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

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.