A popular vacation resort that is next to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Located on US Highway 441 the highway connects Gatlinburg, Tennessee to Cherokee, North Carolina thru the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Gatlinburg is surrounded by mountains: the LeConte and Sugarland Mountains to the south; Cove Mountain to the west; Big Ridge to the northeast; and Grapeyard Ridge to the east.
The area of Gatlinburg was once hunting grounds to the early Native Americans and Cherokee. A footpath thru the mountains called Indian Gap Trail was the way to reach the bountiful hunting grounds the Native Indians hunted for food. US 441 almost follows the same route today.
Later in the 18th century European and early American hunters and trappers frequented the same area for wildlife and game. In 1806 the area was settled by Martha Ogle and her brother Peter Huskey. They built a cabin from the timber her husband had left on a previous trip to the area (he died before he could return with his family to settle in the region). This area is known as White Oaks Flats.
After the American Revolution and the War of 1812, war veterans settled in the area after receiving 50 acre tracts of land in the White Oak Flats area for their service in the wars. Among those were the now familiar names to the area-Reagan, Ownby and Bohanon.
A post office in the general store owned by Radford Gatlin was established in 1856 giving the name Gatlinburg to the region. He was later forced out of Gatlinburg by other residents due to feuding and opposite beliefs prior to the start of the Civil War about slavery.
In the 1880’s there was a boom in the lumbar industry. Lumber companies arrived for the logging of large tracts of forest in the mountain. In 1900 a sawmill was built in Gatlinburg. Locals provided lodging to the loggers and the lumbar company businessmen.
With over logging of the beautiful forest conservationists became concerned. Congress passed the Weeks Act to allow for the purchase of land for national forest in 1911. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was opened in 1934. Protection of the forest, trees, plants, streams and rivers and its inhabitants were now secure from man made destruction.
The opening of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park changed Gatlinburg in a big way. Once a small mountain hamlet, Gatlinburg began to grow. The first hotel was opened in 1916-the Mountain View Hotel. In 1926 LeConte Lodge was opened on top of Mt. LeConte. In 1934 almost 40,000 visitors had come thru Gatlinburg. The park led to rapid growth of Gatlinburg and many residents became quite wealthy. Tourism grew rapidly and continues to do so.
Gatlinburg is a popular vacation and tourist attraction due to its proximity to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and its many attractions. Downtown Gatlinburg has the popular Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. It has a 1.3 million gallon salt water aquarium which has thousands of rare and exotic fish. The Penguin Playhouse is an exhibit of African black-footed penguins for visitors in observe and interact with the penguins.
Gatlinburg has winter skiing, tubing and snowboarding at Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort. A tram travels from downtown Gatlinburg to the top of nearby Mt. Harrison with spectacular views of the area.
Downtown Gatlinburg has numerous accommodations with hotels and motels, chalets, condominiums and cabins, bed and breakfasts and inns, lodges and campgrounds. And more than 80 restaurants of all kinds to satisfy culinary cuisine. Shopping is another downtown favorite pastimes. Handcrafted goods and foods, custom glassware and furniture, pottery and antiques are just to name a few of the many items one can find in the gift and specialty shops. The largest gathering of independent artisans is located at the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Trail located on an 8 mile loop 3 miles from downtown Gatlinburg.Over 120 galleries, shops and studios are located on the 8 mile trail on East Parkway (US 321 north).
Another popular activity for Gatlinburg is weddings. It is easy to obtain a marriage license in the state of Tennessee and this area is a popular destination for the wedding and honeymoon couples out there. There a numerous cute little mountain chapels around town that make a special and quaint setting for a Smoky Mountain wedding.
Gatlinburg has numerous special events thru out the year-Gatlinburg Scottish Highland Games in May, the Fine Arts Festival also in May, Smoky Mountain Tunes and Tales from June to August, 4th of July Midnight Parade in July, Craftsmen’s Fair in July, Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival in the fall, Taste of Autumn in September, Winter Magic Kick-off and Chile Cook-off in November, and the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community Craft Show November thru December.