As the weather starts getting warmer again, the itch to travel will strike once more. Yet, the logistics can be difficult to reconcile when there’s a furry friend in your life. If you can find a sitter, the cost could wreak a serious dent in your travel budget. Even if money is no problem for you, it’s still never easy to say goodbye to your pet for an extended time, knowing that he or she will suffer separation anxiety and whine for you each day you’re gone.
Pro Tip: The best all-inclusive resorts for families
The best way to travel as a pet owner is to bring your four-legged partner along with you! It’s easier to do than you might think if you choose the Great Smoky Mountains as your destination. There are plenty of pet-friendly hotels in Gatlinburg, dog-loving shopping opportunities in Sevierville, and fun outdoor activities close to Pigeon Forge. If you can’t imagine a more suitable travel buddy than your faithful pup, get the inside scoop on how to plan a dog-inclusive Smoky Mountain vacation!
Your first order of business is to find a place to stay that allows pets, which can, unfortunately, be somewhat challenging in many cities around the world. Thankfully, the Smokies have a reputation for dog-friendliness, and many of the hotels and campgrounds are more than happy to welcome your little partner.
For instance, Hampton Inn on the Gatlinburg Parkway is an excellent choice for those traveling with pets who want to stay close to the excitement of downtown. You’ll be within walking distance of the aerial tramway to Ober Gatlinburg, the Gatlinburg Space Needle, the Gatlinburg Convention Center, and a variety of restaurants. Plus, Hampton Inn comes with all the amenities you’d want for an escape into luxuries, such as an outdoor pool, a fitness center, an in-suite whirlpool tub and fireplace, and a private balcony with views of the creek.
If there is one attraction that definitely belongs on your itinerary aside from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it’s Dollywood. At this amusement park named after Eastern Tennessean country music legend Dolly Parton, you’ll find more theme park rides, water park rides, restaurants, shops, resorts, and festivities than you can fit in an afternoon! Unfortunately, dogs (except for service animals) are not allowed within the park’s premises. However, a visit to the Smokies’ most famous attraction is a must. Before you approach the gate, take a detour to drop off your pooch at Doggywood, where he or she will be in good hands for the afternoon. Doggy wood accommodates dogs in kennel runs or cottages while you explore the park. Remember to make reservations in advance, pack plenty of pet food, and bring your dog’s vaccination records.
Doggy Things to Do in the Outdoors
While it’s a reality of traveling that your pet won’t be allowed to do certain activities with you, the outdoors are always a dog’s free world! The Great Smoky Mountains National Park allows dogs in the park’s picnic areas, campgrounds, roads, and two of the hiking trails, as long as they are kept on a leash. Take a leisurely walk along the 1.9-mile Gatlinburg Trail, which guides you from the Sugarlands Visitor Center to the edge of the city of Gatlinburg. Keep an eye out for ruins of old homesites and scenic views of the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River. On the Oconaluftee River Trail, you’ll set out from the Oconaluftee Visitors Center for 1.5 miles of gentle forests and views of the river.
Your dog may get plenty of water playtime along those riverside hiking trails, but he or she is guaranteed to want more tomorrow. Treat your pup to the ultimate form of splash-filled fun at Smoky Mountain River Rat. About a 30-minute drive from Pigeon Forge in Townsend, TN, you and your sloppy-tongued friend will put in at the dog-friendly Outpost A. From there, you’ll float in your inner tube along the Little River, encountering gentle rapids, swimming holes, and a private rock jump as you go. Tubing the river is always ten times more fun when you get to watch your pupper practice his adorable doggy paddling skills, splash in the shallows with all the enthusiastic energy of pure chaos, and try to bite the waves!
Shopping & Treats with Rover
When it’s time to treat yourself to some brand new goodies, don’t leave Rover out! The Great Smokies Flea Market consists of over 1,000 rotating vendors selling practically everything under the sun, and it’s free admission for both you and your doggo. Stroll under the gigantic heated and air-conditioned roof to discover what catches your eye among the antiques, arts and crafts, electronics, apparel, handbags, jewelry, children’s clothing, musical instruments, food products, gardening supplies, and much more. You’re guaranteed to pick out a few items that have long sat on your wishlist plus fascinating finds you didn’t know you wanted – all for a bargain of 70% off regular retail! Don’t forget to buy that new doggy bed and a bag of treats for Rover.
After a long day in the hot sun hiking the trails, tubing the river, or shopping for treats, conclude your day with a cool-down at Mad Dog’s Creamery. Snag a couple of scoops of your favorites among 24 unique ice cream flavors, or go for a sundae, banana split, soft-serve, or milkshake. Aside from tasty ice cream delicacies, this doggy-themed shop also specializes in homemade donuts. Splurge on a red velvet donut with cream cheese icing, or indulge in a dozen Boston Cremes. Best of all, your pooch is welcome to gobble down some ice cream-shaped dog treats and play with toys by the picnic tables.
You may be one of the millions of other Americans who adopted a pandemic puppy, or perhaps you and your scruffy partner go way back. Regardless of how long you’ve been together, you only stand to intensify the special bond you have with your pup when you allow him or her to come with you on your travels. Just as there’s no need to let pet ownership hold you back from your travel dreams, you also don’t have to let your adventures cause him or her temporary abandonment. Besides, once you bring your dog along on your adventures in the Smokies, you won’t want to vacation any other way!