BringFido's Guide to the Great Smoky Mountains

Posted by Erin Ballinger

The Great Smoky Mountains are a four-seasons paradise for furry friends and their owners. Whether you’re playing in the snow, hiking among blooming dogwoods, tubing down the river to beat the Appalachian heat, or taking a scenic drive to view the beautiful fall foliage, there’s something in the Smokies to love all year long. That’s probably why Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most-visited national park year after year. When Fido isn’t exploring the great outdoors, he’ll be met with Southern hospitality at picturesque mountain towns in Tennessee and North Carolina. Here’s a list of our favorite things to do, pet-friendly places to stay, and dog-friendly restaurants in the Smokies.

Things to Do

Keeping his eyes peeled for black bears in Cades Cove. Photo by @_emilyprow

From challenging hikes to photo safaris, you’ll find plenty of dog-friendly activities to keep you entertained during a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains.

Take a Scenic Drive

Even though dogs aren’t allowed on most trails at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you can still enjoy the park’s most popular attraction with Fido in tow on a drive along the 11-mile loop around Cades Cove. As featured in the 2021 edition of our Ruff Guide to the United States, the scenic road offers plenty of opportunities to spot white-tailed deer, black bears, and other wildlife roaming the open fields that were once farmed by pioneers. Depending on traffic conditions, motorists should allow two to four hours to drive the entire loop. If you prefer to walk with Fido rather than drive, plan to visit on a Wednesday between the months of June and September. Cades Cove Loop Road is closed to vehicular traffic during that time to give bicyclists and pedestrians an opportunity to enjoy the awe-inspiring scenery.

Stroll Through Downtown Gatlinburg

Take Fido for a walk along “The Strip” in Gatlinburg, which is known as the “Gateway to the Smokies.” If your pooch can ride on your lap, be sure to take the SkyLift for amazing views as you journey to Gatlinburg SkyLift Park. Daring dogs can also walk across the Gatlinburg SkyBridge, the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America, which overlooks panoramic vistas. Sneak in some retail therapy while you’re in town at Paws and Claws Pet Fashions. Well-behaved pups are welcome inside to help pick out souvenirs. Looking for some local culture? Downtown Gatlinburg is home to two dog-friendly tasting rooms, Ole Smoky Moonshine and Sugarlands Distillery Co., where you can legally partake in one of Eastern Tennessee’s oldest mountain traditions - moonshine making.

Take a Hike

Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers two pet-friendly hiking trails. Breathe in the crisp, clean mountain air as you walk with your leashed pup along the flat, 1.9-mile Gatlinburg Trail from the Sugarland Visitor Center to the outskirts of Gatlinburg. Along the way, enjoy peaceful views of the river, which at one point is crossed by a pedestrian footbridge. Keep your eyes peeled for foundations and chimneys of several old homesites. On the North Carolina side of the Smokies, take the 1.5-mile Oconaluftee River Trail in Cherokee for amazing views of the river. Both trails are rated easy.

“Rover” down the river…Photo by @photodogfun

Make a Splash 

It can get pretty steamy in the Smokies during the summer months. Cool off with a float along the river in a rented tube or kayak from Smoky Mountain River Rat Tubing in Townsend. Dogs up to 60 lbs can join you on an aquatic adventure down the Little River. Day passes are $18 for adults, and Fido floats for free. Rent a tether for $5 if you want a separate tube for your pooch.

Explore Pigeon Forge

It might be best known as the home of Dolly Parton’s amusement park, Dollywood, but Pigeon Forge has some fun, lesser known pet-friendly attractions that you can visit with Fido. (If you want to spend the day at the amusement park, make reservations in advance at Doggywood at Dollywood, the on-site kennel.) Bird lovers will want to check out Parrot Mountain and Gardens to view and interact with hundreds of rare and exotic tropical birds housed in four acres of beautifully landscaped gardens. Admission costs $20 for adults and is free for well-behaved dogs. The park is open March through November. You can also go shopping with your pup at Three Bears General Store or at The Islands in Pigeon Forge retail center. Be sure to stop by The Apple Barn & Cider Mill in nearby Sevierville to sample apple and fruit wines from the winery, treat yourself to an ice cream, and stock up on apple products and old-timey candy.

