There’s no better way to experience the great outdoors of East Tennessee than to go hiking in the mountains. At Pigeon River Campground, we are located in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and only a few minutes away from several forests, including the Pisgah National Forest. There’s definitely plenty of hiking trails and mountains to climb during your Smoky Mountain camping trip!

  • Pigeon River Campground is 100% hiker friendly, so anyone who is making their way along the Appalachian Trail is welcome to join us and spend an evening (or two!) at our Gatlinburg campground.
A beautiful hiking trail close to the Pigeon River Campground near Gatlinburg.

IMG_20160418_211312Hiking in the Smoky Mountains

Pigeon River Campground sits only a few short minutes from the beautiful hiking trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park, welcoming over 10 million visitors each year. With over 800 miles of hiking trails in the national park, there’s definitely a trail for everyone, whether you’re a beginner or an avid hiker. Known for its plant and wildlife diversity, there’s always something new to see when you are out and about on the trails–everything from Smoky Mountain black bears to fresh wildflowers.

Suggested Trails:

Cosby Entrance (within 10 minutes):  the beautiful Hen Wallow Falls located on the Gabes Mountain Trail. 

Waterville: Big Creek Trail, with highlights such as Midnight Hole, a gorgeous swimming spot, and Mouse Creek Falls. 

Greenbrier:   For a half-day wilderness experience, drive a scenic 24 miles to the Greenbrier entrance and tackle Ramsey Cascades, a challenging 4-mile (one-way) trail, which ends at the highest accessible waterfall in the National Park – 90’.

Info on the GSMNP Parking Tag Requirements

Do you need a parking tag?

Yes. A valid parking tag must be displayed when parked for more than 15 minutes anywhere in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Three tag durations will be available for purchase for all vehicle sizes and types:

  • Daily: $5
  • Weekly: $15
  • Annual: $40

Interagency passes (Senior Pass, Access Pass, etc.) are not accepted in lieu of parking tags. Parking tags are not replaceable, refundable, transferable, or upgradeable. Each tag is valid for a single vehicle and must include a license plate number matching the vehicle in which it is displayed. Backcountry campers, picnic pavilion reservation holders, and concession customers are not exempt from the parking tag requirement. Registered frontcountry campers do not need a parking tag to park at their campsite. Visitors with a handicap plate or placard do not need a parking tag.

Where can I get a parking tag?

You can purchase all tag types online ahead of your visit or you can purchase tags in-person and on demand/onsite.

Annual Tags (Online Purchase) can be purchased through Great Smoky Mountains Association at The tag will be mailed to you, so leave at least 14 days for it to arrive before your planned visit. The annual parking tag is in the form of a cling that will be adhered to the vehicle’s windshield in the front, lower, passenger side.

Daily and Weekly Tags (Online Purchase) can be purchased at You will receive your tag via email. You must print your tag and display it in your vehicle; park staff will not print it for you, and digital representations will not be accepted. You must know the license plate number of the vehicle(s) you will be visiting in. The daily and weekly tags will be paper and should be displayed in the front, lower, passenger side of the dashboard.

Automated Fee Machines (Daily and Weekly Tags – Purchased In-Person/Onsite) Year-round, 24 hours/day. Credit card only. Year-round, 24 hours/day. Credit card only.

  • Cades Cove Entrance Parking Area
  • Deep Creek Parking Area
  • Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area
  • Oconaluftee Visitor Center
  • Sugarlands Visitor Center
  • Newfound Gap Overlook

Visitor Centers (Daily, Weekly, and Annual Tags – Purchased In-Person/Onsite) Be sure to check hours of operation.

  • Sugarlands Visitor Center
  • Oconaluftee Visitor Center
  • Cades Cove Visitor Center
  • Clingmans Dome Visitor Center
  • Gatlinburg Welcome Center
  • Swain County Visitor Center
  • Townsend Visitor Center

20160518_133921Hiking in the State and National Forests

Martha Sundquist State Forest, the Cherokee National Forest, and Pisgah National Forest are located only a few minutes from the Pigeon River Campground.  Recreational use of Forests falls under different guidelines from that of the National Park.  You can take your dogs, and mountain bike on forest roads!  These are predominately hardwood forests, with miles of trails, waterfalls, and large rivers.  If you’re looking to experience hiking that’s a bit different than the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, one of the neighboring forests is  great place to spend a day.

Suggested Trails:

Martha Sundquist State Forest:  Tennessee Gulf Trail – The Tennessee Gulf Trail follows Brown Gap Creek from the northwestern to the southeastern corners of this 2,000 acre cove hardwood forest. 

Cherokee National Forest:  The Appalachian Scenic Trail can be accessed here.

Pisgah National Forest:  Max Patch – Max Patch is a “bald”, the Southern Appalachian name for a hilltop without a single tree, resulting in an awe-inspiring 360 degree view. The Appalachian Trail crosses the summit of Max Patch, and there are several other trails in the immediate vicinity.