Snow Fans Alert: Ober Gatlinburg Rail Jam and Snow Tubing Opportunities

Snow fans should slap the board rack on the car, and head to the Back in Blue Rail Jam at Ober Gatlinburg, next Friday, November 22. A great event to partcipate in or even to just watch, Ober turns its snow tubing area into a contest celebration for those wanting to show off their snowboarding skills. The event is open to all willing participants and free to spectators, with prizes to be awarded based on performance.

This festive Rail Jam event kicks off the winter season at Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort, which also opens to the public on November 23 for snow tubing runs. Resort spokespeople state they hope to open the rest of the ski slopes in early December, with vigorous snowmaking ongoing. Besides traditional snowmaking equipment, the resort also uses an interesting Japanese technology known as Snow Magic, which converts crushed ice into a snow substitute. The equipment converts up to 25 tons of ice daily, and allows for creation of frozen precipitation even when the sky and temperatures don’t naturally cooperate. Snow is guaranteed, since outdoor temperatures do not matter, and the output is environmentally friendly, with no chemicals used in production.

Hope you are planning to visit here for the Thanksgiving holiday week! We at Volunteer Cabin Rentals are glad to assist you with your Gatlinburg, TN cabin. Hope you can join us to watch the skilled and crazy ones next weekend, and then also bring the whole family for snow tubing! Ages 3 and up are allowed to participate with an adult, and over 6 years old can tube individually. We are thankful to have a ski facilitiy so close and easily accessible. So pack your snow pants too, and get started on downhill winter fun early this year!

Don’t Shut Down Your Vacation Plans Because of the Federal Government

So you have planned your entire visit to the Smokies: rented your luxury cabin in Gatlinburg, programmed your GPS to reach your destination, and made plans to visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to view the changing fall colors of the season. Congress has decided to close the National Park system, so now what? This is not a diatribe on the adversity that this shutdown creates for so many, but rather an encouragement to go through with your vacation plans to visit the area, but to slightly alter your activities. Disappointing? Yes, but certainly not a deal breaker to just stay home. Here’s why.

What’s open? Although many trailheads and the famous Cades Cove are currently closed, it is possible to drive through the Smokies and enjoy the foliage. The Spur from Pigeon Forge to Gatlinburg, Newfound Gap Road from Gatlinburg to Cherokee, North Carolina, along with the Newfound Gap parking area, and the Gatlinburg Bypass road all remain open. Accessing and driving through the park is still possible, and easily accomplished.

What’s closed? Visitor centers, restrooms, picnic areas, campgrounds and trail heads are all currently temporarily closed. So think of visiting with a lack of conveniences available, sort of more wilderness at your own risk. The beauty of the Smokies in October is breathtaking. Your viewpoint may not be from the identical spot you desire to visit, but the natural wonders of our area do not stop and start at the Park boundary lines.

Oh, and Gatlinburg, Townsend, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville are all completely open for business. We at Volunteer Cabin Rentals in Wears Valley will do all we can to suggest alternate options for you to enjoy while these closures are in effect. Please come. You will not regret your choice.


UPDATE: Due to special local funding, the GSMNP is open October 16-20. Past that remains to be seen. 

Roll the Car Windows Down and Take Your Time

One of my favorite relaxing sounds to enjoy is rushing river water. Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a must-do auto tour in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is a simple, inexpensive way to truly experience the unique joys of the Smoky Mountains. Take a winding journey of 6 miles (one-way road) through forest, along rushing streams, past historic buildings. Cabin homesteads, overlooks, and waterfall hiking trailheads all are available at numerous stops along this picturesque drive.

Make sure to stop and purchase the Nature Trail self-guide booklet ($1 donation), located in an honor box at the trail entrance. Notable stops are:
-the Noah Bud Ogle homestead, the Bales family farm, and the Reagan properties
-trailheads for Rainbow Falls (5.4 miles roundtrip moderate to difficult hike), Grotto Falls (3 miles roundtrip moderate hike), and Place of a Thousand Drips, a wet-weather waterfall at stop #15.

But there are so many moments to savor and explore to make this trip your own. The key is to take it slow, as much is missed with a hurried pace. Make a special effort to notice and absorb the details.

Stop to inspect a hardscrabble, former way of early living in these rugged mountains. Go for a cardio hike to one of the falls. Capture photographs of wildlife and play in the icy cold streams. Inhale the history and allure of the breathtaking nature around you. When you complete this tour, I promise you will feel you have “been on vacation”, if even for only a few moments.

