How to Spend 3 Amazing Days in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Grassy view of Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
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Are you wondering what to do in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park? There’s so many great places to visit in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, whether you’re an avid hiker or you just love spending time taking in the natural beauty. If you have 3 days to spend in the Great Smoky Mountains, this itinerary will fill your time with all of the best things to do in the park. If you only have 1 or 2 days to spend in the national park, take bits and pieces of this itinerary and form your own vacation plan!

(Also Popular: Highly Recommended Places to Visit for a Half Day in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park)

Day 1 in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Sugarlands Visitor Center

The visitor centers in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are the perfect places to start your trip into the mountains. When you’re coming from Gatlinburg into the mountains, we suggest you stop at Sugarlands Visitor Center to start your day.

When you arrive at Sugarlands Visitor Center, there’s a parking area with quick access to the visitor center. When you step inside the visitor center, you’ll see that there’s a museum and bookstore. In the museum, the visitor center shows a 20 minute film about the national park. After the 20 minute video, stop by the visitor center bookstore and pick up a few souvenirs. If you have questions about the park, there are park rangers and visitor center staff members willing to help answer all of your questions.

Gatlinburg TrailFamily having a picnic outside

Right outside Sugarlands Visitor Center, the Gatlinburg Trail is a great place to stop and hike. The hike is not necessarily a hike that will showcase endless mountain views, but it does feature the natural beauty of the trees and surrounding mountains. The hike is approximately 3.8 miles round trip, so make sure to only take this hike if you have enough time for the hike. There is a lot of information along this trail, so you can really learn a lot about the mountains.

Little River Road to Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area

For lunch on this first day, make sure to pack a picnic style meal and take Little River Road to the Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area. This is the perfect stop for enjoying a short meal before heading to the next destination–Cades Cove!

Road running through Cades Cove in the Great Smoky MountainsCades Cove Loop Road

There’s many things to do in the Great Smoky Mountains, and Cades Cove is definitely one of the most popular. If you really want to round out the day of exploring the mountains, take a trip to drive around the Cades Cove Loop Road. Keep in mind that the area is very busy, so make sure to allow the rest of the afternoon, into the evening, for the full Cades Cove experience.

Check out our recent article: 8 Shocking Secrets of Cades Cove You Won’t Believe

Day 2 in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Newfound Gap RoadThe view from Newfound Gap Road in the Great Smoky Mountains

When you drive along Newfound Gap Road from the Gatlinburg, TN side of the Smoky Mountains, you will go half uphill and half downhill along the trip. The peak in the middle is Newfound Gap. Keep in mind when you travel along Newfound Gap Road, the weather tends to be colder at the higher elevation. The road has a 4,000 foot climb, but you will pass through so many ecosystems and forests. While you travel along the scenic Smoky Mountain road, you will notice that there are plenty of pull off areas where you can get out of the car and take great panoramic photos of the mountains.

Before driving on Newfound Gap Road, take a look at: Three Things You Don’t Know About the Newfound Gap Road Auto Tour

Day 3 in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Steam on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature TrailRoaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

This auto tour in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park showcases the natural beauty and surroundings in the park. Visitors like this nature trail because they are able to get a closer look at the forestry, streams and historic buildings along the route. One of the most popular stops is the Noah “Bud” Ogle cabin, but there are other historic log cabins and homes along the trail.

For more information about the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, take a look at the National Park Service’s website here: https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/roaringfork.htm

If you had to choose what to do in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for 3 days of visiting, where would you go? Scroll to the bottom of this post and tell us in the comments section below.

The author will respond to readers’ comments.

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