Photograph by Spencer Black
GPS: 35°43'N 83°31'W
Tiny Gatlinburg manages to pack a lot of touristy kitsch into its 10 square miles (26 squarer kilometers)—Ripley’s Believe It Or Not and mini-golf are mainstays—but its location at the edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park can’t be beat: More than 521,000 acres (210,841 hectares) of peaks and forests covered with more than 800 miles (1,287 kilometers) of maintained trails are right out the door.
Wake up early to pedal the 11-mile (18-kilometer) Cades Cove Loop Road, a favorite of experienced cyclists, and watch the sunrise over the Smokies (www.nps.gov/grsm); Cades Cove Campground Store rents bicycles for $6 an hour (www.explorecadescove.com). Or hike to the summit of Clingmans Dome, the highest point of the state and the Appalachian Trail, at 6,643 feet (2,025 meters) (www.clingmansdome.com).
Drive a few miles (five kilometers) northeast on scenic Highway 321 to Cosby for dinner at The Front Porch, a BYOB Mexican restaurant that has live bluegrass shows on Friday and Saturday nights (+1 423 487 2875).
Bed down at the cozy Four Sisters’ Inn, just a five-minute walk from downtown (doubles from $125; www.4sistersinn.com).