Townsend, Tennessee: Information & Things To Do

Townsend is part of Tuckaleechee Cove, a beautiful valley at the border of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The name comes from the Cherokee tribe and means peaceful, green place. The Townsend area has lots of green space, where people can stroll or bicycle along the pathways and enjoy views of wooded hills, fields and well-kept homes and gardens on the side roads.

Tubing In Townsend

If you've ever driven through the peaceful side of the Smokies, you've probably seen piles of yellow tubes next to the Little River. Townsend is home to Smoky Mountain River Rat, the best place in the Smoky Mountains for tubing. You'll find their outpost just north of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park entrance.

River Rat

Restaurants in Townsend, TN

Looking for a bite to eat? Consider stopping by the peaceful side of the Smokies and checking out some delicious restaurants in Townsend, TN. This quaint location has lots to offer; you'll be delighted by the delicious cuisine options at some of the finer dining dinner spots and elated by the cozy patios where you can enjoy lunch on a warm, sunny day.

Restaurants in Townsend, TN

GSM Heritage Center

Another institution dedicated to educate and preserve Townsend’s beautiful heritage and natural surroundings is the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center. Between gallery exhibits, educational programs and demonstrations there is always something happening at the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center.

GSM Heritage Center

The Townsend Wye

If you're interested in getting your feet wet and exploring the Smokies on your own, stop by the Townsend Wye. Just past the entrance to the national park is the Townsend intersection with Laurel Creek Road and Little River Gorge Road. Visitors leaving the Great Smoky Mountains will recognize it as the split to head toward Gatlinburg or Townsend.

Townsend Wye

Hiking In Townsend

There are several hiking trails on this side of the national park. West of Laurel Creek Road you'll find Chestnut Top, Schoolhouse Gap, Turkeypen Ridge, and Crib Gap trail, among others. There are countless popular hikes from the Cades Cove area as well, including Abrams Falls, the Rich Mountain Loop, and Spence & Russell Field. West of the Townsend Wye you will find the trailhead for Meigs Creek Trail at The Sinks.

Cades Cove

Enjoy the wildlife and history of spectacular Cades Cove, in Great Smoky Mountains National Park! Want to learn as you go, enjoy the scenery, and let someone else drive? For a fun and educational trip led by a knowledgeable guide in a comfortable, fuel efficient 19 passenger van, take the Cades Cove Heritage Tour, leaving from a parking area adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center in Townsend.

Cades Cove

Foothills Parkway

Townsend is host to one of the most beautiful drives in America along the Foothills Parkway. Today motorists can enjoy a 33 mile drive along this scenic byway from Sevier County all the way to Chilhowee Lake. If you're visiting Townsend in the fall, we highly recommend hopping on the parkway in Walland (just north of Townsend) and heading east toward Wears Valley.

Foothills Parkway
Little River Railroad water tower

Little River Railroad

Flowing out of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with headwaters above Elkmont, is the Little River. Little River became famous far beyond the regional area in which it flows by playing a large part in railroads. There is a Little River Railroad and Lumber Museum located in Townsend dedicated to preserving the heritage and showcasing the innovations that came from the area.

Hawk flying

Bird Watching

With a combination of open fields, forests, farms, and streams, Townsend, Tuckaleechee Cove, and surrounding areas are wonderful for bird watching. Ducks, geese, and herons swim and wade in the Little River, colorful warblers and other songbirds migrate through the tress in spring and fall, and the Foothills Parkway is a hawk migration route. Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is another excellent birding hotspot.


Upcoming Events in Townsend

On the Border: The Ultimate Eagles Tribute: Click for event info.

Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center

On the Border: The Ultimate Eagles Tribute

Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00 pm

Make plans to join us as "On the Border" once again takes the stage at the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center. On the Border pulls it off like no other Eagles Tribute can. These guys emulate the...

Event Details →
Great Smoky Mountain Hot Air Balloon Festival: Click for event info.

Townsend Visitors Center

Great Smoky Mountain Hot Air Balloon Festival

Saturday, August 17, 2024 from 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm

Join us for a summertime spectacle, when several professional balloonists light up the evening sky with a beautiful balloon glow. The sky will be filled with a spectrum of color like never before, aga...

Event Details →
Dancing Bear’s 10th Annual Bike Bash: Click for event info.

Dancing Bear Appalachian Bistro

Dancing Bear’s 10th Annual Bike Bash

Saturday, September 21, 2024 from 8:30 am to 1:30 pm

Get ready to pedal into the 10th annual Bike Bash at Dancing Bear Lodge! Join them on Saturday, September 21st, as they celebrate a decade of cycling. With rider slots capped at 250 (or fewer), be sur...

Event Details →
Townsend Fall Heritage Festival: Click for event info.

Townsend Visitors Center

Townsend Fall Heritage Festival

September 27 through September 28, 2024

A celebration of our mountain heritage with bluegrass music, Appalachian skills, arts and crafts, storytelling, antique tractors and good food. Bring your lawn chair and enjoy genuine bluegrass music,...

Event Details →
Live Music at The Heritage Museum: Click for event info.

Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center

Live Music at The Heritage Museum

Select dates from May 24 through October 4, 2024

Each year the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center is host to festivals, concerts and special events. Their ten acres are dotted with historic structures and green spaces offering a unique setting fo...

Event Details →
Tuckaleechee Pottery Festival: Click for event info.

Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center

Tuckaleechee Pottery Festival

Saturday, October 26, 2024

Featuring some of the nation’s finest potters, the Tuckaleechee Pottery Festival offers a chance to see and purchase unique pottery and other handmade goods. Connoisseurs and novices alike will enjo...

Event Details →
Townsend Grains & Grits Festival: Click for event info.

Townsend Visitors Center

Townsend Grains & Grits Festival

Saturday, November 2, 2024 from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm

The Townsend Grains & Grits Festival is a festival of southern spirits and gourmet grub. Come experience our thriving craft spirits and gourmet food community, while discovering some of the region’s...

Event Details →
Holiday Handcrafters Fair: Click for event info.

Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center

Holiday Handcrafters Fair

Saturday, November 16, 2024

Mark your calendars and prepare to immerse yourself in a delightful display of creativity at the Heritage Center for our annual Holiday Handcrafters Festival. This beloved event is more than just a sh...

Event Details →
Great Smoky Mountains Fiber Fair: Click for event info.

Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center

Great Smoky Mountains Fiber Fair

April 25 through April 26, 2025

Explore your creativity, add to your skills and pursue interests in the fiber arts. Vendors will offer demonstrations, supplies, tools, handspun and hand dyed yarn, and finished goods. More inf...

Event Details →

For more events in the area, be sure to check our our full Smoky Mountain events calendar.

You Might Also Like

By continuing to use our website, you are accepting the use of cookies. For more information please read our privacy policy.