What To Look For When Booking An Overnight Rental

There are a lot of vacation rental companies in the Smokies and an even greater number of individual cabins, cottages, chalets and condos from which to choose. So if you’re planning a trip to this area, how do you even begin to go about deciding which company to work with? It’s often hard to tell based on advertising alone which overnight rental business you should choose, which is why this week, we’ll be taking you through some of the main factors you should consider when choosing your accommodations in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.

An obvious place to start when browsing different rental options is to look at each company’s inventory and decide if that business has cabins that are convenient to the things you expect to do during your visit. If you plan on spending a lot of time in Great Smoky Mountains National Park or if you’re more interested in scenic view cabins, Gatlinburg might be the best choice for a location. Meanwhile, if you plan to spend a lot of time at Dollywood or the music theaters, you might want to locate yourself closer to Pigeon Forge. If outlet mall shopping is your prime objective, consider something closer to Sevierville.

Once you’ve narrowed down a few properties that are conveniently located according to your travel plans, look at what those individual places have to offer in the way of amenities. Do features like outdoor hot tubs, indoor whirlpool tubs and fireplaces play an important role? Will you need an onsite washer/dryer to do a load or two of laundry while you’re in town? What kind of views does each property have? Is it easily accessible in winter? Does the cabin offer free WiFi service? Is there a game room in the cabin? Not all properties offer all these amenities, so you want to look carefully at the amenity descriptions for each place you’re considering.

You also need to do a little research into the company you’re considering working with. Read online reviews and see what other customers have had to say about that particular rental office. Do any of the companies you’re considering have any complaints filed against them? Also carefully review the respective rental policies and make sure there are no terms you can’t adhere to. And when booking a property, make sure you fully understand the terms regarding paying deposits, paying balances, checking in, checking out and what the rental office and owners are and are not responsible for during your stay. Having all parties on the same page going into a rental agreement usually benefits both sides.

Of course, price is always a factor. But be sure you’re comparing apples to apples. Just because one company’s rates are lower doesn’t mean it will offer you a better experience. Often, you get what you pay for, as with everything else in life. You’ll want to find a price structure that works within your budget, but also check each company’s website to see if they offer any deals or discounts. Most places offer price breaks for groups as well as travel during the off-season.

The 5 Best Times to Visit The Great Smoky Mountains

Each year, some 10 million people visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and an even higher number spend some amount of time in the neighboring communities of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville. That’s because in addition to the beauty and unspoiled nature of the national park, the outlying areas offer travelers so many options for having a little bit of vacation fun – from theaters and attractions to shops and restaurants.

But planning a trip to the Smokies usually involves choosing a time of year to make that journey. Honestly, any time is a good time to visit the Smokies, but some are better than others. Factors like number of visitors, weather conditions, special events and prices all come into play, which is why this week, we’ll put in our two cents when it comes to prioritizing the best times to head to the mountains.

  1. Autumn – This is almost a no-brainer. That’s when the leaves are changing colors, and the weather offers a mild transitional period between the heat of summer and the cold of winter. Most of the area attractions (except for water parks and the like) are still going strong, and there are lots of craft fairs and other fall-themed special events taking place. It’s one of the peak tourist times of the year, but if you visit during the middle of the week, there won’t be as much congestion as on the weekends. Many families traveling to the Smokies in autumn plan their trips to coincide with their children’s school fall breaks.
  2. Spring – As in autumn, the weather is much milder, but in spring, the tourist numbers haven’t quite reached full strength yet, so you can take advantage of shorter lines at restaurants and attractions. Plus traffic isn’t so bad either. If you visit the national park, you’ll get to see all the blooming wildflowers and other natural signs of spring’s arrival, and it’s the season when Dollywood theme park opens for the year. A lot of folks schedule their travel to coincide with their kids’ spring breaks.
  3. Summer – Obviously, this is the peak season, because it’s warm, and most families get their biggest chunk of vacation time in summer. Everything’s open for business, from music theaters to water parks, and it’s prime time for doing things in the national park like fishing, camping and hiking. Yes, the days can get a little warm and humid, and traffic can get fairly heavy in summer, but it’s not the most popular season to visit the Smokies for nothing.
  4. Winter – Those who come to the Smokies in winter may miss out on a number of attractions that aren’t open rest of the year, and yes, it can get a little chilly around here in winter, but lodging rates tend to be lower in this traditional off season, and Smoky Mountain Winterfest is a huge draw. The annual festival offers four months of winter- and holiday-themed special events as well as millions of lights on display from one end of the county to the other.
  5. This weekend – Why not? Not every trip to the Smokies has to be a huge family vacation. If you live close enough, maybe you just want to get away with the spouse for a couple of days or take the kids to play somewhere for the morning or afternoon.

