To anyone interested in the truth about Gatlinburg:
I've traveled around the US and around Europe, but I'm not nearly so well-traveled as most of you Ziners, so I figured I had finally run across a subject to which I could respond with some confidence.
Gatlinburg...is...well...it's tourist development gone dreadfully wrong.
The Smoky Mountains, are perhaps one of -- if not the most -- biologically diverse reserves in North America. Yes, there are some great trails for hiking and other outdoor sports, there are great rivers for rafting/kayaking, and the views are astounding. However, Gatlinburg has no redeeming factors except for hotels and lots of beachfront recreation. Yes, mini-golf, go-cart tracks, waterslides, arcades, pancake houses, and lots of bright lights. It is indeed a garish town scarring the area -- obviously, developers were more concerned with bringing in sheer numbers of tourists, without much concern for blending with the natural environment.
Pigeon Forge isn't quite as bad, but I don't see a huge difference between the two. It seems to be developed following the same principles...lots of cars, lots of wide streets, lots of neon, souvenir shops, and mini-golf places. The wonderful vistas of the Smokies will not be seen in either of these cities, though Pigeon Forge is smaller than Gatlinburg.
However, there are small towns outside of these two huge tourist traps which are quite nice and aren't so abrasive. To see the Smokies, you have to get out of cities and into the woods. Cades Cove is an interesting place to visit, though it can be crowded in the summer months.
I'll apologize to anyone who is a fan of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, but in my opinion, their design/development completely defeats the purpose of nature tourists coming to the Smoky Mountains, resulting in turning off serious nature travelers from exploring the region which is most unfortunate.
Mandy Huffman Clemson SC