Shoppertunity Is Knocking

One of the most popular activities that vacationers in the Smoky Mountains enjoy is shopping. And while there are plenty of the typical touristy places to spend your money—T-shirt shops, souvenir stands and the like—that’s just scratching the surface when it comes to the retail heaven that is the Smokies.

High on the list of retail destinations are the area’s outlet malls. Tanger Five Oaks Outlet Center in Sevierville is one of the most popular stops, and you’ll find the Governor’s Crossing Outlet Mall nearby as well. In Pigeon Forge, the biggies are Pigeon Forge Factory Outlet Mall (the red roof mall) and Belz Factory Outlet World. Others in Pigeon Forge include another Tanger property and the Z Buda Mall, which is behind the Pigeon Forge Factory Outlet Mall.

In Gatlinburg, crafts are a focal point of the retail market. In the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community, you’ll find dozens of shops, galleries and studios along the community’s eight-mile auto loop, and crafts abound at a host of specialty and craft shops on the downtown Parkway as well.

In Sevierville, you’ll encounter a number of flea markets and antique shops, particularly along Tenn. Hwy. 66 (Winfield Dunn Parkway), which runs between Interstate 40 and downtown Sevierville.

The good news is that guests staying in our Smoky Mountain cabin rentals are never far away when shoppertunity comes knocking.

Bear Management

Most folks who come to the Smokies to stay in our Wears Valley, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg cabins are eager to see a black bear in the wild. But we always make a point of cautioning our guests when it comes to these iconic animals. Bears are wild animals. They’re not in a zoo, which means we urge all visitors to treat them with a healthy degree of caution and respect.

One of the biggest mistakes out-of-town visitors make is feeding the bears. This situation often comes up because there has been a recent surge in the baby bear population, which has put a strain on the supply of their natural mast foods. As a result, more and more bears wander into campsites and other human-populated places to get food. And that’s when it becomes tempting to feed the bears.

However, feeding wild bears is harmful to them. Our food is not good for their health, and it makes them dependent on humans for survival. So here are some tips that make your presence less tempting to the bears:

• Keep your public campsite or picnic spot clean and free of litter. Keep food stored securely in cars or suspended overhead from a tree.

• In the backcountry campsites and shelters, use food-storage cables, and never leave your backpack unattended.

• If you’re day hiking and leave the trail, never leave your backpack unattended.

Smoky Mountain Attraction Tickets

Once you check into one of our cabins in Wears Valley, you may find it hard to pull yourself away. After all, our properties generally feature all the comforts and amenities that visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains seek in their vacation accommodations.

When you do venture out into nearby Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg or Sevierville, however, you’ll find yourself faced with dozens of choices when it comes to attractions and things to do in the Smokies. But before you buy your tickets from any of these destinations, take a look at the deals we have to offer at Volunteer Cabin Rentals.

We can set you up with discounted tickets for all the Ripley’s attractions as well as theater venues like Country Tonite Theatre, WonderWorks, Smoky Mountain Opry and The Comedy Barn. Or if some outdoor adventure sounds exciting, you may want to take a look at our whitewater-rafting package.

Just go to the Discount Tickets tab on our home page, and you’ll be directed to great deals on all this and more for the specific dates you plan to visit us here in the Smokies.

Summer Weddings

Schools are out, Memorial Day is fast approaching, and summer is officially just weeks away. In the Smokies, that means wedding season is here as well. With its abundance of wedding chapels, secluded Gatlinburg cabins and incredible selection of attractions and restaurants, it’s no wonder that this area is the Wedding Capital of the South.

You’ll find dozens of chapels and other unique wedding venues all throughout Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevierville. You can get married on horseback, in a helicopter or even at the Hard Rock Café. Chapels usually offer a variety of wedding settings, from interior spaces to gazebos and waterfalls. Their packages are also often all-inclusive, offering amenities like flowers, photography, videography, catering and more.

The trick, however, is to contact your wedding provider as far in advance as possible if you know your intended wedding date. Often, a planner or coordinator will help you make arrangements in advance and, of course, reserve the space for the dates you need. Working ahead also lets you book your honeymoon accommodations before they fill up for the summer.

Also, don’t forget to get a license. You can get them at the Sevier County courthouse in Sevierville, the Pigeon Forge City Hall and the Shilling Center in Gatlinburg. See our Romance in the Smokies page for more details.

Check Out Our Webcam!

Ever been sitting in your house or maybe at your workplace and caught yourself daydreaming about the Smokies? Even if you’re not here with us in person, you can still get a taste of the mountains by taking a peek at our Smoky Mountain webcam. This camera, which is presented courtesy of our 1 In A Million cabin, offers live views of the mountains 24 hours a day.

Having access to a webcam can also be handy if you’re already on your way to the Smokies and you want to get an idea of what the weather conditions are like. This area can have unpredictable weather, especially in spring and fall, so it can be handy to know whether you need to pack for rain, snow or very high temperatures.
Here are a few other webcams you can access just for fun:

• National Park webcam from Look Rock:

• National Park webcam from Purchase Knob:
• Underwater webcam at Ripley’s Aquarium:

• Gatlinburg Mountain Mall webcam:

Weekend Plans That Are For The Birds

Looking for something to do in the Smokies that celebrates the area’s natural setting and would also be fun for the whole family? Then consider signing up for this Saturday’s Bird Watching In Cades Cove program, presented by the Great Smokies Institute at Tremont.