And next time you’re looking to book overnight accommodations in the Smokies, remember that Timbercreek Cabins offers special deals throughout the year. So no matter which season you decide to travel, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to save a little money in the process.

Experience the Gravity of the Situation in the Smokies

We could drop some heavy science on you and go into a lot of detail explaining how gravity works. But suffice it to say we all know it’s the force that keeps us all safely on the surface of the earth. Because of gravity, we have the well-known saying “What goes up must come down.”

The cool part is that there are several attractions here in the Smokies that have taken that principle and made it work to their advantage, offering experiences that allow their guests to surrender to the force of gravity but have an awful lot of fun in the process. This week, we’ll give you a few ideas for how that works.

Try a bungee jump. 

There are several attractions in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg that offer this activity that’s not recommended for the faint of heart. Imagine climbing the stairs to the top of a multi-story tower, where you climb into a harness and then take one big leap of faith off the edge of the platform. It’s a straight freefall down toward the safety airbag, but fortunately, that springy bungee cord will snap you back up before you make contact. You’ll get a few good bounces in before operators gently lower you to the ground.

Ride a zipline.

Gravity is still the primary force here as you harness up, clip onto a zipline trolley and then coast your way along the line from point A to point B. The greater the difference between those points, the faster you’ll go, although the weight of the participant plays a role too. See? Even physics is fun when you think about it…

Visit Outdoor Gravity Park. 

This unique attraction in the Smokies used to be known as Zorb, and although the name has changed, the basic principle remains the same. Participants get inside a giant inflatable ball and roll downhill. When it was Zorb, riders used to tumble and flip as the ball rolled downhill, but now they put 10 gallons of water in the ball, so riders are able to stay sitting upright inside the compartment, sliding down the hill as the ball turns beneath them.

Get wet on a water slide. 

This is the more old-fashioned way to slip and slide your way to outdoor fun in the Smokies. Two of the more notable places you’ll find them are at Dollywood theme park and Dollywood’s Splash Country. Dollywood has rides like the Slidewinder and Daredevil Falls, both of which put riders in a vessel of some sort but make going downhill on the water a lot of fun. Or at Splash Country, you can try any number of slides that utilize rafts, tubes or just the cushion of your own derrier to help you twist and turn your way from the top of the slide to the bottom.

When you book your next stay with us at Timbercreek Cabins Gatlinburg this summer, keep all these options in mind and get ready to have fun with gravity!

5 Smoky Mountain Travel Essentials

Have you had a chance to visit the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee yet this season? If not, we hope you’re making plans to come see us some time later in the summer or even this fall. If you’ve been here before, you know there’s a lot waiting for you to do, see and explore.

If you’ve never traveled to the Smokies before, we have a few suggestions this week for things to bring along on your trip (or acquire once you’re here) that will make the experience a little more enjoyable, especially if you’re staying in one of our Wears Valley, TN cabin rentals. 

  1. Smart phone

Does this mean we think everyone in the family should have their faces buried in their phones the whole time you’re in the Smokies? Of course not! But having a smart phone means you’ll have access to Google Maps or some other navigational program, which will come in handy when you’re traveling to the Smokies or to any of your other destinations while you’re in town. There’s often a lot of traffic on our roads, so it’s helpful to have that little computerized voice calling out your turns and exits so you can keep your eyes on the road.

Also, you can use your phone to purchase tickets to local attractions, find coupons or generally find out what restaurants, shops and activities are closest to your accommodations.

