3 Days in Townsend Itinerary + Where To Stay & Eat

Ashlee and Pablo Fechino at Cades Cove.

Experience the tranquility of the Smokies in Townsend, a charming mountain town nestled against the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The park is a favorite among national parks in the U.S. and welcomed 13.3 million visitors in 2023.

We had been dreaming of visiting the Smokies for years, so when the Smoky Mountain Development and Tourism Authority invited Pablo and me to visit for a hosted stay, we jumped at the chance. I’m sharing things we did that I think you’ll love, too.

How To Get To Townsend

Spruce Flats Trail

Spruce Flats Trail.

If you’re not within driving distance, fly into Knoxville. That is what Pablo and I did.

Then, rent a car to drive to Townsend. You’ll want a vehicle to explore the national park and other local attractions. The area is rural, so there isn’t much public transportation available.

From Knoxville, Townsend is about a 30 to 45-minute drive.

Where To Stay

Little Arrow Luxury Glamping Tent

Ashlee & Pablo at Little Arrow Outdoor Resort.

In Townsend, you won’t find much for commercialized accommodations. The community is working hard to keep things as local as possible. Its tagline is “The Peaceful Side of the Smokies,” so it’s more laid back than Gatlinburg.

Check out the Little Arrow Outdoor Resort if you’d like to go glamping or stay in cabins. Pablo and I stayed in one of their dreamy luxury glamping tents. They have a kitchenette, bathroom, seating area, and two bedrooms. The tents have cute porches and fire pits—perfect for hanging out and roasting marshmallows after hiking all day.

Little Arrow Outdoor Resort also has a pool if you visit during the warmer months. If you’re a fan of Bigfoot (like me), make time to hike to the resident Bigfoot carving at the top of the resort.

Little Arrow Outdoor Resort has a nice campground if you’re driving your RV into town. There is also a KOA in Townsend.

Dancing Bear Lodge is another excellent place to rent cabins.

Best Time To Visit

Inside of the Tuckaleechee Caverns.

Inside of the Tuckaleechee Caverns.

Pablo and I visited in the early spring, right before the flowers bloomed in late March during the off-season. Considering the influx of people visiting the park, there wasn’t much for crowds during our experience.

Summer and fall are busy with travelers. Summer is the perfect time to visit the Little River and go tubing.

If you’re into leaf peeping, the fall is calling your name.

Winter and early spring have fewer crowds.

Day 1

Little Arrow Luxury Glamping Tent

Ashlee & Pablo at Little Arrow Outdoor Resort.

Assuming you’re flying into town, the first day will start later. Kick off your adventure by getting into town and checking into your accommodations. If you’re staying at Little Arrow Outdoor Resort, hike to the Bigfoot carving, wander down by the river, and explore the resort.

For dinner, head to the Diamond Jack Winebar in Maryville. It’s a quick 20–30 minute drive away in the neighboring town, but their food and wine pairings are so good. We loved their food.

Day 2 – Morning

Cades Cove Grist Mill

Cades Cove Grist Mill.

Get ready for outdoor adventures. Start by grabbing breakfast at one of the local coffee shops like the Dancing Bean or Towns End Coffee Company.

Then, hop in your car and head towards Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Spend half the day driving the 11-mile Cades Cove Loop Road. Keep your eyes peeled for the area’s iconic black bear sightings and other wildlife. You might also enjoy seeing the grist mill and other historical sites.

For lunch, swing into the The Abby. They have excellent American comfort food and craft beer. You can sit on the patio overlooking the Little River.

Day 2 – Afternoon

Mountain Biking at Vee Hollow

Pablo biking at Vee Hollow.

After lunch, if you still have more energy, head to Vee Hollow and take a few loops on their mountain bike trails. We thought we’d be tired after spending most of the day touring the park, but we rented e-bikes and had so much fun! There are 14 miles of trails to wander on.

A year after visiting, I’m writing this article and still dreaming about our dinner at the Dancing Bear Appalachian Bistro. Their food is incredible, and the owners are good people.

Day 3 – Morning

Hiking Spruce Flats

Hiking Spruce Flats.

Grab breakfast at one of the local coffee shops. In my last article, I wrote about the best restaurants in Townsend. A local sent us a message recommending The Artistic Bean, so I thought I’d add it. Let us know what you think.

After breakfast, head back to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for a hike. There are over 850 miles of trails to explore.

Pablo and I hiked the Spruce Flats trail behind Tremont. We loved the views and the waterfall at the end.

Day 3 – Afternoon

Company Distilling

Whiskey tasting at Company Distilling.

When you’re finished hiking, head to Company Distilling to try some whiskey and eat lunch. Even if you don’t fancy yourself a whiskey drinker, you can’t go to Tennessee without trying local whiskey. I’ve been to Tennessee twice in the last year, and both times involved sampling whiskey. I think it is best mixed with lemonade.

The crew at Company Distilling knows their stuff. One of the founders, Jeff Arnett, was the Master Distiller for Jack Daniels for 20 years. All this is to say you’re in good hands at Company Distilling.

But don’t drink too much whiskey because next, you want to head to Tuckaleechee Caverns. Take a guided cave tour to see what is hailed as the “Greatest site under the Smokies.” It’s also home to Seismic Station AS107, the most sensitive seismic station on earth.

If you think all that sounds pretty cool, Company Distilling has a bottle named Seismic Rye, after the famous Seismic Station.

When you’re ready for dinner, head to Peaceful Side Social, another one of our favorite spots to eat in Townsend. It’s a brewery and craft kitchen that serves fantastic pizza, salads, drinks, and more. Check out their social calendar to catch live music and other fun events. This is where the locals like to hang out – it’s our kind of place.

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Ashlee Fechino

Ashlee Fechino is an outdoor recreation and travel writer sharing the best-kept secrets that aren’t in your typical guidebook. Her goal is to inspire people to travel with a sense of adventure by sharing hidden gems across the U.S. and beyond. She is married to an expat Argentine, Pablo. They camp in their Aliner often and love wandering the world. Follow their latest adventures on Instagram @thehappinessfxn.