Gateways to the Smokies
The most popular way to get to Great Smoky Mountain National Park is along the Sevier County corridor, which begins at exit 407 off I-40 and passes through Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg. These three communities long ago shed their quiet, rural roots to become pinnacles of hyperactive commercialism. It is hard to imagine a landscape so opposed to the peace and majesty of the national park.
In this land of plenty you will find pancake houses next to outlet malls; monster truck rides next to a Bible museum; and country music dinner theater next to helicopter rides. The “live black bear” attractions seem to have faded into history, but they have been replaced by a rainforest zoo, Christian-themed entertainment complexes, and the Dollywood theme park owned and operated by Sevier County native Dolly Parton.
The cost of exuberant development is traffic jams, and Sevier County has plenty. It may be a short 15 miles from Sevierville to Great Smoky Mountain National Park, but it will feel like far more as you stop dozens of times at traffic lights along the way. At least it makes your eventual arrival inside the cool, fresh air of the park that much more welcome.
Is there any good reason to pass through this corner of the world? Sure. There is a time in every person’s life for mini-golf, and back-to-school shopping is achieved quickly and inexpensively at outlet malls. Or celebrate your big day with a hot-air balloon ride over the foothills. The most open-minded among us might find themselves pleased at the opportunity to “live the nightmare” at Ripley’s Haunted Adventure, or pause, mesmerized, to watch a taffy machine in action.
© Susanna Henighan Potter from Moon Tennessee, 5th Edition