“You’ll never do a whole lot unless you’re brave enough to try”
– Dolly Parton

James, morgan and alaina standing in a field with mountains in the background
TheSmokies.com Founders: James Overholt, Morgan Overholt, Alaina O’Neal

About TheSmokies.com

TheSmokies.com was created to help people visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the surrounding areas plan their vacations with unique tips, tricks, articles, souvenirs, shops and guides. We visit and experience every attraction, trail, and restaurant mentioned on this website. We want to be your go-to resource for coupons, discounts, upcoming events, dining, and attractions for Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Wears Valley, Townsend, Sevierville, and the Smoky Mountains.

Our Origin Story

Morgan’s fondest childhood memories include spending weekends and summers in the Smoky Mountains. Her family bought Dollywood season passes every other year. Birthday dinners were usually spent on the Parkway in Pigeon Forge. School field trips would inevitably include either Ober Gatlinburg (now Ober Mountain) or Ogles Waterpark.

She spent the early years of her career working for a local area newspaper, The Citizen Tribune (where she earned a Tennessee Press Association award). Years later she went on to found her media agency, Morgan Media LLC. But in 2020, she had a career-changing idea. She wanted to start a regional travel blog about the area she knew and loved. And so, she convinced her sister Alaina (also a TPA award winner), and husband James, to join her in a grand travel business venture.

In its first full calendar year, TheSmokies.com received over 1 million pageviews. Those views grew to nearly 5 million in 2022.

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“Find out who you are, then do it on purpose”
– Dolly Parton

Meet Our Team

Today, TheSmokies.com employs freelancers and award-winning local journalists who live in and around the Smoky Mountains. Every article you see on this site was written by a real human who has first-hand experience in the subject matter.

We also pride ourselves in taking our own photos and videos – a feat that’s required hundreds of man-hours and continues to a significant amount of time every year to keep the site looking fresh. We only rely on stock when absolutely necessary.

And we love to work with local businesses. In fact, if you have a new restaurant or attraction coming to the area, be sure to use this form to contact us and let us know. We’d love to do a story on you! If you are a local business, be sure to check out our advertising opportunities.

Morgan Overholt

Morgan Overholt

COFOUNDER, Writer & Photographer

Morgan, a Smoky Mountain native, spent the early years of her career working for local publications including the East Tennessean in Johnson City and The Citizen Tribune in Morristown. She is also a Tennessee Press Association Award winner.

In 2017, she left her full-time job to launch her own media company. And in 2020, Morgan launched TheSmokies.com, an homage to her hometown in Tennessee in 2020. Morgan’s entrepreneurship story has appeared in nationally recognized publications including Business InsiderParade Magazine and Refinery29.

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Alaina O’Neal

COFOUNDER, Editor-in-Chief

Alaina O’Neal, a Smoky Mountain native, is a talented writer, graphic designer and entrepreneur. She has worked for a variety of media outlets including The Citizen Tribune, The Chattanooga Times Free Press and the Elizabethton Star. During those tenures, she received multiple Tennessee Press Association awards.

In 2019, Alaina left her “9-5” to join her sister Morgan in pursuit of entrepreneurship. In 2020, she co-founded TheSmokies.com where she takes on a variety of roles including writer, photographer and proofreader.

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James Overholt

James Overholt

COFOUNDER & DEVELOPER

James Overholt is a native of the Smoky Mountains and a graduate of East Tennessee State University. He is a talented software developer and data analyst having spent nearly two decades in the information technology field.

James was raised in a family of entrepreneurs. He spent the early years of his career working for his father who founded Shop at Home television in 1987. His father later went on to launch Planet Connect – one of East Tennessee’s first Internet Service Providers. James also worked as a contractor for Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) in Tennessee for over a decade.

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Kimberly Grayson

Kimberly Grayson

COPY EDITOR

Kim is a native of the Smokies and considers the mountains her home. She formally worked as an Executive Assistant at Walters State Community College in Morristown, TN and later as a Library Assistant at Northeast State Community College in Sullivan County.

In her spare time, she and her husband spend a lot of time hiking in the woods and state parks – including, of course, The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. She also enjoys gardening and spending time at home with the ever-growing Grayson cat menagerie.

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JOHN GULLION

John Gullion

WRITER & CONTRIBUTOR

John began his full-time career in journalism a few weeks before Y2K. He has worked as a reporter, sports editor, news editor and managing editor for newspapers throughout the Smoky Mountain area in East Tennessee and South Alabama including the Monroe County Advocate & Democrat, the Selma Times Journal and the Demopolis Times. Since 2005 he has been the Managing Editor for the Citizen Tribune in Morristown, TN.

He has won several awards from the Tennessee Press Association, the Alabama Associated Press and the Alabama Press Association. His work has been picked up by the Associated Press and run in papers nationwide.

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Kirby Russell

writer & contributor

Kirby is a full-time Speech-Language Pathologist at an elementary school in the Atlanta Suburbs. She’s also a mom of five boys (including two sets of twins!) and a lifelong outdoor enthusiast.

She grew up in Northeast Georgia and her love for hiking and exploring began in the Blue Ridge Mountains. After graduating from the University of Georgia, she officially became a mountaineer. She moved to Boone, NC to attend Appalachian State University for graduate school. If you’re visiting the Smokies and need to know where to run or which hikes are kid-friendly, she’s your girl. 

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corey wagner

Corey Wagner

WRITER & CONTRIBUTOR

Corey was born and raised in Northwest Ohio, but now makes his home in Gatlinburg Tennessee. Drawing inspiration from the Smoky Mountains, he started writing about his family’s many trips to the area. He posts daily on Facebook as Gatlinburg NOW, and also writes on his platform on Substack, A Gatlinburg NOW Publication.

When he isn’t busy writing about Gatlinburg, Corey loves to wander around town taking pictures and grabbing some comfort eats at some of his favorite restaurants in town with his wife and son.

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Daniel Munson

Daniel Munson

VIDEOGRAPHER

Daniel Munson currently lives and works in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains as a freelance photographer and videographer. He provides much of the drone and Dollywood media day footage you see on our YouTube.

John Overholt

John Overholt

VOICE ACTOR

John Overholt, a Newport native and brother of TheSmokies.com co-founder James Overholt, is a professionally trained voice actor and opera singer. When he’s not providing voiceovers for YouTube videos, he can be seen performing with the Knoxville Opera.

Bill Burris

Bill Burris

Photographer

Bill Burris currently lives and works in Sevier County as a talented and enthusiastic freelance photographer. If there’s a major event or a grand opening in the area – there’s a good chance you’ll spot Bill.