Townsend lies on the side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park known as “the Peaceful Side of the Smokies,” renowned for its diversity of plant and animal life as well as preservation of Southern Appalachian culture.
While Townsend is only a short drive from Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, you’ll find delightful activities without ever leaving this serene town. Tuckaleechee Cove gives visitors a look into Appalachian culture through museums, historic sites and trails. Hike Rich Mountain Loop, near the Townsend entrance to the national park, for beautiful vistas and cascading waterfalls.
Discover the magical qualities of Cades Cove, a beautiful open-air museum surrounded by mountains. Bike, walk or drive the 11-mile loop, and see deer and other wildlife in the fields. Tour historical buildings, museums and working gristmills. Drive Foothills Parkway at sunset or sunrise for fabulous views of the mountains and bands of fog in the valleys.
“The Peaceful Side” is filled with horseback riding, tubing, backpacking and other family fun. Keep an eye out for salamanders in the “Salamander Capital of the World.” Tuckaleechee Caverns is a favorite with amazing formations, including “chandelier, palette, totem pole and pencil.” Kids enjoy the vintage steam locomotive, and adults like to browse railroad and lumber history at Little River Railroad & Lumber Company Museum. Visit the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center, dedicated to preserving the region’s unique culture, and view artifacts dating from 3000 BC.
In spring, enjoy the annual Townsend Spring Festival and Old Timer’s Day for high-spirited bluegrass, clogging, arts, crafts, barbecue and storytelling. Learn about history of the dulcimer at Wood-N-Strings Dulcimer Shop. Browse handcrafted Appalachian dulcimers and ban-jammers (a combination of banjo and dulcimer) made of local wood, for an authentic mountain memento.
Take a morning bike cruise along history-rich Cades Cove Loop. If you like exploring below the surface, a trip to Tuckaleechee Caverns is a must. Fly fish or tube the refreshing Little River.