Go early to be ahead of the high season summer crowd. Spend a good part of the day here: for family photo ops, for historical education, for romantic lingering, for explorer exercise, but seriously, just go! Later on, as you relax in your Gatlinburg luxury cabin rental, be thankful for all the modern conveniences surrounding you. Click back through those digital pictures to recall the rugged way of life that this area’s early settlers bravely endured to be surrounded by such beauty. My best suggestion? Visit again in another season; it’s also lovely in colorful autumn and blooming spring.

To access the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, turn at traffic light #8 in Gatlinburg and follow the Historic Nature Trail Road straight past Park Vista Hotel and Mynatt Park to the National Park entrance. For more information, visit

Best Place to Shop for Uncommon Gifts in the Smokies

Christmas in June? For those hardcore gift buyers searching for unique presents all throughout the year, visitors staying in Smoky mountain cabins have a “don’t miss opportunity” to complete their holiday shopping in a single power-buying trip. Of course, many shop for retail name brands at great discounts at the multiple outlet centers throughout our area: a good choice. But don’t overlook shopping the largest community of independent artists and crafters in the country!

The Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community is located just outside Gatlinburg off Highway 321. Since 1937, regional craftsmen have grown this small cluster of working studios into an impressive neighborhood of over 100 artisans of all types, from primitive to contemporary. A scenic, 8-mile loop road features an array of independent galleries, shops, and working studios to browse for unique, American-made products. Many artists-in-residence are present and working, those who choose to make their passion their livelihood.

A broad variety of items are created daily. All forms of media are represented: wood, stone, clay, glass, metal, and fiber. Artwork from photography, oils and watercolors are all available. You will find the expected: pottery, baskets, paintings, brooms, soaps, and candles. But there is so much more: sculpture, jewelry, leather goods, weavings and quilts, Native American and holiday items, signs, clothing, and more. To quell any distractions from hunger, homemade food gifts like honey, fudge and jams are also offered at several shops and eateries.

In just woodcrafts alone, the variety of items created is apparent : walking sticks, detailed fireplace mantels, decorative art, furniture items, musical dulcimer instruments, and chainsaw-carved bears. These examples are just the beginning of the clever inspiration found in this treasure trove of handmade items.

So come meet these outstanding regional artisans, and purchase an inexpensive local souvenir or invest in a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. Or both. Can’t make it while here this summer? Come back this fall, and visit the Heritage Crafts Shows at the downtown Gatlinburg Convention Center in late November and early December, which a selection of artists attends as vendors. Also be sure to obtain a local paper brochure, which contains a complete map and descriptions of all the artist wares available. It is a vital tool in preplanning your shopping day. Visit the link for more information about this historic community, with videos and show details.

We at Volunteer Cabin Rentals support our local crafters’ amazing talents, and hope you will learn to do the same. Stay with us, and shop for the uncommon. You won’t be disappointed.

3 Fun Things To Do Outside This Week

What a week we’re having in the Smokies. Sunny, blue skies, mild temperatures are making this the ideal week to get out and make the most of this gorgeous Smoky Mountains scenery. Here are just a handful of ideas for making the most of nature’s cooperative mood.

• Go for a hike in the national park – There are hundreds of miles of trails and nature walks that will let you explore high mountain peaks, waterfalls, historic communities, wildflower regions and more.

• Go ziplining – There are several zipline vendors throughout the area that offer a variety of fast, high-flying adventures among the treetops and spanning vast mountain valleys.

• Go horseback riding – You’ll find a number of horseback riding stables in Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and even the national park. So saddle up and hit the dusty trail and experience the scenery the old-school way.

And when you’re in the market for a rental cabin experience in the Smokies, don’t assume that Pigeon Forge, Sevierville and Gatlinburg cabins are all that’s out there. At Volunteer Cabin Rentals, most of our properties are located in beautiful Wears Valley, Tennessee—close to all those other places but in the middle of some of the most beautiful landscapes in the area and bordering Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Smoky Mountain Scenery

Whether you’re staying in one of our secluded Gatlinburg cabins, convenient Pigeon Forge cabins or scenic Wears Valley cabins, chances are you’re going to want to do some sightseeing. And as it turns out, the Great Smoky Mountains are the most beautiful sight we have to offer.

No matter what time of year you visit or what area of the national park you choose as your destination, nature always seems to be at its best in the Smokies. From towering mountains, to green forests to rolling meadows, there’s no shortage of locations that show off the wild side of one of the most beautiful places on earth.


Just to give you an idea of the sights you can feast your eyes on, check out the gorgeous high-def footage in this video. Consider it a DVD postcard from us to you.


Deciding What To Do In The Smokies

There’s only one problem with taking a vacation in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee—there’s so much to do and so little time. In fact, if you visited every attraction in the Smokies, it could conceivably take you a lifetime full of vacations. So how can you go about narrowing down your choices for your next trip to the mountains?

