, Tunnel Bypass trail, and Lakeshore Trail.
In order to get to the Road to Nowhere start in Bryson City and drive on Everett Street until the road becomes Fontana Road. In just a few miles, you’ll see the Great Smoky Mountains Park sign that marks the beginning of the Road to Nowhere. Continue 6 miles through the park to the end to find the parking area near the tunnel.
#3 Do Go Chasing Waterfalls
Ramsey Cascade Falls
This waterfall is at the top of my list of things to do in Gatlinburg for couples because it is not as easily accessible as the other waterfalls on the list. That means less crowds and less families will likely be on the trail.
That being said, you are signing yourself up for an 8-mile round trip hike to enjoy the Ramsey Cascade Falls. Worth it for this 100-ft. waterfall? I’ll let the photos do the talking here!
The Grotto Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a unique 25-foot waterfall that you can actually walk behind.
This waterfall is accessed by the Trillium Gap Trail to Grotto Falls which is a moderate 2.6 mile hike round-trip and mostly shaded with tree cover the entire way making it perfect for a warm sunny day. The National Park Service has noted that black bears are active in this area, so it is important to know what you would do if you encountered a black bear.
One of the most famous waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains National Park is Laurel Falls. Laurel Falls is accessed by the Laurel Falls Trail which is roughly 3 miles and considered moderate.
This waterfall consists of an upper and a lower section, divided by a walkway which crosses the stream at the base of the upper falls. Laurel Falls is one of the most popular destinations in the park and parking at the trailhead is limited, so arrive early and on a weekday if possible.
Other notable hikes in the smoky mountains that are good for couples include:
- Cataract Falls
- Rainbow Falls on Roaring Fork Road
- Baskin Creek Falls on Roaring Fork Road
- Spruce Flat Falls
- Tom Branch Falls on Deep Creek Trail
- Juney Whank Falls on Deep Creek Trail
- Indian Creek Falls on Deep Creek Trail
- Abrams Falls
- Mouse Creek Falls
#4 Wine Tasting or Couples Massage at the Blackberry Farms
Now you are in for a treat with this one because I haven’t seen this on any of list of things to do in Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge! Blackberry Farm is a luxury hotel & resort, a working farm set on over 4,200 acres, and a culinary experience set into the hillside of the Great Smoky Mountains.
There are spirit and wine tastings, cooking demonstrations, horse-backing riding and so much more. If you are like me and interested in something more relaxing there is a full Wellness House which offers services ranging from massages and pedicure to yoga and fitness classes. You can get the full listing of spa treatments, daily activities and more here.
#5 Explore the Wears Valley
Located just outside of Pigeon Forge, you can find the breathtaking Wears Valley. I love this area because of the rich history and stunning landscapes. The valley was named after Samuel Wears, a Revolutionary war veteran, who settled in this area to make a living after the war.
I recommend you at least take a drive through the valley to admire the views of Cove Mountain. If you find yourself hungry, a popular place to stop for lunch is at Elvira’s which is a hit with locals and visitors.
If you are looking for an activity that will bring you back to the roots of Tennessee, look no further than a tour of the Wears Valley’s Moonshine Distillery. Here you will learn about how farmers in remote communities like Wears Valley turned to making corn liquor by the light of the moon to escape revenuers to make a living.
#6 Dinner and Views from Anakeesta
Anakeesta is a mountaintop park accessible by a ski lift with ziplines, restaurants, and bars waiting at the top. My favorite activity was the treetop skywalk (pictured above) and enjoying the view from the “Bar at the Top of the World”. Other activities range from a mountain coaster, observation tower, adventure challenge course, or gem mining.
There are many options for food in Anakeesta, from snacks to quick bites. However, my favorite was the sit-down Cliff Top restaurant which had the best views of the Smoky Mountains.
#7 Enjoy Sunrise or Sunset in the Great Smoky Mountains
Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains at 6,643 feet above sea-level. Since you are so high above the mountains, you can watch the colors change in the sky for at least an hour after sunset.