Try a Dog-Friendly Tour

Who says you can’t teach a dog new tricks? The Airbnb Experience, Smokies Photo Class & Lunch with a Pro, does just that for canine owners. Your pup is welcome to tag along as you  learn how to use your personal camera on  a hands-on photo safari in the Smoky Mountains. You’ll take a basic camera and photography lesson followed by lunch at a local BBQ joint before hitting the nature trails to test your new skills. The Airbnb Experience lasts 5.5 hours and costs $125 per person. Dogs are free.

Let Your Pooch Run Wild

Bring your pup to Sevierville’s PetSafe Unleashed Dog Park for some well-deserved off-leash playtime. This fully fenced dog park offers a safe space for canines big and small to run free in separate areas, and you can test your dog's skills on the agility equipment. The park also features shaded areas, benches and free Wi-Fi for pet owners.

Places to Stay

Lounge in the Park Vista's impressive lobby with your dog. Photo by @beauandjohnnyberners

Will your furry friend prefer a not-so-rustic cabin with a jetted tub or a hotel in the middle of town with doggy amenities? Either way, there’s a place for pups of all tastes and budgets. Rest comfortably after gambling the night away at a casino hotel or spend the night under the stars in a glampsite with your pooch. There are amazingly diverse accommodations where you can bring Fido in the Smokies!

Choose a Room With a View

When you check in at The Park Vista - A DoubleTree by Hilton Gatlinburg, you’ll be warmly welcomed with a chocolate chip cookie and a gift for your dog. The pet bag contains treats, a hang tag to display on your hotel room door, and poop bags. The hotel boasts an impressive 15-story atrium, views of the Great Smoky Mountains and Gatlinburg from every guest room balcony, a grassy dog-walking area, and a multi-tiered, heated indoor swimming pool. Your leashed pup is allowed to join you by the outdoor fire pits, too. The Park Vista - A DoubleTree by Hilton Gatlinburg welcomes two pets up to 75 lbs for an additional fee of $25 per pet, per night.

Book a Romantic Cabin

After a day of exploring the Smokies, you and your pup can kick back in a cozy cabin at the Dancing Bear Lodge in Townsend. All cabins feature luxurious feather beds, wood-burning fireplaces, and private porches with hot tubs. Enjoy a glass of wine and a delicious meal as your pooch sits tableside at the outdoor deck of the on-site Appalachian Bistro. A complimentary breakfast is served daily. Dogs of any size are welcome for an additional fee of $50 per stay.

Stay in the Heart of Downtown

Stay on The Strip in Gatlinburg at the River Terrace Resort & Convention Center, and you’ll be just a short walk from dog-friendly attractions like the Gatlinburg SkyLift and distilleries. The hotel overlooks the Little Pigeon River and has grassy relief areas on site for your pooch. There are two heated outdoor pools and a restaurant on the property, too. One dog or cat is welcome for an additional fee of $170 per stay.

Happy glampers at Under Canvas Great Smoky Mountains.Photo by @princesscassi

Sleep Under the Stars

Since opening in May 2020, this lodging newcomer has provided a type of accommodations that were missing in this area - glamping! Glamping is a slightly more glamorous style of camping, and it is at its eco-friendly finest at Under Canvas Great Smoky Mountains. Set on 182 acres of lush, wooded terrain, these luxury safari-style tents are outfitted with cozy beds and plush linens, private bathrooms, camp stoves and more. Dogs of any size are welcome for an additional fee of $25 per pet, per night.

Enjoy Being "Alone at Last”

Check out when you check-in at this pet-friendly Airbnb ideally situated just 10 minutes in between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. The knotty pine cabin features a lofted ceiling studio space with kitchen, soaking tub, a king size bed and two extra fold-away padded cot sleepers. Relax on the deck among the hardwoods in the hot tub. Dogs are welcome at the Alone at Last cabin for no additional fee.

Cozy Up in a Mountain Retreat

Book Bear-ly Made It, a darling dog-friendly mountain cabin located in the Sky Harbor Resort, nestled in the Smokies between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg and just minutes from Sevierville. The property sleeps 8 and features a hot tub on the deck, an arcade with a pool table and video arcade gaming system, an equipped kitchen, and an amazing view. Dogs are welcome with prior approval for no additional charge.

