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Mountain Communities “Open for Business” Despite Park Shutdown

Mountain Communities “Open for Business” Despite Park Shutdown

TOWNSEND, Tenn.—While the Great Smoky Mountains National Park may be in the process of closing due to the government shutdown, the adjacent community of Townsend remains open with outdoor activities, accommodations and scenery to provide visitors with a mountain experience despite the park closure.

“From hiking and biking to camping, horseback riding and exploring Appalachian heritage, and everything in-between, there are endless activities in Smokies outside of the park to create a great experience,” said Tami Vater, director of tourism for the Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Authority.

Vater encouraged those planning a trip to the mountains to contact the Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Authority for help planning their trip and recommendations outside the park.  The visitors center can be reached at (800) 525.6834 or (865) 983-2241 or online at www.SmokyMountains.org.

If you are in the area, you can stop by the Smoky Mountain Visitors Center at Townsend, located at 7906 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway, or the Smoky Mountain Visitors Center at Maryville, located at 201 South Washington Street, for more information.

“Hopefully this issue will be resolved soon, and the park will not remain closed for long,” said Vater.  “But, whatever happens, we are ready to serve those who want to experience the fall in the mountains, and we’ll help them create a trip that provides them with all of the experiences they were hoping for.”

Some suggested activities include:


Whether visitors are looking for a bike ride ending on top of the mountain, like the Foothills Parkway, or a trail that offers a glimpse into Appalachian Heritage, like the “Shadows of the Past,” there are bike opportunities for novice and experienced riders throughout the Smokies.  Blount County has five trails on paved roads, each suitable for most levels. Each trail offers its own scenic view of the area. Whether by meandering streams, open farmlands, or in the woods, riders of all types will find something to love.

The “Shadows of the Past” trail is a historical nine-mile bike/walking trail through Townsend that showcases the area’s rich culture and interesting history throughout the ride, and cyclists have access to many historical landmarks, restaurants and shops along the way.  Informational signs posted throughout the trail, as well as the brochure, provide information about the region, which was once home to part of the Great Cherokee Indian nation and one of the nation’s largest logging operations.  The trail runs parallel with US Highway 321, but it takes visitors on a diverse journey through sites that date as far back as 9,000 years and as recent as the 1930s. Those sites include Indian dwelling grounds, grocery stores, cabins, a cemetery and a church.

Blount County also has numerous other trails and areas for bicyclists to explore, including:

  • Clover Hill Caper, an 18.5 mile, paved trail with panoramic views, historic homes and a unique bridge
  • Louisville Lap, a 16, or 6.5, mile, paved trail through historic Louisville with farms, a lake and picnic areas
  • Ellejoy Jaunt, a 20.5, or 10.5, mile, paved trail featuring mountain views, a stream, farmland and a historic site
  • Little River Run, an 11 mile, paved trail that parallels a stream
  • Maryville/Alcoa Trails, a 9-mile trail system that includes a variety of routes through the greenways of the communities featuring parks, rivers, community landmarks and picnic areas


Townsend offers fly fishermen miles of fishable trout streams around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park where visitors can fish along the Little River or hike into the mountains to escape everything and fish in the wilderness.

“You can hire a guide or fish on your own.  It’s a great time of year for trout and smallmouth bass,” said Byron Begley, local fly fishing expert and owner of Little River Outfitters in Townsend.  “All of us in the gateway towns hope you visit us anyway to enjoy the fall colors.  This is a beautiful place, outside the Park.”

Begley said that there are a variety of fishing options in the region including the Hiwassee River and the Tellico River, as well as the tailwaters below the dams.  There are also 11 lakes in Blount County with opportunities for boating, kayaking and canoeing, as well as numerous other rivers in East Tennessee that offer fishing enthusiasts ample fishing opportunities.

Heritage Exploration:

Heritage and historic sites throughout the community are plentiful and include Fort Craig Monument, the oldest school in the state—Sam Houston Schoolhouse, Blount County Historical Museum, and the Little River Railroad Museum, which showcases the railroad’s history in the Smokies.

The Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center is a $3.1 million, 17,000-square-foot museum offers visitors a glimpse into 7,000 years of history by demonstrating Native American and pioneer lifestyles through pottery, hunting, cosmology, medicine, music, games and trade.  The Heritage Center contains 11 historic outbuildings, two galleries featuring Native American and pioneer living, an Early Transportation Gallery displaying the evolution of the region’s travel, a 100-seat auditorium and a 500-seat covered outside amphitheater offering a panoramic view of the Smoky Mountains.

Visitors can also explore Tuckaleechee Caverns, a one-mile trip that takes visitors through the cool, damp cave, which is rumored to have hid Cherokee Indians in the 1840s during the Trail of Tears.

About Blount County, Tennessee

Blount County, Tennessee is located just south of Knoxville at the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.  The communities that make up Blount County—Townsend, Maryville, Alcoa, Friendsville, Louisville and Rockford – provide visitors with an abundance of outdoor activities, attractions and regular celebrations of the region’s rich Appalachian heritage and culture.   For more information about Blount County, please contact the Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Authority at (800) 525.6834 or visit www.SmokyMountains.org. Follow the Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Authority at www.Facebook.com/PeacefulSide and Twitter.com/PeacefulSmokies.

Jeff Muir

Communications Director

Blount Partnership

201 S. Washington St.

Maryville, TN 37804

(865) 983-2241

Web Site: www.BlountPartnership.com

Twitter: @BlountChamber

Facebook: on.fb.me/BlountPartnership

Video: Being a Blount Partnership Chamber member

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