  1. Travel Guides

Once you’re in town, stop by any brochure rack and chances are you’ll find any of several different brands of local guide magazines and coupon books. Using these can be great informational resources, and they offer money-saving deals on admissions to attractions and meal discounts. If you don’t want to carry around a lot of printed material, most of these publications have online versions where you can access that same information.

  1. Cabin Supplies

Our rental cabins come with a starter supply of disposable items like toilet paper, paper towels and dishwasher tablets. However, you may find that you need a little more of those things to get you through a full week. So bring some additional supplies from home or purchase them from one of our local markets if you think you might run out. Also consider bringing some laundry soap if you plan on doing a load or two of laundry in one of our in-cabin washer-dryer units.

  1. A Bathing Suit

If you’re visiting here in summer, this is a must. Whether it’s a local swimming pool, national park swimming hole, TVA lake, water park or even the hot tub at your overnight rental cabin, chances are that you’re going to want to get wet at some point. Pack that bathing suit and be ready to wear it.

  1. Sunscreen

Along the same lines, you don’t even have to go swimming to risk getting too much sun exposure here in the Smokies. If you’re thinking about taking a hike in the mountains or even spending a day at Dollywood theme park, your exposed skin is going to get more than enough of the sun’s harmful UV rays. Bring some sunscreen and make sure you protect your arms, legs and face on those sunny days.

Free Ranger-Led Programs in the National Park

We understand that vacations can cost a dollar or two, especially if you’re planning on treating the whole family to several days’ worth of food and fun. This week, however, we’ve got some great suggestions for ways everyone can have a good time in the Great Smoky Mountains, and it won’t cost mom and dad a dime.

Which brings us to one of the main advantages of visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park during the summer. It should go without saying that the Smokies are the main attraction around here, but in addition, the park service offers dozens of unique, interesting and fun programs for visitors of all ages. The best part is that the vast majority of them are absolutely free. These programs are led by park rangers, so participants get special insight into everything that makes the national park special.

Here’s just a sampling of what you’ll find taking place within the next week on the Tennessee side of the Smokies, which means they’re all easily accessible from our cabins in Gatlinburg, TN as well as Pigeon Forge and Wears Valley.

A Walk in the Woods

6/22 – 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Sugarlands Visitor Center

This is an easy stroll along a scenic wooded trail that starts at the visitor center.

Evening Program: Most Dangerous

6/22 – 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Cades Cove amphitheater

Learn about the most dangerous animals in the park and how you should behave when you meet them in this entertaining and humorous program.

Cades Cove Night Hike

6/23 – 9 to 10:30 p.m.

Orientation shelter at entrance to Cades Cove loop road

A park ranger will lead you on an evening walk to discover the night creatures of Cades Cove. Children under 14 must be accompanied by an adult. Bring a flashlight.

Highland Homeland

6/23 – 1:30 to 3 p.m.

Noah Bud Ogle cabin, Cades Cove

Learn about the families who once called Cades Cove home. Demonstrations and activities will vary throughout the season.

Islands in the Sky

6/24 – 1 to 2 p.m.

Forney Ridge trailhead

Learn about what makes the high-elevation forest of the Smokies one of the most interesting and endangered ecosystems in the Eastern U.S.

Junior Ranger: Explore Cades Cove

6/24 – 1 to 1:45 p.m.

Cades Cove Visitor Center

Join a park ranger for a hands-on exploration of the Smokies.

Evening Campfire

6/25 – 8 to 9 p.m.

Cosby campground

Join a ranger for a traditional evening campfire. Topics vary from night to night, but you’re guaranteed to learn something new about the Great Smoky Mountains.

Hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains

People who visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park go there for a variety of reasons, but it’s generally agreed that the single most popular activity in the Smokies is hiking. It’s something that family members of all ages can participate in, and there’s no better way for a person to immerse him or herself in the beauty and tranquility of unspoiled nature. So if you’re staying in one of our secluded Gatlinburg cabins this summer, consider incorporating hiking into your travel plans.

