Are you looking for an adventure-packed vacation destination? What about a place where bass fishing and exploring a national park are part of the trip? Even better, what if great dining, shopping and lodging fit into plan?
East Tennessee is the place, and the Great Smoky Mountains are the destination. Located in the foothills are Douglas Lake and Cherokee Lake, both popular stops for Bassmaster tournaments. Within a short drive of the lakes and at the front doorstep of the nation’s most popular national park are Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, all of which are renowned for music, thrill rides, shopping, tourist attractions and great dining.
What makes the area an ideal vacation destination is location, location, location. East Tennessee is centrally located within easy drives for visitors from the Southeast and East Coast. What is more, U.S. Highway 441, also known as the Great Smoky Mountains Parkway, travels 14 miles through all three towns.
“I grew up in Dandridge, and it’s on the shore of Douglas Lake and near Cherokee Lake,” said Bassmaster Elite Series pro Skylar Hamilton. “What makes it special for anglers is you can combine bass fishing with day trips to the surrounding mountains for nature, and to the tourist areas along the way."
There are plenty of things to do, in addition to the bass fishing. And like Hamilton implied, all of the fun is an easy drive away. Here are some ideas to get your trip planning started.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The park gets more than 12 million annual visitors, and most of them come during the summer months. That makes spring an ideal time to enjoy the park and escape the crowds. The park has a diverse topography with elevations ranging from 875 feet to more than 6,000 feet, and temperatures can vary by up to 20 degrees from the base to the mountaintops, so packing layered clothing is a good idea. The park has about 800 miles of streams that support wild brook, brown and rainbow trout. Touring the park is easy. U.S Hwy. 441 traverses the park from the Gatlinburg entrance, crosses 5,049-foot Newfound Gap and continues to North Carolina. Along the route are numerous trail heads that range from easy to moderately difficult. Waterfalls and scenic overlooks are an easy hike on many of the trails. For a scenic drive, take in the Cades Cove Loop that winds for 11 miles through a valley filled with restored buildings that include three churches, log homes, cantilevered barns and a working mill. If you want to put on your hiking boots, you’ll have 150 official trails from which to choose. Get started with a stop at one of the four visitor centers, including the Gatlinburg Welcome Center. At each location you can find out the latest COVID-19 visitation procedures in place.