Each new year Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg rolls in with the pristine haze of the Smoky Mountains. Ancient hills and mountaintops extend high into the sky, seemingly scraping across the horizon of delicate clouds and golden sunlight. Harwood canopies stand like paintbrushes, soaking in the colors of the season as bubbling creeks and streams serenade the ambiance of nature trails and wildflowers. Such beauty is found in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and both cities had similar beginnings.
The Cherokee traversed across the valley to use it as a hunting ground. Their path became known as the “Indian Gap Trail,” and it extended from the Smoky Mountains to North Carolina. Settlers slowly made their way into the area and developed trade relations with the Cherokee, residing along Pigeon Forge - named after the Little Pigeon River and a forge built in 1817 - years before the American Revolutionary War. Following the establishment of the first business, Pigeon Forge found its identity shifting from farming to that of tourism as myriads of visitors came to see the Great Smoky Mountains. This is still so today, as millions of people vacation in Pigeon Forge for not only its natural bliss, but for its plethora of entertainment venues.
In like fashion, Gatlinburg was first inhabited by the Cherokee, who used the Indian Gap Trail here as well. American settler William Ogle ventured into the area from South Carolina in the early 19th century, working alongside the Cherokee to construct his own cabin. While Ogle would unfortunately pass away before its completion, his wife and family followed in his stead; their cabin still stands today in Gatlinburg. In 1856, local Radford Gatlin established a post office, and the town was thusly named “Gatlinburg.” An explosive lumber industry would make way for tourism though it nearly destroyed the mountains. They were saved by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and officially dedicated it a national park in 1940. Since then, hikers have enjoyed the Appalachian Trail, drivers have indulged in the gorgeous scenery of flowing rivers and streams, and visitors have meandered their way through many different walking paths. Wildlife abounds, including black bear, wolves, elk, fox, deer, and many other animals. Today, the park, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg are an enduring testament to the mountain people who settled in that area, as well as the Cherokee culture.
Aside from a rich history, Gatlinburg, the gateway to the Smokies, features attractions like Ripley's Aquarium, Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum, Ober Gatlinburg ski area, fantastic restaurants, and quaint stores. It is an ideal vacation area for families, couples, and friends because the fun you will have while visiting is worth sharing. Make sure to bring your camera to capture the gorgeous scenery and your fantastic vacation in the Smoky Mountains.