Getting Around Gatlinburg
The best way to get around Gatlinburg is on foot and by trolley. The city of Gatlinburg is easily walkable and the inexpensive trolley that operates 365 days a year offers service to nearby attractions. However, you'll need a car to take advantage of the scenic driving loops or to access areas of the national park that aren't within walking distance. McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS) outside of Knoxville, Tennessee, is about 40 miles west of Gatlinburg and offers several rental car options. Taxi, shuttle or limo service to and from the airport will be pricey because of the distance. Uber does service the airport, but a ride to Gatlinburg will likely be pricey.
Downtown Gatlinburg is designed for pedestrians with a parkway that runs from end-to-end and a charming River Walk along the Little Pigeon River. You can also access the national park trails from three points in the downtown area along Highway 441.
The Gatlinburg Trolley operates 365 days a year and offers seven color-coded routes with more than 100 stops throughout the city and surrounding areas, including the national park and nearby town of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The trolley runs daily from 8:30 a.m. to midnight May through October. During the winter from November through February, the trolley runs from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. In March and April, the trolley operates from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fares range from 50 cents to $2, depending on the route. You can also buy an unlimited access pass that allows you to hop on and off the Red, Blue, Purple, Yellow and Green Trolley routes for $2. Passes can be purchased at city welcome centers, as well as at city hall and the Mass Transit Center, plus several Gatlinburg lodging facilities. During peak summer months from mid-June to mid-August, the trolley offers a free parkway route that runs the length of the Downtown Parkway from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
If you plan to fully explore the national park, enjoy the scenic drives and visit the surrounding area, you'll need to bring or rent your own set of wheels. There is one car rental agency in nearby Sevierville, Tennessee (about 14 miles north of Gatlinburg), but your best bet is to book a car at McGhee Tyson Airport. While there are parking garages and decks in the city, during peak seasons (summer and the month of October) and on weekends, available spaces can be limited in the city and on popular park routes like Cades Cove and the Roaring Fork Motor Trail.
Although you'll mostly likely use the trolley system for getting around downtown and the immediate area, you may need to rely on one of the local taxi companies if you're visiting during the winter season when the trolley has a limited schedule or for late-night dining and entertainment. Plan to call ahead for a taxi as it may be difficult to flag one down on the street.
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