6 Hidden Gems in Gatlinburg TN and the Smoky Mountains

Forney Ridge Trail is one of the hidden gems in Gatlinburg TN.

The Smoky Mountain area is home to some of the most popular things to see and do in the Southeast. Dollywood, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, Cades Cove, and Clingmans Dome frequently top the list of things to do in the region, and deservedly so. However, the Smokies also offer a number of lesser known attractions that can be just as much fun as the big name destinations. We’ve put together a list of six hidden gems in Gatlinburg TN and the Smoky Mountains that you’ll definitely want to check out on your next vacation. If you’re already familiar with some of these places, you can consider yourself a Smoky Mountain insider!

1. The Secret Entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains NationalThe John Oliver Place in Cades Cove. Park

Most visitors to the area drive through Gatlinburg to make their way to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but the locals like to take a different route. To avoid the crowds, you can use the secret entrance to the GSMNP in Wears Valley. Located on the “quiet side of the Smokies”, Wears Valley is an incredibly scenic area that is tucked away from all of the activity on the Parkway. If you decide to enter the park via the Wears Valley entrance, be sure to stop at Metcalf Bottoms, which offers fishing, tubing, and picnic tables right along the Little River.

2. Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum

A visit to the Salt and Pepper Shaker Museum in Gatlinburg is an experience unlike any other. This one-of-a-kind museum has over 20,000 sets of salt and pepper shakers from around the world. Best of all, admission is only $3.00, and that money goes toward the purchase of any salt and pepper shaker in the gift shop. Kids who are 12 and under get in for free!

A muddy road in Cades Cove after a storm.3. Gourley’s Pond in Cades Cove

Cades Cove is full of spectacular scenery, but one of its frequently overlooked spots is Gourley’s Pond. This beautiful pond isn’t visible from the road, so it is quite literally one of the hidden gems in Gatlinburg TN! To get to Gourley’s Pond, leave your car at the LeQuire Cemetery parking area just after you pass the south end of Sparks Lane. Then, walk down the loop road for about 200’ until you see a path on your right. Follow that trail for about 100’ and then head southwest until you see the pond.

Please note that Gourley’s Pond is a wet-weather pond, meaning that it will be dry and empty if there hasn’t been significant rainfall in a while. Also, the trail leading to the pond can be a bit difficult to traverse if there are downed trees along the path. 

4. Friendly Falls

If you love waterfalls but aren’t a big fan of hiking, Friendly Falls is for you! Located on Wears Valley Road, this gorgeous waterfall is home to a country store, restaurant, and gem mine for kids. What could be more relaxing than eating lunch while admiring the cascading water beneath you? Friendly Falls is also available for weddings and parties, so you can have the perfect backdrop for your event in the Smokies.

5. Lodge Factory Stores

Founded in 1896, the Lodge company is the only remaining manufacturer of cast iron cookware in the United States. Both Pigeon Forge and Sevierville are home to Lodge Factory Stores, where you can pick up cast iron skillets, dutch ovens, pizza pans, woks, and even more great products for your kitchen. Lodge’s staff are experts on cast iron cooking, so feel free to ask plenty of questions!  

A row of delicious chocolate cupcakes.6. Cakes by Bakin’ Bishop

Anyone with a serious sweet tooth will love Cakes By Bakin’ Bishop! This amazing bakery uses only the best ingredients to create desserts that are out of this world. Popular items include cupcakes of all sizes and flavors, whoopie pies, ice cream, and cinnamon rolls. If you’re getting married in the area, Bakin’ Bishop also provides incredible wedding cakes.

Are there any hidden gems in Gatlinburg TN and the Smoky Mountains that we missed? Let us know in the comments below!

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  • southerninsanity

    It’s probably a good idea to mention that Gourley’s Pond is a wet-weather pond. If there hasn’t been significant rain in a while, it’s mostly going to be dry and empty. The trail is also a bit of a challenge to maneuver for the past year or so with all of the downed trees you have to either climb over or maneuver around.

    • Jason Fishman

      Thank you very much for commenting! We have added your suggestions to the blog!

  • Teresa LaNeave

    I want to mention that the hidden entrance to the park off of Lyon Springs Road is a nice way to get into the park via Metcalfe Bottoms area. However, be aware that the road is narrow at the end. I was in an Oldsmobile Ciera, I would not want to take it in a Suburban. One more gem is Herbert Holt Park in Gatlinburg just after you come in from Pigeon Forge. It has a nice little playground, picnic area, picnic tables throughout, and a handicap accessible short walkway to the Little Pigeon River. I love the peaceful sound of the river just as much as walking through town and enjoying the shops and good food along the way.