By Malika Bowling
Just under 4 hours away from north Atlanta is the quiet town of Townsend, TN. While you might not have heard of Townsend, you’ve most certainly heard of its neighboring town Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, which are about 15 miles away. While we are all focusing on social distancing, a more low-key trip to Townsend might be more your speed.
Where to stay
Little Arrow Outdoor Resort
The best part about this resort is that it’s a stone’s throw away from the Great Smoky mountains. Now, whether you want to sleep in a tent, an Airstream, tiny house, or premier cabin this outdoor glamping spot has you covered. Heck, you can even reserve a spot with your trailer.
Little Arrow was taken over by the Simpher family three years ago. Besides a private stream to pass the time, there’s a private hiking trail on site and a fun playground for the kiddos. Many of the cabins feature their own fire pits as well. Tiny homes and cabins feature full kitchens and so stock up on breakfast items and cook yourself some eggs to fuel up for the day. https://camplittlearrow.com/
Where to eat and drink
Appley Valley Mountain Village and Cafe
You’ll no doubt work up an appetite after hiking those waterfalls. And there’s no better way to fix that than a hearty burger or barbecue pork sandwich from Apple Valley. We recommend the Fish Sandwich and no matter what, get one of the Apple Pie Milkshakes to wash everything down. https://applevalleystores.com/
Dancing Bear Lodge
Next door to Apple Valley is the Dancing Bear Lodge which is the perfect setting to get married or have a quiet dinner. Start with their signature appetizer, “The Lunchable”, which consists of shrimp cocktail, ham and jam biscuits, and deviled eggs. Heart items like the Seafood Hot Pot with scallops and fish or the Elk Chops are sure to delight any guest.
Blackberry Farm Brewery
Well known resort, Blackberry Farm is located not too far from Townsend, and their lauded brewery has a location near Townsend. Tour the brewery or just belly up to the bar for a tasting of their best brews. Top tastes are their Mountain Lager (Vienna Style) and their mango seasonal Berliner Weisse. Staff is knowledgeable with making recommendations and on weekends you’ll likely catch a food truck outside.
What to see and do
Don’t visit Townsend and skip these jaw dropping caverns. Discovered by two childhood friends, they kept it a secret until they grew up, purchased the land and were able to make the caverns walkable. Stalactite and stalagmite formations abound at every corner. The temperature remains a constant 58 degrees year-round. Fun fact: The caverns are the most sensitive seismic station on Earth. Visitors can view the equipment that the US military installed to detect nuclear testing across the globe. Tuckaleechee Caverns are monitored 24-7. Note: they don’t book tours online. You will have to just show up, but availability didn’t seem to be a problem, even over a busy holiday weekend.
A short drive from Little Arrow are several exciting waterfall trails for hiking enthusiasts. Spruce Flats Falls Trail. It is a moderate one and half mile trail. Another waterfall trail is Laurel Falls, which gets its name from the plethora of mountain laurel that blooms in late spring. Considered one of the most picturesque waterfalls in the smokies, the 80-foot waterfall is divided into a top and bottom section with a walkway in between.
If hiking is not your thing, you’re in luck as you can visit Cades Cove which is an 11 mile drive loop with beautiful vistas that takes guests by some cantilevered churches and other historical sites. Entrance is free. Expect to spend about two hours or more during busy weekends. https://smokymountains.com/park/cades-cove/scenic-drive/
After a couple days away from the fast-paced life of the city, you’ll be ready to make this retreat a regular part of your future travel plans.