• Consider eliminating things you’ve done before. So you’ve been to Dollywood, Ripley’s Aquarium and Titanic. This time, try some of the other dozens of attractions like Star Cars, the Elvis Museum or Rainforest Adventures.

• Shoot for a balance of indoor and outdoor fun. You might try to work in a music theater show one day and then balance that out with a hike in the national park. And there are activities like horseback riding, ziplining and Zorb that also get you into the great outdoors.

• Consider the age range of your group. If you’ve got young children with you, you may still want to consider a large attraction like Dollywood, which offers something for all ages. If it’s just adults, you can easily open up a wide range of options that may not appeal to the younger set.

• Consider your budget. It’s always helpful to set a price limit on your trip and then stay within it. That price cap may help you make some decisions when it comes to certain attractions. But the good news is that fun comes in all price ranges in the Smokies, so there’s no excuse for ending your visit unhappy.

When planning your next Smokies vacation, remember to visit our website and check out our selection of Wears Valley, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg cabin rentals.

Winterfest in Gatlinburg

If you’re staying in one of our Gatlinburg rental cabins this week, your timing is great. This week is the kickoff of Winterfest in Gatlinburg. It all gets started tomorrow night (11/7) with the city’s 23rd annual Winter Magic Kickoff and Chili Cookoff from 5 to 8 p.m. on the downtown Parkway. In addition to lighting the city’s millions of Winterfest lights, area restaurants and other businesses will be competing for best-chili awards, while a Beatles tribute band provides entertainment.

Of course, Winterfest isn’t just this week. It continues with nearly four full months of special events and activities, all topped off with the dozens of Winterfest light displays. One of the most convenient and relaxing ways to see those lights is on the city’s Trolley Ride of Lights. These special trolleys take guests in heated comfort on a tour throughout the town. That means you don’t have to get out in traffic and burn gas money. The tours run through January 26, 2013.

Other Winterfest events in Gatlinburg include the Festival of Trees (11/20 – 11/24), the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Shows (11/21 – 11/25 and 11/26 – 12/2), Winter Magic tunes & Tales (11/23 – 12/22), Christmas On Ice (12/1 – 12/2) and the Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade (12/7).

Volunteer Cabin Rentals

How About A Picnic?

With the nice spell of seasonable weather we’ve had here in the Smokies lately, the conditions have become a little more favorable to have a picnic. Usually a popular activity in spring and fall, picnicking in the last month or so hasn’t been as appealing because of heat and humidity. So if you’re staying in one of our Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg cabin rentals this week, it may be a great time to strike while the iron—and not the weather—is hot.

Where are the best places to picnic in the Smokies, you may be wondering. Pretty much, it can be anywhere you want to put down a blanket, including city parks or green areas near the Little Pigeon River. But the most popular spots are, understandably, in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Keep in mind that park amenities usually feature picnic tables and outdoor grill areas and may or may not have spots for actually putting down a blanket, although the Cades Cove community has lots of nice spots for a traditional on-the-ground picnic.

Some of the favorite national park picnic spots include Cades Cove, Chimneys, Cosby, Greenbrier, Look Rock and Metcalf Bottoms. Many of these sites are near other activities and features of interest. For example, a picnic at Cades Cove would naturally lead to a tour of the 11-mile historical loop, while a picnic at Metcalf Bottoms would make it easy to take a hike to the Walker sisters’ cabin.

A Wide Variety Of Entertainment

There was a time when a visit to a music theater meant there was a good chance you were going to get your fill of country music. That’s still true to some extent, because our theaters do have some great country-, bluegrass- and gospel-themed shows. But these days, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Many visitors to our Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg rental cabins are surprised to hear about the wide range of entertainment styles to be enjoyed on our stages.

• Oldies Rock

You can hear the classic rock and roll sounds of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s—from Elvis to Motown—at venues like American Oldies Theater, the Grand Majestic Theater and Memories Theater, all in Pigeon Forge.

• Comedy

Almost all area shows have elements of comedy blended it, but yuks and chuckles are the main course at venues like Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre in Gatlinburg and the Comedy Barn Theater in Pigeon Forge.

• Competition Shows

Some shows defy description, but you can be sure that performers and audience members will go head-to-head and enjoy a multicourse meal in the process at shows like Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, Lumberjack Feud and the Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Show, all in Pigeon Forge.

• Murder Mysteries

Find out whodunit at the Great Smoky Mountain Murder Mystery and the Mystery and Mayhem Theater in Pigeon Forge.

• Magic

Illusionist Terry Evanswood astounds audiences in his Wonders of Magic show at WonderWorks in Pigeon Forge.