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

Townsend Visitors Center

Dec 3, 2023

Townsend Christmas Parade

Enjoy the fun and festivities of the Christmas season at the Townsend Christmas Parade. New this year, the parade will start at the Townsend...

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Townsend Visitors Center

Dec 10, 2023

Santa Hustle Smokies 5k

Thousands of Santas will hit the streets of Townsend during the annual Santa Hustle 5K, 10K and Half Marathon. Runners and walkers alike are...

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Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center

Nov 24-25, Dec 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23

Christmas In The Village

Guests can celebrate the holiday season with family at the Heritage Center's Christmas in the Village by stepping back in time to a pioneer ...

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Townsend Visitors Center

Apr 17, 2024 - Apr 20, 2024

Bronco Super Celebration

The Bronco Super Celebration is an annual car show in Townsend, TN. The event is the world's largest Bronco enthusiast gathering - and it a...

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Townsend Visitors Center

May 18, 2024 - May 19, 2024

Smoky Mountain Scottish Festival & Games

The Smoky Mountain Scottish Festival and Games in Townsend is the leading, and one of the oldest, celebrations of all things Scottish. The e...

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

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