Getting to Clingman’s Dome is quite easy. From the main Newfound Gap Road (US 441), turn onto Clingman’s Dome road and follow that for 7 miles until it dead ends at the carpark. There is a large car-park area so parking is easy to find even at sunset.
From the car park there is a short, but very steep, walk to the observation tower where you will find 360-degree views of the Smoky mountains. Leave yourself enough time before actual sunset to make the walk up and grab a spot on the tower.
Pro Tip: The Clingmans Dome Road is closed from December through April due to unpassable conditions by car. If you want to visit during these months you will need to park at the turn off of Newfound Gap Road and walk the 7 miles there and back.
The next few viewpoints and are very close together along the same stretch of US 441, so it’s possible to catch more than one for sunset/sunrise. These viewpoints also don’t require any walking/hiking from the carparks as they are just small pull overs. Morton Overlook is a popular overlook for sunset at it is west facing, so you will enjoy the last minutes as the sun dips behind the Smokies.
Newfound Gap Overlook
Just 4 minutes down the road from the Morton Overlook, is Newfound Gap Overlook, which straddles the North Carolina and Tennessee border. There is a larger parking lot at this overlook because this is also the trail head for the Appalachian Trail to Indian Gap. This overlook is East-facing so I would personally suggest coming here for sunrise!
Only 4 more minutes down Newfound Gap Road from you Newfound Gap Overlook, will find Luftee Overlook. Luftee Overlook is East-facing as well which makes it perfect for viewing the colors at sunrise, but also shouldn’t be passed up if you are only in the area during the day or sunset.
#8 Wine or Cider Sampling in Downtown Gatlinburg
Another great thing to do in Gatlinburg for couples is to sip your way through Downtown Gatlinburg. There are many wineries along the parkway that offer free wine and cider tastings. Downtown Gatlinburg has a walking street where there are no cars allowed to drive. This is the perfect atmosphere to sample a few wines or ciders while you are exploring downtown.
A few of the spots to enjoy wine in Downtown Gatlinburg include Sugarland Cellars, Tennessee Homemade Wines, Bootleggers Homemade Wine and the Gatlinburg Wine Cellar. Many of the wines are very fruit-forward with main varieties such as like apple, blackberry, blueberry, peach, watermelon, and pomegranate.
While not as prevalent in Pigeon Forge, near the Old Mill you can stop in to the Mill Bridge Winery and sample wines and hard cider.
#9 Visit Dollywood and Watch the Fireworks
If you enjoy country music and theme-parks, then Dollywood is your perfect match. Consistently ranked as one of the world’s best theme parks Dollywood is a must do for anyone visiting. What makes this theme park different is that it is geared towards an older audience with daily shows and entertainment from Country Music stars.
Check the daily schedule for show times, festivals, and park opening/ closing times. In the summer months you can also enjoy the fireworks at dusk!
#10 The Old Mill at Downtown Pigeon Forge
For couples wanting to explore more of Pigeon Forge, I would avoid the main “parkway” with the kid-focused theme rides and museums. Instead I would suggest to explore the Old Mill area where you can walk around the Old Mill, try out the Mill Bridge Winery or Old Forge Distillery, or stop for an ice-cream at the Old Mill Creamery.
The Old Mill of Pigeon Forge is now a restaurant, but was originally built in 1830 by pioneers to grind flour and grains. The restaurant can get extremely crowded with families, so I would suggest skipping the restaurant and taking a tour instead. There are daily organized tours of the Old Mill to learn about how the farmers in the 19th century operated this mill and made pottery and candy by hand. Tickets can be purchased on demand at the Old Mill General Store.
Don’t forget to snap a photo here, this is also one of the most photographed mills in the United States!
There is so much to do in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge for couples from exploring the National Park to relaxing couples massages and wine tastings.
I hope you have found a handful of ideas from this list to start planning your next trip. If so, what is the first thing you want to try as a couple? Drop your favorite in the comments below.