5 Good Things to Pack for your Smokies Vacation

After making your reservation for your Smoky Mountains cabin rental, the packing process begins. Here are a few specific items that you should consider for your comfort and convenience.

1. Bug Repellent-It has been a wet summer season here this year, and the insect population has flourished along with the beautiful plant foliage in our area. There’s no reason to be miserable with itchy bites or buzzing annoyances, when they can be prevented. While enjoying the outdoors, plan for a quick spray of repellent along with your sunscreen, and for an omission of perfumes and fragrant lotions that may attract unwanted flying suitors.

2. Allergy Medications-Our verdant, blooming countryside also actively provokes hay fever type allergies and those allergic to bees, who are attracted to flowers. Be prepared so you won’t be inadvertently sidelined with any allergic distractions.

3. Portable Power Strip-Since today’s entertainment and communication requires multiple electronic devices per family, a multi-plug power strip can centrally locate all recharging needs in a single spot. This also avoids small items and their cords being left behind in a hidden corner outlet.

4. Crockpot Slowcooker-Assuming you will utilize the cabin’s kitchen to enjoy family meal favorites, it is a wonderful moment to arrive back to a fragrant, ready-to-eat meal in a cozy cabin after a long, hard day of tourist activities. Alternatively, prepare overnight and awake to breakfast ready for a crowd.

5. Sevier County map-Whether looking for a specific road, or planning a trail hike, GPS systems quickly go “off the grid” in our mountainous region. There are multiple areas in the county that are unmapped or not updated recently to many GPS systems. So, print out specifics before leaving home, or pick up a map when you reach town.
Google map of Sevier County.

Our beautiful corner of the world can be secluded and peaceful, but there are many retail locations for all of your basic needs. Discounters Walmart and Kmart, and drugstores Walgreens and CVS, along with independent pharmacies are all available. Grocery stores Kroger and Food City (a regional chain) also have multiple locations for your convenience. So don’t sweat regarding a search for any items you may still need when you arrive.

We look forward to seeing you (and all your luggage) here at Volunteer Cabin Rentals. Please come stay with us soon!

The Postcard Perfect Picnic in the Park: 5 Do’s and Don’ts for Success

With so many activities available in the Smokies region, we strongly suggest a day of planned downtime to relax and absorb the surrounding natural beauty. A picnic is the perfect way to involve the whole family in easy together time. We’ll leave the ideal food selection to you. Here are some tips that will help make those outdoor mountain memories positive ones.

Those who choose to stay in a secluded Smoky Mountain cabin with Volunteer Cabin Rentals have an easy access location for picnicking 7 minutes away from our main office! We recommend the Metcalf Bottoms picnic area for several reasons: open year round, one of the largest in our area, many sites adjacent to the river, a pavilion for group rentals, public bathrooms available, and historic buildings and trails to explore close by. For specific information regarding picnic areas in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, see www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/picnic.htm

Do’s and Don’ts for Picnic Success:
1. DO plan to go early and to get dirty.
Because this is a popular location, during high season it is important to arrive early to stake your claim on a prime table/grill location. Many sites are adjacent to the rolling river water, but choices are best mid-morning before the lunch crowd arrives. There is no overnight camping, so all visitors are day trippers.

Even if you believe you will just eat and leave, we promise you will want to explore once you arrive, even if only to sit on a river rock. This is not a place for fashion: tees and sneakers or bathing suits and water shoes are your best choices of attire.

2. DO splash/wade/swim/play in the river and enjoy the water. Water shoes or old sneakers are best for rock climbing and wading. Flip flops and bare feet are not ideal for the slippery, muddy, and mossy surfaces in and around the water. Trust us and protect your dignity and your toes. Take a book and sunbathe in the middle of the stream, or sink a chair seat in the shallows for a short while.

3. DO consider taking a few items to ensure your comfort: tablecloth (canvas painter dropcloth is great), clean wipes, plastic bags, camp chairs, bug repellent, sunscreen, towels to wipe feet, and a length of rope to secure any floating items to prevent loss downstream.

4. DON”T forget this is bear country. All coolers, food and prep utensils must be stored in the vehicle when not in use. All garbage should be immediately disposed in the animal-proof dumpsters provided. Feeding any wildlife is illegal and potentially dangerous for both humans and animals. Such safety rules are enforced by rangers when violations are observed. Clean and clear the ground and grill areas thoroughly post dining to avoid attracting wildlife. Be aware you may also encounter bees, bugs, fish, crawfish, and snakes. Don’t be surprised by their presence in their own home neighborhood.

