Unhurried, Unforgettable Townsend

Welcome to a classic mountain village. With its peaceful environment along the gently sloping meadows and rising peaks of the Great Smoky Mountains, Townsend is a compelling destination for culture, unique shopping, outdoor adventure, and overnight stays.

It’s the Peaceful Side of the Smokies


Fall festival. Image by Jeaneane Payne

Dubbed the “Peaceful Side of the Mountains,” Townsend invites you to experience a gateway to the best of four-season outdoor recreation.

Along the river there are a number of restaurants to choose from, and picturesque views. Local artisans showcase their fine art at the Townsend Visitor Center and in galleries located throughout the town. Townsend sits at the edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, making it a hidden gem in the midst of America’s most visited national park.

Know Townsend History Before You Explore

Townsend history speaks volumes. There are five structures/districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Peter Brickey House (Wears Valley Rd., 0.1 mi. W of Bonner Hollow Rd., Townsend); Cades Cove Historic District; Little River Lumber Company Office; James McCampbell Barn and Minnis McCampbell Barn (both at Old Cades Cove Rd., 0.1 mile South of Dry Valley Road). It’s no wonder that it is known as being a wonderful locale for a vacation destination.

Structures & Districts

Cades Cove Historic District is made up of 4,000 acres of beautiful meadows, rising mountains, rivers, historic structures, and wildlife. Its 11-mile loop road is open year ’round.

Little River Railroad and Lumber Company  was established as a non-profit organization in 1982. The museum preserves the heritage of the Little River Lumber Company and the Little River Railroad which was operational from 1901 until 1939. The sawmill and headquarters of this operation were located in Townsend. The company logged huge portions of what is now Great Smoky Mountains National Park and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

Peter Brickey House has an interesting history. Peter Brickey entered the Cove area in 1808.  He operated a large farm in the area and maintained a distillery as well.  Brickey built a log home which still stands today. He came to Wears Valley from Virginia with his wife Nancy. They had no children of their own, but they had three servants that are buried next to them in the cemetery that bears their surname.

Townsend’s Distinctive Culture Attractions

Several times every year, cultural festivals are held in Townsend. Annually in May the Townsend Spring Heritage Festival and Old Timers Day is held at the visitor center. This event features bluegrass and gospel music, many food vendors, arts & crafts, and real mountain clogging. There are also concerts and jam sessions. Bring a lawn chair and enjoy the fun. Learn about all of its festivals.

Get Outdoors in the Smoky Mountain Foothills

For outdoor enthusiasts, the Townsend Bicycle Trail offers hiking, biking, golf, kayaking, fly fishing, bird watching, and river tubing. The area is also known for excellent bicycling along the beautiful meadows throughout the foothills of the Smoky Mountains.  The Townsend Visitors Center is on the trail which is approximately 3 miles long. It has a good, paved surface and short hills. Features include the scenic beauty of the area, access to restaurants, shops, and motels.

One of the featured outdoor attractions is Cades Cove inside the National Park.

From the Townsend Visitor Center drive 2.9 miles to the “Wye” intersection. Turn right and travel 7 miles to the Cove. The 11 mile road is paved and features cabins, churches, a historic grist mill, mountain streams, panoramic vistas, and historic structures. You will probably see black bears, white-tailed deer, and turkey. Before entering the Cove, you can visit the Cades Cove store or enjoy a picnic on the river where you’ll find BBQ grills and picnic tables.

Bicycle Rentals

Bicycles may be rented April through October at the Cades Cove Bike Shop located next to the store. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, Memorial Day through September 27, the Loop Road is closed to autos from sunrise until 10 am. On Wednesdays, it is BICYCLES ONLY! For more information, you may call 865-448-9034.

Lake Near Townsend

Fontana Lake is located just outside Townsend. It has a shoreline of about 240 miles. Fishing, boating and swimming are all popular at Fontana. Fish include Smallmouth bass, Walleye, Largemouth bass, Muskellunge, Lake trout, Bluegill. The Appalachian Trail crosses Fontana Dam. The lake can be accessed from Hwy 129 from Foothills Parkway West just outside Townsend, TN or from N.C. Highway 28 near the TN/NC state line.

Music from the Hills

Bluegrass music rings from the hills of this mountain village. Several festivals throughout the year feature bluegrass bands playing gospel and traditional music. Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center hosts Music of the Mountains every Friday evening from mid-June through October. Different concert artists are featured each week.

For those who especially enjoy bluegrass music, Rocky Branch Bluegrass  kicks up every Friday night all year long. Rocky Branch pickers reflect a wide range of musical influences. That’s why you’re likely to hear lots of mountain music, a little old-time music, a little country, a little blues, some folk, and pop. Rocky Branch is located just outside of Townsend. Admission is free, but donations are welcome. They even serve food – Nachos, cornbread and pinto beans, hot dogs, vegetable soup, pies, cakes, candy bars, soft drinks and water can be purchased at cheap prices.

For two decades, part of life in Townsend has been a concert series known as “Pickin’ on the Porch.” This takes place every Saturday at Wood-N-String Dulcimer Shop in Townsend.

Points of Interest

Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center

123 Cromwell Drive
Townsend, TN  37882
The museum preserves the culture and history of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont
9275 Tremont Road
Townsend, TN  37882
The institute offers educational opportunities through Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The museum has a bookstore and gift shop.

Visit the official welcome centers

Townsend Visitor Center

7906 E Lamar Alexander Pkwy
Townsend, TN 37882
Phone:  (800) 525-6834

Cades Cove Visitor Center
686 Cades Cove Loop Rd
Townsend TN 37882
Open year-round (except Christmas Day)
Hours: Open at 9 a.m. – Closing times vary throughout the year

Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont Visitor Center
9275 Tremont Rd
Townsend, TN 37882
Open Monday – Saturday most of the year
Hours: 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Enjoy the Weather

Rainfall:  56 inches annually

Snowfall:  7 inches annually
Sunny Days: 205 annually
High Temperature:  86 degrees in July
Low Temperature:  26 degrees in January

Guided Tours:

A Walk in the Woods
– you will enjoy guided nature walks, hikes, backpacking, driving tours.  Guide are experts in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, medicinal and edible uses of wild plants and mushrooms, wild animals and their habits, backpacking, primitive skills, outdoor survival, and local human history, including the Cherokee and early settlers.

Cades Cove Heritage Tours