But whether you’ve never hiked in the wilderness before or you’re a seasoned pro, a little bit of cautionary information always bears repeating. For starters, always make sure you have enough water, especially on hot, humid days. If you’re going on a short hike of just a few miles, you can probably get away with carrying a bottled water or two. Longer or overnight treks might require more elaborate solutions like a reservoir backpack.

Also make sure you’re properly clothed for the distance and the elements. Sturdy hiking boots or shoes are always recommended for sometimes-unstable surfaces like gravel or rain-soaked paths. Many trails also have embedded rocks and tree roots that can make for tricky footing. And pay attention to the temperature. Wear cool, breathable fabrics on hot days, and be sure to wear multiple layers on cold days to prevent hypothermia. And if rain is in the forecast, pack a poncho, just in case.

Now let’s pick a trail. Did you know there are more than 850 miles of hiking trails in the national park, covering both Tennessee and North Carolina? That’s a lot of potential footsteps, so you’ll need to make a few decisions about what you’re looking for in a hike before you pick a destination.

If you’re not accustomed to hiking or physical activity, keep it simple. You can find short, level nature strolls near the Sugarlands Visitor Center or hike the relatively short, paved trail to Laurel Falls. Also, the observation towers at Clingman’s Dome and Look Rock are fairly short, paved hikes from the parking areas to the observation decks.

Among the most popular hiking destinations in the national park are Charlies Bunion (4.0 miles from trailhead); Alum Cave Bluff (2.5 miles from trailhead); Andrews Bald (1.8 miles from trailhead); Rainbow Falls (2.7 miles from trailhead); and Chimney Tops (2 miles from trailhead).

Alum Cave Bluff, by the way, is about halfway up Mt. LeConte. Many folks stop at the bluff to rest or treat it as their outright destination. Chimney Tops, you should know, is fairly short but a very rigorous and challenging hike that pays off with remarkable views.

What you choose to see on your hike also has a great bearing on your trail selection. You can go for views, waterfalls, old-growth forests, historic sights, wildflowers and more. If you’re hiking with children, also note that the park has several kid-friendly hikes to offer.

We’ll end with another caution: Always stick to the designated trails, even if you’re an experienced hiker. Most cases of missing persons in the Smokies originate from people wandering off the trails. It also increases your chances of crossing paths with a black bear. So stay safe out there, but more importantly – have fun!

The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Music

Are you a music fan? If so, traveling to the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee is a great way to indulge one of your favorite pastimes. This region is the cradle of country music and is also known for its bluegrass and even its rock and roll roots. And of course, gospel music is deeply appreciated by many who call this area home. So no matter what your preference is, you’re probably going to find your favorite tunes being played somewhere in the Smokies.

So where exactly does a person go to experience the energy and excitement of a live music performance? That’s what we’re going to tell you about this week – some of your best options for hearing and seeing a live band. The good news is that the choices are plenty, and you’re never too far away from a venue willing to let the music play.

  1. Music Theaters

This one’s sort of a no-brainer. Most of them are in Pigeon Forge, but you’ll also find showplaces in Gatlinburg and Sevierville. Between them, there are more than a dozen theaters and even more shows featuring musical genres such as country, bluegrass, gospel, oldies rock, Broadway, patriotic and more. Most theaters have matinee performances, meaning that during peak season, you can see shows and hear music day or night. Of course, not all the theaters have productions that are strictly music-based, but even the more variety-oriented theaters have at least some musical component incorporated into the show.

  1. Dollywood Theme Park

The area’s biggest family attraction has plenty of music to offer inside its gates. There are multiple venues throughout the park, both indoor and outdoor, that are home to original musical stage productions or live band performances. The theme park features Dollywood Celebrity Theatre, which not only hosts larger-scale music-themed shows, but it also welcomes Dolly Parton herself to the stage from time to time. You’ll also find Showstreet Palace and the Gospel Music Hall of Fame at Dollywood, both of which have a lot to offer, both in terms of the history of gospel music and live performances by the park’s resident gospel quartet.