There’s no better birding in the park than in Cades Cove on a spring morning. Join Tremont Citizen Science Coordinator Tiffany Beachy for a stroll through various habitat types looking and listening for these enchanting forest jewels.

Those interested in participating will need sturdy walking shoes, water and curiosity about the natural world. Bring binoculars or feel free to borrow a pair from the Tremont folks. The cost is $18 per person, but since time is short, we recommend calling ahead for details soon.

You’ll find more info at There you’ll find a calendar of all upcoming events at the institute, which is located in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. They have day programs and overnight/multi-night programs for children and adults, all dedicated to exploring and preserving native wildlife. Overnight programs usually include accommodations and meals.

For the purposes of the bird-watching program, however, we suggest staying in one of our Wears Valley cabins, and you’ll be conveniently located near the national park and have easy access to Tremont.

Cabin Of The Week – Brookstone Lodge

What are you planning for this Memorial Day? This year, consider going all out by hosting a large group gathering at one of our Smoky Mountain cabin rentals. Whether it’s a family reunion or a gathering of friends, we think you’ll find the accommodations at Brookstone Lodge to be more than up to the challenge.

Consider for starters that this magnificent cabin sleeps as many as 20 adults in six bedrooms, utilizing five king beds, a queen bunk bed, two queen sleeper sofas and one regular sleeper sofa. That’s plenty of space for everyone to catch a little shut-eye, but you’ll soon realize you’ll need that rest once you see what this cabin has to offer.

Play to your heart’s content with a game room featuring a pool table, air hockey table and foosball table. Or you might want to settle in for a marathon movie session in the media room, where a large-screen TV is the focus of attention. Elsewhere, Brookstone has nine satellite TVs and 8 DVD players throughout its multiple levels, and Wi-Fi access is free.

Outdoor relaxation comes courtesy of spacious covered decks with a picnic table, charcoal grill and hot tub. All the while, you can enjoy gorgeous mountain views that spread out into the national park.

Heritage Center Displays History And Culture

The Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center offers guests unique insights into the different people and civilizations that have called this area home. The museum serves as both a vital educational tool and a reminder of the challenges faced by our predecessors.

Located on a three-acre site in Townsend—less than a mile from the Blount County entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and just a few miles from our cabins in Wears Valley, TN—the center consists of a 17,000-square-foot main building, a collection of historic out buildings and an outdoor amphitheater.

The self-guided tour utilizes both artifacts and interactive computers to illustrate different aspects of life for both Native American residents and white settlers. A partially reconstructed cabin, along with genuine articles once owned by early settlers, help illustrate the more recent history of Cades Cove and other communities that were eventually absorbed into the national park.

The grounds behind the main building showcase a number of preserved structures, including a log home, a setoff house from the Little River Lumber Company and the Montvale Station stage stop, which dates back to 1836. Visitors are allowed to step inside the different buildings to get an up-close look at pioneer lifestyles.

Waterfall Hikes In The Smokies – Part II

Last week, we started taking a look at great waterfall hikes in the Smokies. With warmer temperatures, waterfalls and cascades make great hiking destinations now, and spring is the best time to see them in the national park. As the winter snows melt and the spring rains arrive, the waterways of the mountains are often swollen, which means full, beautiful waterfall flow. Here are a few more suggestions about some of the more popular waterfall hikes in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (all distances listed are round trip).

And don’t forget that when planning your next hiking trip, we have a great selection of Pigeon Forge cabin rentals that are conveniently located near the park.

• Laurel Falls – This paved 2.6-mile hike is one of the easiest and most accessible waterfall hikes in the Smokies. The trailhead is located on Little River Road, 3.5 miles from the Sugarlands Visitor Center. The walking/hiking is easy and kid-friendly. At the end, you’ll enjoy the mist and noise of the 80-foot-high Laurel Falls.

• Rainbow Falls – You access this trailhead by getting on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail from downtown Gatlinburg. Go past the Noah “Bud” Ogle place and look for signs for the Rainbow Falls parking area. The moderately strenuous hike is 5.4 miles round trip to the 80-foot-high falls, and you gain about 1,500 feet in elevation. If you continue past the falls for four more miles, you’ll be at the top of Mt. LeConte!

• Ramsey Cascades – this 8-miler is a difficult trek, gaining 2,000 feet in elevation. But the 100-foot drop at the end is worth the trip. You’ll find the trailhead in the Greenbrier section of the national park, about 4.7 miles from that entrance.

Waterfall Hikes In The Smokies – Part I

Right now, the conditions are ideal for hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains. It’s warm and pleasant out but not too hot, especially in the higher elevations. Another great thing about hiking in spring is that it’s the best time to see the waterfalls of the national park. As the winter snows melt and the spring rains arrive, the waterways of the mountains are often swollen, which means full, beautiful waterfall flow. Here are a few suggestions about some of the more popular waterfall hikes in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (all distances listed are round trip).

And don’t forget that when planning your next hiking trip, we have a great selection of Gatlinburg cabins that are conveniently located near the park.

• Abrams Falls – A moderate five-mile hike to a wide, 20-foot-high fall. The trailhead can be found on the Cades Cove loop.

• Grotto Falls – A moderate three-mile hike to a 25-foot fall on Trillium Gap trail. The trail actually runs behind the fall, and the trailhead starts on Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.

• Hen Wallow Falls – A well-kept secret, this 4.4-mile, moderate hike takes you to a spectacular 90-foot-high cascade. The trailhead starts at the Cosby picnic area, near the Cosby campground in the park.