4 Fun Things to Do in Townsend, TN

Published Jun 20, 2022

Just down the road from bustling Gatlinburg, Townsend calls itself “the quiet side of the Smokies.” For natural beauty, outdoor activities and fascinating local history, spend time in Townsend. Get started with these four experiences.


Step into the rustic lives of East Tennessee’s hardy settlers. The Historical Village is 13 authentic structures, reconstructed here to give you a path back in time. See the quaint wooden chapel, log cabin, print shop, smokehouse, sawmill, still and more. Imagine you’re a settler as you touch the tools and belongings they used to forge lives in the wilderness.

The Heritage Center’s galleries include changing exhibits on Smokies culture and history, featuring everything from quilts to wartime cannons. Enjoy live music at concerts on the grounds, plus craft shows and events all year long.


The Little River pours life into this region. Native tribes depended on it, early European settlers farmed and fished along it, and by 1901, logging along its banks and in the Smokies became a major industry.

This museum tells the story of the logging camps and how logging railroads opened the Smokies to visitors. See vintage engines, a caboose and flatcars used on the railroad, and visit an original house used by a logging family.


Townsend is the gateway to Cades Cove, a Smokies valley with abundant wildlife, the widest variety of historic buildings in the national park, and a loop road perfect for seeing both.

Drive the Cades Cove Loop Road, stopping as you please at historic churches, cabins and mills. The valley is popular with walkers and hikers, and many trails originate here, from the short, easy Cades Cove Nature Trail to longer, more strenuous hikes. Cades Cove Riding Stables offers gentle, old-fashioned ways to see the Cove, on guided trail rides, carriage rides or hayrides.


These breathtaking caverns, at least 20 million years old, will surprise you at every turn. Your guided tour unveils the Big Room–a chamber the size of a football stadium–and Silver Falls, a magnificent underground waterfall. Be amazed by millions of stone formations. TripAdvisor reviewers give the guides stellar reviews, and the caverns are one of AAA’s rare five-star “gem” attractions.

Stay in a Gatlinburg vacation cabin and you’re close to Townsend’s natural wonders. Let us help you find the perfect cabin for your Smoky Mountain getaway.

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