Gatlinburg has plenty of fun things to do, but the costs add up when doing all the fun activities like Anakeesta. Let’s check out some free or cheap things to do in Gatlinburg to add to your Smoky Mountain trip.
Free Things To Do in Gatlinburg
1. Gatlinburg Trolley
One of the best ways to explore the area is by hopping on the Gatlinburg Trolley. With routes that cover the city, the trolley is convenient, and free! All the trolleys stop at the central transportation center located at Ripley’s Aquarium.
2. Gatlinburg Trail
The Gatlinburg Trail is one of the few trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that allows both bicycles and pets.
This relatively flat, 3.8-mile round-trip trail starts just outside Gatlinburg and ends at the Sugarlands Visitor Center, following thel West Prong of the Little Pigeon River.
The trail’s gentle terrain and scenic surroundings make it a good option a leisurely walk or bike ride with the whole family.
Exploring the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the best things you can do! And it doesn’t cost anything, except for the parking pass that’s now required when parking your car for more than 15 minutes.
3. Smoky Mountain Tunes & Tales
4. Roaring Fork Motor Trail
The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a scenic 5.5-mile one-way loop near Gatlinburg. It has great views of forests, waterfalls, and creeks. With more forests than open fields, it’s great to pair with Cade’s Cove (below).
Like Cades Cove, it’s a one lane road most of the way, so you’re usually moving pretty slow through the drive.
5. Exploring Downtown
Gatlinburg is a great town to just walk around and explore, and you can walk the entire town in a day. While there’s plenty of shops to buy from, there’s many that give out free samples of chocolate, candy, and even wine and moonshine.
6. Gatlinburg Arts and Crafts Community
The Gatlinburg Arts and Crafts Community is a small town filled with arts and galleries with free admission. Though you can also purchase unique, handcrafted souvenirs.
7. Sugarlands Visitor Center
Sugarlands Visitor Center is located at the entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, just after leaving Gatlinburg heading south. There’s wildlife exhibits, and it’s great resource for information on the park’s attractions.
The national park park features over 800 hiking trails, ranging from easy strolls to challenging treks. Whether you’re a novice hiker or an experienced adventurer, there’s a trail to suit your abilities.
- Rainbow Falls: This 5.4-mile round-trip hike takes you through a lush forest to the beautiful 80-foot Rainbow Falls. The mist from the falls often creates rainbows, making for a stunning sight. The trail is moderate to strenuous.
- Laurel Falls: A family-friendly option, the Laurel Falls Trail is a 2.6-mile round-trip hike that leads to an 80-foot cascading waterfall. This paved trail suits all ages and offers a relatively easy hike with rewarding views.
Before hiking, always check the National Park Service website for trail conditions, closures, and safety information.
9. Drive the Newfound Gap Road
Newfound Gap Road is a scenic drive that winds through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, offering stunning views of the mountains and valleys.
This 33-mile route takes you from Gatlinburg, TN, to Cherokee, NC, and offers numerous pull-offs and overlooks where you can pause to admire the scenery. Newfound Gap Road passes through the park’s highest point, Newfound Gap, which sits at 5,046 feet.
When visiting the area, this drive is a must-do. Keep in mind it’s one of the first roads to close during snow because of the high elevation. Check the National Park Service road conditions website.
10. Cades Cove
This is a bit of a drive from Gatlinburg, but worth it. One of our favorite places to take visiting friends and family, Cades Cove is a picturesque valley with an 11-mile loop road around the cove. There’s historic buildings, such as churches, log cabins, and a working grist mill.
Cades Cove is also an excellent place for wildlife watching, as the open meadows attract deer, black bears, and other animals. We’ve seen wildlife every time we’ve been here!
Take advantage of the area’s many free and budget-friendly attractions. So, start planning your next adventure to Gatlinburg today!