Identifying itself as “The Peaceful Side of the Smokies,” Townsend prides itself on low-key charm and locally-owned restaurants, lodging and businesses that focus on the city’s special piece of the great outdoors and the fun to be enjoyed in it. Townsend holds the least busy main entrance to the national park.
Because of the city’s laid-back way of life, it’s easy to find something fun and interesting to do when you’re in Townsend. We’ve listed 5 of our top picks for things to do in Townsend TN:
Home to more caves than any other state in the country, Tennessee is a caving goldmine. And of the state’s 8,350 registered caves, Tuckaleechee Caverns in Townsend is among the best. The caverns are thought to be around 20-30 million years old.
Tours of Tuckaleechee Caverns occur daily and last about an hour and 15 minutes. Visitors can expect to be led through several rooms within the cave and along an underground river that flows through the cave. Impressive stalactites and stalagmites, along with other natural rock formations like cavern draperies, chimneys and columns, can be seen throughout the caverns. Visitors can also look forward to the 12-foot-tall stalagmite referred to as “Totem Pole” in the caverns’ “Big Room” as well as Silver Falls, a 200-foot-high rock formation resembling a cascading waterfall that falls onto another rock formation known as “Elephant Rock.” You just can’t beat the below-ground wonders you’ll find in Townsend TN.
Cades Cove, one of the most beloved assets of the Great Smoky Mountains – and maybe even the Southeast – resides right in here Townsend. The Loop Road that circles the cove is known for some of the best views known to nature and the most beautiful wildlife viewing opportunities around with numerous chances to see white-tailed deer, black bears, coyote, ground hogs, turkeys, raccoons and other animals. All you need is a camera and a method of transport to enjoy this gem of the Smokies.
The loop road is closed to motor vehicles until 10 a.m. every Saturday and Wednesday morning from early May until late September to allow bicyclists and pedestrians to enjoy the cove.
A staple activity of the Smokies, tubing is best done in Townsend where the Little River flows not too fast and not too slow – ideal for a fun and relaxing tubing adventure. The Smoky Mountain River Rat offers one of the best tubing experiences in the Smokies, with high-quality open-bottom and closed-bottom tubes and two river experiences to enjoy while floating down the river. The upper section is suitable for ages 5 and up (depending on water levels) and provides a scenic float with adventure rapids and swimming holes. The lower level is suitable for ages 2 and up, offering a rock jump, rope swing, relaxing rapids and great scenery. Tubing on the Little River is one of our favorite things to do in Townsend TN no matter how many times we go.
4. Spruce Flats Falls
A somewhat little-known beauty in the Tremont portion of the Great Smoky Mountains, Spruce Flats Falls are hidden away on the two-mile Spruce Flats Falls Trail. While the trail is fairly short, the hike is considered to be moderate in difficulty and includes steep, rocky sections – particularly the last stretch toward the Spruce Flats Falls itself. Because of its location and low visibility, it’s unlikely that you’ll encounter much traffic on your hike, so you can expect a peaceful adventure into the mountains. The trail to reach the falls begins at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont.
Directions to the Spruce Flats Falls trailhead: From the Sugarlands Visitor Center, drive west on Little River Rd. for 17.6 miles to the intersection of Laurel Creek Rd. and TN-73 – also known as the Townsend Wye. Stay left on Laurel Creek Rd. towards Tremont and Cades Cove. In 0.2 miles, turn left towards the Great Smoky Mountain Institute at Tremont. Drive 2 miles up this road and turn left across Middle Prong. Park at the Institute parking area, then head for the trail on the right.
An odd but treasured asset, Townsend is home to 2 swinging bridges that are fun for exploring and make for stunning photo opportunities. While one bridge – the Dark Island Swinging Bridge – is easy to find with parking and a path nearby, the second swinging bridge in Townsend is fairly concealed, so finding it will be half of the fun. Both bridges offer views of the rivers running beneath them and a snapshot into the mountain scenery of the area. We’re certain you’ll enjoy these quick little explorations and the character they add to the area.
Whether you’re here for a couple days or a week or two, we know you’re going to love your stay in Townsend. Be sure to check out our complete list of things to do in Townsend TN for more fun things to do in the area.