“Remember that time we stopped in Pigeon Forge for 4 days and stayed two weeks?”
After our two-month volunteer gig at Babler State Park in Missouri, we headed to eastern Tennessee to visit family. When we passed Sevierville on the trip out, I knew we needed to make time for a stop on the way back. I’d flown in several times for work and the area is beautiful, despite being a bit touristy (not usually our cup of tea). As luck would have it, it turned out to be a great place to sit out the Polar Vortex of 2021. Temps in the single digits and freezing rain are a whole different kind of uncomfortable when you live in an RV.
I was torn between staying somewhere cheaper and farther out of town, maybe out by the lake, but ultimately caved and chose the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg KOA for a couple reasons. 1) Points. We stay at multiple KOA’s on our way to Idaho, so this is convenient. 2) KOA’s are good about having little “dog parks” (this one has THREE but the BIG one is up by the playground). This campground also has two campsites with their own doggie enclosure in your campsite! 3) The campground is adjacent to a park—great for walking pup. 4) Pigeon Forge is centrally located, since we did activities spreading from Gatlinburg to Sevierville. 5) Heated pool. We didn’t know this when we picked this campground, but a hot tub in the winter is AMAZING!
No weekly rates here, but the staff was great about keeping us in the same pull-thru, despite a couple busy weekends including Valentine’s Day/President’s Day.
THINGS WE DID
Smoky Mountains Knife Works
Two interesting things have invaded the home of Dollywood. Forges and distilleries. If you’ve watch every episode of “Forged with Fire” then you will like this stop. They bill themselves as “one of the oldest and largest knife retailers with the largest in-stock, on-hand selection of knives for sale! If it cuts, we carry it.” According to #BringFido, they are also pup-friendly. We did see two dogs when we were there, but opted to leave our pup home for this adventure because we were going out for lunch at:
Mellow Mushroom: Also a recommend. They carry a gluten-free crust and a large selection of brews and (gluten-free) ciders. Also dog-friendly in the summer when the patio is open, according to #BringFido.
There is a nice city park next door to KOA. Construction at the KOA and in the park had us lifting pup over a small construction fence for a walk along the river. They still had their Christmas lights on, visible out our front windshield at night. This was also a short cut to the Old Forge distillery (see below), a trolley stop, Iron Mountain Metal Craft (see below) and the greenway (see below). Is it a faux-paus to let your dog harass the pigeons while visiting Pigeon Forge? Asking for a friend. Four paws 🐾🐾 from our bird dog.
Old Forge Distillery
The second interesting thing that has invaded the home of Dollywood. The TV documentary “Moonshiners” on Discovery Channel, has resulted in an explosion of legal moonshine distilleries. There are multiple in the Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg area. We never made it past the one just on the other side of Patriot Park. We arrived with our pup on a slow day and were treated like royalty. Pup got ear scratches from every employee, and after a tasting, we settled into the empty bar for a cocktail while pup received numerous treats from the bartender. Coffee moonshine martini for Puppy Mama. Puppy Papa had their bourbon on ice. Pup gave this stop four paws 🐾🐾
Iron Mountain Metal Crafts
If have any money left after the stop at Smoky Mountain Knife Works, then you may want to pay a visit to Iron Mountain Metal Craft in Pigeon Forge, TN (the owner, Robby Bowman competed in Season 4). Craig did the $85 railroad spike lesson. Although he really only got to swing the hammer, he got some one-on-one time and got to watch his “sharp as hell” knife (that he got to keep!) being made up-close and personal. They are located a short walk across the park from the KOA and I was dispatched back to the distillery next door to wait during his 1-hour lesson. Recommend. Excellent Google reviews. Even in Feb, he had to wait a day to get in. Call ahead if you want to do this.” https://ironmountainmetalcraft.com/lessons
Walk the Greenway
There is a nice paved path for walking pup from the KOA to “The Island”. Head out of Patriot Park towards the distillery, cross the street and continue through a neighborhood until you arrive at the paved path that follows the river. There are several park benches to stop at along the way. Four paws from the pup https://www.traillink.com/trail/riverwalk-greenway-(pigeon-forge)/
The Island at Pigeon Forge
Pup and I headed over at 10:00 am to avoid the crowds and get in some puppy socialization. The fountain surrounded rocking chairs is a peaceful place to watch the world go by. We even coaxed Puppy Papa back the next morning and then they walked back to the campground. There is a distillery and wine tasting here in addition to Margaritaville. #BringFido says there are multiple places that have take-out or where sit on the patio with pup when the weather is warmer. Four paws from Puppy Mama 🐾🐾
Yes, yes. We are from Missouri so why go to Bass Pro? This was another puppy socialization stop. Four paws 🐾🐾: “Poodle Mama took me to Bazzzz Proooo today and she brought HOT DOGS! I love hot dogs! We sat by the aquarium for awhile because Mama thought I would like it but I didn’t. We made it halfway up the stairs to the second level before I got scared and turned around to go back down. Mama said I was a GOOD GIRL (yes, I am) except for jumping on the sunglass salesman but he has a Poodle puppy at home so I found him IRRESISTIBLE! #puponvacation #bringfido” (I believe the distillery next door is also pet-friendly but we were late for lunch!)
Laurel Falls at Smoky Mountain National Park
We had two days of 50’s before the polar vortex, so hike it is! 2.6 miles roundtrip up to Laurel Falls at Great Smoky Mountain State Park just outside Gatlinburg. We visited in February, so the main road into the park was closed, leaving the drive towards Cades Cove as our only option. We’re still amazed how many people are out hiking in the winter! We were able to get a parking spot without waiting, but just barely.
Tennessee Aviation Museum
We rarely pass up an aviation museum. As expected, this museum had a few unique displays including a collection of cockpit mock-ups used in movies. They also boast several flying warbirds, easily found by the drip pan underneath. As usual, my aircraft mechanic husband can be found over by the engine displays. However, I wouldn’t call this a recommend unless 1) you are an aviation nerd, 2) get the senior discount 3) want to get away from the crowds for awhile. (Not dog-friendly unless small enough to carry).
There really is something for everyone in Pigeon Forge! We’re homebodies by nature, so we left a lot of activities on the table for next time including a true crime museum and a dog-friendly British pub.