Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge

We spent last week in the Great Smoky Mountains, exploring Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Gatlinburg, and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. It was our first time in that part of Tennessee and for this trip, we were joined by our friends Neil and Sara, their son Connor, and Sara’s parents, Debbie and Joe.

We rented an awesome A-frame cabin with a wrap around deck and an incredible view of the Smoky Mountains.

deck view from smoky mountains cabin

A few hours after arriving, we were greeted by a mama and baby bear. It was our first time seeing a bear in the wild, so it was exciting/terrifying to see them so close.

mama bear

mama and baby black bear

The mama was looking for snacks in Neil and Sara’s car. It was pretty amazing that she knew to try the door handle. These bears are smart! When visiting this area, it’s important to always have your doors locked, windows rolled up, and never leave any food in your car.

mama bear with baby bear trying to break into Neil's car

We saw bears nearly every day but got the best photos on day one. It’s like they were welcoming us to the area!

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

We spent a lot of time hiking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This park had a good variety of hikes. Since we had a 4 year old with us, we opted for shorter, easier hikes (although, he had more energy than all of us!) We went to Cataract Falls, Laurel Falls, and Clingman’s Dome.

cataract falls

Neil, Sara, and Connor hiking

Debbie and Joe at Laurel Falls

It was super foggy the day we went to Clingman’s Dome, so we didn’t get the greatest views, but it was still fun to hike.


top of clingman's dome

Clingman's Dome view from top

neil, sara, and connor at Clingman's dome

Connor wanted to stop and take a picture next to the Appalachian Trail sign. He was a great hiker!


smoky mountain park selfie


A highlight of this trip was visiting Dollywood, Dolly Parton’s theme park. This was a great park for both adults and kids. It had big thrill coasters, tons of kid rides, and great shows. Everyone had a blast, but Connor definitely had the most fun. He wanted to go on every ride, even the ones he wasn’t quite tall enough for. He was able to ride some pretty big coasters and laughed the entire time. What a daredevil!

selfie at Dollywood

Ignore my dumb face in this photo. Connor was so excited to ride this coaster.

firetruck coaster


The week seemed to go by so fast and before we knew it, we were heading home. We had a fantastic time in the Great Smoky Mountains and are so glad we got to share this trip with our good friends.

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