  1. Music Festivals

Any time of year, but especially spring, summer and fall, you’re likely to find a special concert or festival event taking place in one of our Smokies communities. Some festivals are one-day-only gatherings, while some are multi-day affairs. Generally, the music is centered on country, bluegrass or gospel music, so if that’s your cup of tea, keep an eye peeled for the special events taking place in town on your next visit.

  1. Local Restaurants

Many eateries offer live entertainment as a side dish to their regular fare. In such cases, the settings are usually more intimate, and the styles of music can run the gamut. Sometimes, it’s a great chance to spot an up-and-coming artist before he or she hits the big time.

We hope that our thriving music scene is an additional enticement to come to the Smokies soon and make a reservation for one of our overnight rentals. Great music, luxury cabins, Smoky Mountains scenery and one of the South’s great family destinations… Doesn’t that sound like music to your ears?

Cades Cove Highlights

Great Smoky Mountains National Park received a record 10 million visitors in 2015 and is on pace to meet or top that mark this year. But did you know that the Cades Cove section of the park alone saw more than 1 million visitors last year? That shouldn’t be surprising; the 11-mile one-way auto loop of the historic mountain community is one of the top attractions within the national park.

If you’ve never toured Cades Cove, we highly recommend it, and even if you’re a repeat visitor, perhaps you haven’t fully explored all that this living museum has to offer. That’s why this week, we’re mentioning a few of the must-see points along the way. From hikes to history, Cades Cove has a lot explore.

barn-in-cades-cove

  1. Historic Homesteads

As you drive along the one-way road that circles the perimeter of the scenic mountain-ensconced cove, you’ll encounter a number of structures that once served as homes to early residents of the valley, before it became part of the national park. Look for places like the Carter Shields cabin, the Dan Lawson cabin, the Gregg Cable house and the John Oliver Cabin. These homesteads features authentic log cabins as well as a number of out buildings like corncribs and barns. It’s a fascinating look into the way late 19th century and early 20th century mountain settlers lived.

  1. Historic Churches

Within one short stretch of the tour, you’ll find the Cades Cove Methodist Church, Missionary Baptist Church and Primitive Baptist Church. There are interesting stories behind how these churches came to exist, and features such as separate male and female entrances are glimpses into the folkways of yesteryear.

  1. Abrams Falls Hike

About halfway through the tour, on the western end of the loop, you’ll find signs for the trailhead to Abrams Falls. A gravel road goes about 4/10 of a mile to a parking area, and from there, a wooden footbridge leads you to the trailhead. The hike is 2.6 miles to the falls, which is a beautiful spot to stop and rest and gawk at nature.

  1. Cades Cove Visitor Center

Not far beyond the Abrams Falls turnoff, you’ll find the official Cades Cove Visitor Center. The center offers restrooms, a bookstore and a gift shop, but the more interesting part of the center is its collection of historic structures on the grounds, including a gristmill relocated there from the Becky Cable house. This is also the location you want to meet up for most of the ranger-led programs offered within the cove.

If you booked your overnight rental through Timbercreek Cabins Pigeon Forge, you’ll be able to easily access the Cades Cove area, starting in Wears Valley and entering the park through the Metcalf Bottoms picnic area. From there, you take the main road west until you hit the cove. In addition to the many historic sites within the community, there’s a campground and picnic area located just outside the entrance to the loop road, and there are also horseback stables on the property.

Folks also like going to Cades Cove to picnic within the loop property itself, and the road is often used by cyclists and runners in search of exercise in the beautiful outdoor setting. In fact, the one-way road is closed to auto traffic on Wednesday and Saturday mornings from May through September.

Wilderness Wildlife Week

Are you going to be staying in one of our Wears Valley cabins this week? If so, your timing is good, because this week, one of the Smokies’ most popular annual special events returns to Pigeon Forge. Wilderness Wildlife Week, which takes place at the LeConte Event Center May 18 through 22, is designed to give nature lovers, hikers and outdoors enthusiasts of all types a truly enriching Smoky Mountain experience.

This five days of walks, talks and workshops features a variety of programs that are geared toward all ages and areas of outdoor interests. And not only do guests get to hear from some of the nation’s foremost experts in their respective fields, but they also get to participate in multiple outings, ranging from short nature strolls to more challenging hikes. Best of all, everything during Wilderness Wildlife Week is free.