Roll the Dice

Besides offering gambling in the Smokies, Harrah's Cherokee Casino Resort boasts some of the best views around. This pet-friendly, 21-story Caesars property features a luxurious, mountain lodge-like ambiance and overlooks Soco Creek. Big-name headliners perform frequently at the resort, which also features an indoor pool, outdoor pool with cabanas, fitness center and several dining options. Harrah's Cherokee Casino Resort welcomes two dogs up to 50 lbs for an additional fee of $75 per night, plus a $100 refundable deposit.

Dog-Friendly Restaurants

This tea at Crystelle Creek is almost as sweet as me! Photo by @exazim

Calories don’t count on vacation, right? The down-home Southern style cuisine that is popular in this area of Appalachia isn’t know for being low-cal, but it is known for being delicious. Sit on these restaurants’ pet-friendly patios for pre-adventure carb-loading pancake breakfasts and enjoy steak and ribs for lunch and dinner. Oh, and don’t forget about dessert! Doggy sundae, anyone?

Hang Out on a Heated Porch

Dine on the dog-friendly, enclosed and heated porch with your pup at Crystelle Creek Restaurant & Grill. You’ll need to call ahead to verify availability. Once you’re seated, your dog will get a bowl of water while you make the tough decision between a grilled steak, pasta or fried seafood for dinner. While you chow down, enjoy live music and views of Dudley Creek with your pup.

Dig Into a Hearty Breakfast

Begin the day with your four-legged friend at Timbers Log Cabin Restaurant. Your dog is welcome to sit with you on the porch while you sip a cup of strong coffee and dig into hearty entrees such as the Log Cabin Flapjacks or the Coal Miners Breakfast, featuring an order of biscuits and gravy, three scrambled eggs, bacon or sausage, fried potatoes and sliced tomatoes. Be sure to share some eggs and gravy with your hungry hound.

Visit an English Pub

Bring Fido to Fox & Parrot for one of the many beers on tap, a cup of hot tea, and British pup fare. The staff loves dogs and will make your best friend feel right at home inside or out with a treat and a pat. Try the Spotted Dick, a raisin sponge cake covered in custard, paired with a Strongbow Cider while playing one of the pub’s board games.

The best 50 cents you ever spent!Photo by Kezia Washington

Drive In and Dine Out

Roll up with your pup to Burger Master Drive In in Townsend for a nostalgic diner experience from the comfort of your car or at the pet-friendly picnic tables. Treat your canine co-pilot to a small vanilla ice cream topped with a Milk-Bone dog treat while you devour a hickory burger and a delicious dipped cone. Best of all, a meal here won’t break the bank. A doggy ice cream still has a retro price of 50 cents!

Indulge Your Sweet Tooth

Head to The Strip in Gatlinburg, which is abuzz at night, for a sweet treat at The Funnel Cake Company. Try a funnel cake with chocolate or strawberry toppings, a fried Snickers candy bar, or frozen lemonade. Fido is welcome to join you at one of the outdoor tables, which are great for people watching.

Donuts for Doggos and Humans

Start off your morning with a pre-adventure carb-loading session at Mad Dog’s Creamery & Donuts. Sit at a shaded pup-friendly picnic table and try one or two of the sweet shop’s specialty donuts, like Peanut Butter and Jelly, Caramel With Sea Salt Crystals, or Red Velvet with Cream Cheese Icing. Canine customers can snack on donut-shaped dog treats or a pup cup of vanilla soft-serve ice cream.

Rock Out on the Pet-Friendly Patio

The Hard Rock Cafe Pigeon Forge boasts a large, covered outdoor patio which is “pupular” with four-legged foodies. Dine like a rockstar on burgers, steak and ribs while classic rock tunes play in the background. Outdoor seating is available from the spring through fall. Call ahead in cooler months to verify that the patio is open.

What are your favorite dog-friendly things to do in the Great Smoky Mountains? Leave a comment or tweet us @BringFido!

Banner photo by @lexie_layla_lea.