5. DON’T leave your mark on the park. Remove all evidence of your visit, and resist the temptation to take natural souvenirs like rocks or plants (also illegal). “Pack it out” picnicking is necessary November through March, as trash dumpsters are removed for the season. National parks emphasize strict preservation of pristine areas. Their focus is protecting natural and historic resources unimpaired for future generations. You are heartily encouraged to thoroughly enjoy, but not destroy, the beauty for visitors coming after you.

We hope these suggestions help you savor a postcard perfect picnic as part of your vacation. It is an idyllic pleasure that should not be missed.

Is Hillbilly Living Right for your Vacation?

Some of our friends were discussing their vision of an ideal vacation. One (the husband) said, “Our daily life is too much on the go. I want to do nothing as much as possible on vacation.”

If your objective is to relax completely and do nothing, a remote mountaintop cabin offers far more value for your dollar than a tight hotel room.

-While absorbing a panoramic view of rolling hills, unwind with a long soak in a personal hot tub, or curl up and leisurely read a book on a covered deck in the rain.

-Take a nap (or not) by the fireplace, and watch a ballgame, movie, or a home improvement marathon on the flatscreen television. Lose some time exploring Pinterest on the leather couch.

-Grill a meal, or make whatever suits you in a fully-stocked kitchen. Sip coffee exactly as you like it, or bake your secret family recipe dessert.

Cabins offer plenty of space to live with your family “at home” on vacation, without workday responsibilities. Some pet-friendly rentals are also available, so the entire family can be together. No camping out in a cramped hotel room on top of each other! Do you really travel several hours to settle for that?

Another friend (the wife) said, “I can only sit still for so long. I want to do things I don’t get the chance to do at home.”

If you must be on the move to explore, a Wears Valley cabin makes a great home base for whatever activities you desire.

-Outdoor adventures abound with the National Park border literally next door: hiking and walking trails, fishing, river swimming, tubing, skiing, horses, picnic and historic areas, and more are all a short distance away.

-Pigeon Forge attractions are also just minutes from the front door: all the miniature golf, racing cars, and Dollywood theme park amenities you could want.

-Sevier County shopping also offers something for everyone: from great namebrand bargains at outlet centers to a world class craftsman community, to the tackiest gag gift souvenir for that poor coworker who needs a vacation.

Check out the special offers currently available at Volunteer Cabin Rentals. No hassles or regrets. Come relax your way with us. We hope to see you soon.

Wears Valley—A Biker’s Destination

Motorcycle enthusiasts are among the fastest growing segments of visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains. It’s no wonder; the Smokies have hundreds of miles of scenic, twisty, curvy roads that are a biker’s dream.

At Volunteer Cabin Rentals, our Wears Valley cabins are ideally situated for any two-wheeler fan. We’re centrally located to all the major biker routes in the area, including the Tail Of The Dragon—that famously curvy 11-mile stretch of U.S. 129—as well as the Cherohala Skyway.

Of course, Wears Valley offers direct access to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, or you can head to other parts of the park through nearby Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Headed in the other direction, Wears Valley also offers easy traveling to Maryville, TN, home of one of the area’s most popular Harley Davidson dealerships.

And at Volunteer Cabin Rentals, many of our properties are ideally suited to motorcyclists. Some cabins have spaces to accommodate bikes on trailers, plus there’s a parking lot near our main office where you could also leave a trailer during the day.

National Park Webcams

Even if you’re not staying in one of our Pigeon Forge cabins this week, you can still experience some of the beautiful sights via two webcams that are operated by the National Park Service.

First check out the view from Purchase Knob, which is at the eastern end of the park and offers views to the northeast.


Also, take in the views from Look Rock, which is at the western end of the national park and offers great views of Mt. LeConte, Clingmans Dome and Cades Cove.


This time of year, you’ll see some great, clear views before the haze of summer sets in. Although overall, scenic views have degraded over the last 50 years thanks to man-made pollution. Since 1948, the average visibility in the southern Appalachians has decreased by 40 percent in winter and 80 percent in summer.

Get A Sneak Peek At The Smokies

It’s a cold January day, and right now, you may be miles and miles and months and months away from your next trip to the Great Smoky Mountains. But you can do a little early looking and daydreaming if you get a look at what’s going on here courtesy of our Smoky Mountain web cam.

The view comes from our 1 In A Million rental cabin, which offers high-up views that stretch out across nearby ridges and valleys and distant mountains. In winter, the stark beauty of the landscape contrasts greatly with the abundant greenery of spring and summer, but it’s an awesome view any time of year. And if you can catch this view on a clear, sunny day (like the one we’re having on the day this blog post was written), you’re in for a real treat.

