Things to Do in Townsend, Tennessee

Places to visit in Townsend, TN.

If you’re planning a trip to Townsend, Tennessee, there are plenty of things to do while you’re there. For example, you can explore the Little River Railroad and Lumber Museum, the Appalachian Bear Rescue, or Tuckaleechee Caverns.

The Townsend area offers many things to do for families and friends. There are festivals, museums, shopping, dining, and outdoor activities. In addition, the city is the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Things to Do in Townsend, Tennessee

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has long been known for its mountain views and scenic drives. But there are many other things to do, too!

Entrances to the park in Townsend

One of the entrances to the park is in Townsend, Tennessee. This is a quieter alternative to the Gatlinburg entrance and ideal for those seeking a more laid-back experience.

Townsend, TN, is located about 25 miles west of Gatlinburg and is an excellent base camp to explore the national park. It has a grocery store, several good restaurants, quaint pubs, and enough activities to keep you busy if you want to stay in town.

Roaring Fork Motor Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN
Roaring Fork Motor Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN

Hiking

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to more than 800 hiking trails. There are a variety of routes, some short and easy, others long and complex, so you’ll find something to suit your interests.

Day and Night Divide - Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Day and Night Divide – Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Several campgrounds in the area are open year-round. In addition, numerous hiking trails and scenic drive options make this a fun place to visit for a weekend getaway!

Birding

Birding is a favorite activity in the Smokies, with ducks and geese swimming in Little River and colorful warblers and other songbirds migrating through forests. The Foothills Parkway is an excellent birding route, and Cades Cove in the national park is another perfect spot for sighting wildlife.

John Cable Grist Mill, Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
John Cable Grist Mill, Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Tubing

Tubing is another popular activity in the Smokies, and the best spot to do it is at Townsend Wye. This is the first place you see after entering the park from Townsend, and it is a great location to relax by the water or try your hand at tubing.

Tuckaleechee Caverns

Tuckaleechee Caverns in Townsend, Tennessee, is a cave system that is rich in lore and history. It is one of the most popular attractions in the Great Smoky Mountains region. Visitors view the unusual geological formations and crystal-clear streams flowing through the caverns.

The Tuckaleechee Caverns are 30-million-year-old underground caverns. The caverns are part of the oldest mountain range in the world. These caverns are home to a clean water stream and a wishing pool.

Tuckaleechee Caverns
Tuckaleechee Caverns

The caverns are known for their unique formations and massive stalactites. The caverns are open from mid-March through mid-November.

The United States Geological Survey and the United States Department of Defense monitor the caverns. They offer a variety of underground experiences for visitors, including guided tours and the most sensitive seismic station on the planet.

The Townsend Wye

Townsend Wye is a landmark in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Y-shaped intersection of Little River Road and Lamar Alexander Parkway makes an excellent spot for swimming or tubing. This swimming hole is also a popular picnic location. It’s a great place to cool off on a hot summer day.

Places to go in Townsend, Tennessee

In addition to its famous swimming hole, Townsend, Tennessee, has several attractions that make it a popular destination for visitors. Aside from the swimming hole, you can enjoy the scenery and the laid-back atmosphere. In addition, there are some local eateries in the area.

You can eat at one of the town’s many restaurants, including the renowned Townsend Steakhouse. The menu features a variety of choices, such as a country-fried steak and a French-cut pork chop. Or you can try the town’s famous fried rainbow trout.

Appalachian Bear Rescue

Appalachian Bear Rescue (ABR) is a small, dedicated non-profit organization in Townsend, Tennessee, that provides care for black bears in need. ABR also educates the public about coexistence with bears.

Best places to visit in Townsend, Tennessee

The organization’s mission is to rescue orphaned black bear cubs and prepare them for release into the wild. In addition, they coordinate medical care with the University of Tennessee School of Veterinary Science.

In 2022, ABR received 21 bears. Unfortunately, some of these bears were found in the trash, and others were injured in automobile accidents. Luckily, all of these animals were taken care of. Throughout the years, the ABR facility has been updated and upgraded. It currently has four half-acre natural outdoor enclosures. These enclosures include hammocks, platforms, and a canopy of trees.

Black bear on the Appalachian Trail
Black bear on the Appalachian Trail

ABR is a leader in the animal welfare industry. They have been recognized as the top animal welfare non-profit in North America. Additionally, they are a finalist for Land Rover’s Defender Service Awards.

The Little River Railroad & Lumber Company Museum

The Little River Railroad & Lumber Company Museum is located in Townsend, Tennessee, and offers interesting facts about the history of the Little River Railroad. Visitors to the museum will discover how the logging industry and the railroad changed the landscape of the Great Smoky Mountains.

The Little River Railroad & Lumber Company Museum
The Little River Railroad & Lumber Company Museum

The Little River Railroad started operations in 1901. It was a subsidiary of the Little River Lumber Company. The first 2-4-4-2 Mallet articulated railcar was built by the company.

The Little River Railroad helped bring tourists to the area. They also provided access to parts of the Smokies that no one had seen. But, at the same time, they cut thousands of trees from the area. As a result, the Great Smoky Mountains were devoid of much of their original beauty.

Townsend Visitors Center

The Townsend Visitors Center offers information about travel and cultural traditions in the Smoky Mountains. In addition, it has a gift shop located on US 321 in Townsend, TN.

The center also hosts special events, such as Old Timers’ Day. In addition, the event features cooking, crafts, and a concert.

Places to visit in Townsend, Tennessee

Visitors can enjoy bluegrass music, local food, and crafts during the spring festival. Also, visitors can participate in hands-on projects for children during the festival. This event takes place in the first week of May.

Located on the way to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park entrance, the Townsend Visitor’s Center has plenty to offer. The center’s friendly staff is available to help you plan your visit.

The visitors center is home to the Native Americans of East Tennessee Collection. This collection consists of historical artifacts and interpretive information. You can also pick up maps and information about the park.

Best Things to Do in Townsend, Tennessee

Places to visit in Townsend, TN:

  1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
    • Entrances to the park in Townsend
    • Hiking
    • Birding
    • Tubing
  2. Tuckaleechee Caverns
  3. The Townsend Wye
  4. Appalachian Bear Rescue
  5. The Little River Railroad & Lumber Company Museum
  6. Townsend Visitors Center
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