Townsend Wye

5 Off-the-Beaten-Path Smoky Mountain Spots Loved by Locals

The Smoky Mountains’s half-a-million acres go beyond the best-known attractions in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. While millions visit for the iconic views, there are some secluded spots not everyone knows about.

Here are five places that may not be on your list.

1. The Sinks

The Sinks 2

The Sinks is a visually striking waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, accessible directly from Little River Road. You drive right by it driving from Gatlinburg to Cades Cove, but it’s easy to miss.

Add it into your directions next time you make the drive, it’s worth at least a quick stop for photos. The waterfall has great views, making it a great place for photography.

Although you’ll see people in the water, even on kayaks, it’s not a good idea. There have been multiple drownings from the strong currents from the waterfall. If you want to swim, continue down the road a few more miles to our #3 on this list.

The Sinks Hike

The Sinks is also a good place to start a hike. These steps lead to the trail are just next to the falls.

2. Cataloochee Valley

Cataloochee Valley

Cataloochee Valley is a lesser-known area that showcases the Smokies’ history, with well-preserved settler homes and churches.

It’s also one of the best places to see Elk in the Smoky Mountains, as they were re-introduced to this area around twenty years ago. This valley provides a peaceful setting for those interested in history and nature.

3. Townsend Wye

Townsend Wye Large

Townsend Wye is a picturesque spot in Townsend, where two rivers meet. It’s a refreshing swimming area that’s popular with locals.

The water stays nice and cold even in the summer, so cooling off on a hot day is great. A rocky shoreline with plenty of space makes a good spot for a picnic.

The parking area is limited and usually fills up on a hot summer afternoon. We love stopping here for a swim on the drive to Gatlinburg earlier in the day before it gets busy.

4. The Lost Sea Adventure

The Lost See Adventure

This one is outside the Great Smoky Mountains in a foothills valley, but it’s worth the short drive. Located in Sweetwater, it’s something we didn’t learn about until after moving here. It’s been one of the most impressive caves we’ve been to.

The Lost Sea Adventure offers a tour of vast caverns and a boat ride on the nation’s largest underground lake.

There’s even fish in the underground lake!

This family-friendly stop provides an educational tour of the cave’s geological and historical background.

When you get in the cave, it’s a bit of a walk down to the bottom of the lake. It’s a gradual hill, but you notice it walking back up from the lake. It’s not a strenuous hike; just about anyone can do this.

Perfect for those looking for an unusual activity beyond hiking, it’s a great way to see one of the hidden natural wonders of the area.

5. Look Rock

Look Rock

Look Rock is a less-visited vantage point offering breathtaking panoramic views of the mountain range. On the western edge of the foothills, this point isn’t the highest but offers views of Knoxville on a clear day.

Located along the Foothills Parkway, it’s a great place to stop on a day in Townsend.

It’s a short trail, less than 10 minutes, and plenty of parking.


The Smoky Mountains has many beyond the main trails and scenic overlooks, from hidden waterfalls to historical valleys and secluded viewpoints.

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