Speaking of 1 In A Million, it’s just one of the dozens of overnight cabins we have at Volunteer Cabin Rentals. We have everything from one- to 12-bedroom cabins located throughout the Wears Valley and Pigeon Forge area. The amenities are plentiful, the views are fantastic, and our properties are just minutes form Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, Sevierville and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Give us a call today and we’ll help you turn those web cam views into real-life views from the deck of one our luxury cabins.

5 Ways To Avoid Cabin Fever:

So here’s the scenario: You’re spending a few days or a week this winter with Volunteer Cabin Rentals, and it’s gotten awfully darned cold outside. The thought of getting out of the cabin isn’t very appealing, but at the same time, you don’t want to run the risk of being stuck inside together for so long that everyone’s starting to go a little stir crazy. What to do?

No worries. Our Smoky Mountain cabin rentals are designed to make sure that even the most quiet and lazy of days doesn’t necessarily translate into boredom. For example, consider marveling at the spectacle of snow-covered mountains from the warm comfort of your cabin’s main living room. Having a crackling fire going in the fireplace nearby will also help to cozy things up quickly. This would also be a great setting to curl up on the sofa with a good book and let your imagination run wild.

And even though it may be chilly outside, you’ll stay warm and relaxed while soaking in the hot tub. Day or night, this is a fun way to stay loose as a goose. There are also plenty of entertainment options in most of our cabins. Shoot a game of pool or start a foosball match in your cabin’s game room, or pop in a DVD (or three) and have a family movie marathon one night. Many cabins also come equipped with gaming systems that will keep fingers and thumbs clicking into the wee hours.

The Best Of All Worlds

No matter what type of experience you may be seeking during a vacation in the Great Smoky Mountains, Volunteer Cabin Rentals is well positioned to help make your plans become a reality. Our location in scenic Wears Valley, TN, makes it convenient for you to access virtually any other destination in the region and without having to get involved in the heaviest arteries of traffic.

From Wears Valley, it’s only about a 10-minute drive to Pigeon Forge and Dollywood, and from there, it’s only another 10- or 15-minute drive to Sevierville or Gatlinburg, depending on which direction you take. If you want to get to the national park, you don’t even have to go through Gatlinburg. There’s an often-overlooked entrance to the park, smack in the middle of Wears Valley, which takes you directly to the Metcalf Bottoms picnic area in no time at all. From there, it’s a direct drive to Cades Cove and other park destinations.

From Wears Valley, you can also quickly get to historic and beautiful Blount County sites like Townsend, Tennessee, and if you continue further into Maryville, you can then easily access either Interstate 40 through Lenoir City or take a curvy ride on the famed Tail of the Dragon section of U.S. Highway 129.

Crazy Weather!

There’s no doubt that Hurricane Sandy has thrown a wrench into the travel plans of a lot of folks in the Eastern United States. Fortunately for us in the Smokies, rain, high winds and cold temperatures have been a blessing compared to the massive snows, wind damage and flooding experienced by much of the seaboard.

So if your travel plans have you in the Smokies this week, the good news is that the worst of Sandy’s impact should be moving on quickly. While the upper mountain elevations are getting some snow, most of us here in the foothills will see highs in the 50s for most of the rest of the week, along with sunny skies.

Note, however, that Newfound Gap Road between Gatlinburg and Cherokee, North Carolina is closed in the national park, so if that route was part of your itinerary, you may need to make some adjustments. But for the most part, you shouldn’t have trouble finding fun in the Smokies this weekend, even if you want to hike. There are plenty of other accessible spots in the national park that offer hiking opportunities.

Be sure to check your favorite weather-forecast site or app to keep up with what’s going on, or visit the Smoky Mountain web cam on our home page to get a firsthand look at what the weather looks like out there.

Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival

For a lot of folks, the best time of the year to visit the Great Smoky Mountains is just around the corner. Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival gets kicked off in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevierville on September 15 and runs through the end of October. It’s a time to celebrate cooler weather fall colors with seasonal decorations, mountain crafts and lots of fun special events. If you’re staying in one of our cabins in Pigeon Forge, TN in the next six weeks, here are a few highlights of what’s going on through the rest of September in the surrounding area.

• Oktoberfest at Ober Gatlinburg. 9/28 – 10/31. Get a head start on next month’s celebration of Bavarian-style food, drink and music. Lederhosen optional.

• Fall Heritage Festival and Old Timers Day. 9/28 – 9/29. Come to nearby Townsend for bluegrass music, clogging, antique tractors, crafts, food and more.

• 13th Annual Fall Smoky Mountain Trout Tournament. 9/29 – 9/30. Cast your lines to compete for prizes as organizers stock area rivers with more than 5,000 trout.

• Smokies Half Marathon, 5K and Fun Run. 9/30. Get some exercise while enjoying great views of the Smokies at this first-ever event, which starts and finishes in Pigeon Forge’s historic Old Mill district.