The week offers something for everyone, from kids to adults, and there are many brand-new events for all ages this year. Below is just a small sampling of the dozens of programs available throughout the week, most of which take place at the LeConte Center. Note that some activities require guests to sign up at the LeConte Center on the morning of the event they’re interested in joining.

Forest Health and You: What’s Happening to the Forest and What You Can Do

Fred and Ted the Fish: Keep Sevier Beautiful

Painting the Smokies

Learn to Sew

Hiking & Backpacking: Getting Started with the Right Gear

Learn to Play the Spoons

Leave No Trace: The Principles of Outdoor Ethics

Children of the ‘60s

Fly Fishing the Smokies

This year’s outdoor excursions, which are led by expert guides, include hikes of destinations like Abrams Falls, Rainbow Falls, Andrews Bald, Charlies Bunyon, the Chimneys and Elkmont. There are also bus tours of the Bush Beans Museum as well as tubing, whitewater rafting and owl prowls. Hikes are rated anywhere from easy to strenuous, and all participants are responsible for dressing appropriately and bringing the right gear to the excursion.

Sign-ups for these outings take place at the LeConte Center the day PRIOR to the specific activity you’re interested in joining (except Wednesday outings, which have sign-ups that morning).

Wilderness Wildlife Week also features a farmer’s market, nature-themed arts and crafts exhibits, vendors selling outdoors-related gear and paraphernalia, a photo contest and more. The dozens of participating experts represent some of the most notable names in their fields and include Bill Landry of The Heartland Series and noted forensic anthropologist Dr. William Bass.

If you’re staying in one of our cabins, Pigeon Forge is usually only a 10-minute drive from Wears Valley, and once you get to town, the LeConte Center is just a mile or so away on Teaster Lane. We hope to see you this week!

5 Things to Look For in a Rental Cabin

Summer is rapidly approaching, which means if you’re thinking about visiting the Smokies before next fall, you really need to be making those plans now. Especially if you’re going to book an overnight cabin rental, it’s always better to get the process started early, because many properties get booked up for the peak tourism months.

But before you go out and rent just any cabin, however, make sure you take a little time to do some research and find out what you’re getting into – not just with a specific property but with the rental company you’re dealing with.

This week, we’ll pass along a few things to keep an eye out for when browsing through listings of rental properties. Being better informed will help you make the best decision when it comes to booking your vacation getaway.

  1. How many bedrooms does the cabin have?

That’s important to know, depending on how many are in your traveling party. Just a couple? Then book a one-bedroom home. A family reunion? Go for at least a three- or four-bedroom cabin. At Timbercreek, our Tennessee cabins have as many as five bedrooms. 

  1. Where is the cabin located? 

Is it in a secluded, scenic area or close to town? Some people prefer the peace and quiet of a rural setting, while others like to be close to all the action. Many of our cabins are in the Wears Valley area, which offers the best of both worlds. They benefit from quiet and scenic surroundings but are also just a short drive from Pigeon Forge.

  1. What amenities are included?

This is often where you see the most disparity from rental company to rental company. But at Timbercreek, we pride ourselves on making sure all our properties have all the amenities that travelers usually seek out, including outdoor hot tubs, whirlpool tubs in master baths, game rooms with pool tables, porches with scenic views, fully equipped kitchens, TV/entertainment centers and outdoor grills, to mention just a few.

  1. Is the cabin in good condition?

You’d be surprised what sometimes passes for rental property in the Smokies. But there’s no reason anyone should settle for less than high-quality accommodations. All our properties are individually owned, and each cabin must meet our specifications before we put it on our rental program. We offer only high-quality, luxury cabins that are well taken care of and tastefully decorated.

  1. Are there any discounts available?

It’s always worth checking to see if any specials or promotions are being offered on a particular property. We run deals throughout the year, including our Year Round Special – book seven nights for the price of five – and our Repeat Guest Special, in which repeat customers receive 10 percent off their bill, any stay, any time.