Greenbrier Cove: Location, History & Things To Do

Greenbrier Cove is situated just east of Gatlinburg on the northern side of the national park. Sometimes called Big Greenbrier to distinguish itself from Little Greenbrier between Wears Valley and Elkmont, the area lies in a valley surrounded by some of the highest ridges in the Appalachian range.

Map of Greenbrier and the surrounding areas

Getting To Greenbrier

To reach Greenbrier Cove from Gatlinburg, take Highway 321 east for about 6 miles. You'll find a sign on the right indicating an entrance to the national park just past Hungry Bear BBQ. Turn right on Greenbrier Road. This road continues for about 2 miles before intersecting with Ramsey Prong Road. Check it out on Google maps to find exactly what you're looking for.


Greenbrier Swimming Hole

One of the most popular reasons to visit the area is the Greenbrier swimming hole. During the hottest days of summer, it's a great spot to cool off. You'll find it by heading to the second parking lot on the right about a half mile from the main road. The Greenbrier swimming hole is across the street. It's a wide, deep area of the Little Pigeon River with clear water and stunning scenery all around.

Swimming Holes

Trailheads & Hiking

There are several popular hiking trails that start in this area: most notably Ramsey Cascades, 4 miles to the tallest waterfall in the park, and Porters Creek Trail. Both of these make excellent wildflower hikes in the springtime. From here you can also reach Brushy Mountain (connected to Porters Creek trail) and Old Settlers Trail, spanning almost 16 miles toward the Cosby Campground. A spur trail near the start of this trail leads to Parton Cemetery.

Greenbrier Picnic Pavilion

Greenbrier Picnic Area

The picnic area at Greenbrier is one of the best spots in the Great Smoky Mountains to reserve for a large gathering. It has 12 different sites and seats up to 70 people in the large pavilion. The sounds of the Little Pigeon River and surrounding views of wildflowers in the spring and summer make it a wonderful location for a family event. You can reserve the pavilion online.

Picnic Areas
Rainbow trout

Fly Fishing Spots

The area also hosts some great spots for fly fishing. You'll find all 3 species of trout here, with wild rainbow trout in the lower reaches of the river and brook trout in the upper parts near the confluence of Ramsey Creek. Along the entrance road you will find several pullout spots providing different access points to the stream, and more in the first 2 miles of Ramsey Cascades Trail.


History Of The Cove

The name greenbrier refers to a thorny vine common in the region, and this area was being called by that name as early as the 1830s. Like many places in the Smokies, the area was first occupied by the Cherokee. The Whaleys became the first permanent Euro-american settlers there around 1800. In the 1850s Benjamin Christenberry "Chris" Parton and his wife settled here as well, and their family cemetery can be found about a mile past the trailhead at Ramsey Prong Road. Chris Parton was the great-great-grandfather of Dolly Parton.

This historic area of the Smokies is a great place to visit any time of year, but particularly nice in the spring and summer months, as many of the best activites fall under things to do on a hot day. Visit the area if you're staying in a Gatlinburg cabin rental and looking for a nice day of outdoor activities in the Smoky Mountains.

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