One of my favorite holiday traditions is renting a large cabin in the Smokies.
What started several years ago as a way to blow off a little post-holiday steam and play board games with a handful of old college friends has turned into quite the production as we’ve gotten older, moved around and in some cases, had kids of our own.
Long gone are the days of squeezing into a 2-bedroom cabin on a college budget.
This year’s cabin will look more like a small mansion complete with 7 bedrooms, 9.5 baths and two kitchens, enough space to sleep more than two dozen guests.
At this point, I think it’s safe to say we are pretty much full-fledged cabin renting experts.
Here are a few tips we’ve learned over the years about Gatlinburg cabin rentals (and Pigeon Forge cabin rentals) around TN.
9. Begin your search early
The earlier you are able to book your cabin, the better.
The peak season to visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is considered summer (mid-June through mid-August) and the entire month of October.
November and December are also popular times to book cabins around the Smokies due to the holiday season.
If you wait until the last minute, you may find that the pickin’s are slim.
If you want a good cabin deal, start your search as early as possible, or consider the off-season (usually February or March).
8. Always book with a reputable company
Unfortunately, we see this scenario all too often.
Someone asks about cabin rentals on social media. A kind stranger replies that they have a great deal on a cabin rental and are sending a “DM” with more details.
Card numbers and personal details are exchanged. The would-be vacationer thinks they are booking the trip of a lifetime only to find out that the entire thing was a scam.
And unfortunately, there’s often no recourse.
It might sound far-fetched, but you’d be surprised how often it happens. Scammers are abundant and can be convincing.
Your best bet is to always book with a reputable company, like VRBO.
In fact, we at TheSmokies.com are official affiliates of VRBO and would sincerely appreciate it if you use one of our links when booking. Ya know, in exchange for all the solid advice.
7. Rank your desired amenities
One of my favorite pieces of life advice is to pick two or three things that matter most to you and don’t sweat the rest quite as much.
I believe this can also apply when choosing a cabin to rent.
Decide what your top priority is when selecting your cabin.
Cabins in the Smokies may seem ubiquitous, but some are more catered for certain occasions.
For example, you might have some that are considered honeymoon cabins, some that offer extra sleeping space for church retreats and family reunions or even some that offer ample space for a wedding.
Before you begin your search, ask yourself what you need from your cabin.
Make a list of your must-haves. For example, these items might include:
- An outdoor hot tub
- A private swimming pool
- A fireplace
- A fire pit
- Unobstructed mountain views
- A game room or pool table
- A bedroom for each couple/individual
- A cabin that allows pets
6. Consider your location wisely
When making your priority list, don’t forget to consider the location and accessibility.
While there are thousands of cabin rentals available all over Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevierville, there’s one factor that should dictate your preferred location above all others.
That factor can be determined by reaching deep down into your soul and asking yourself, “Exactly what sort of vacation-goer am I?”
I find most visitors fall into one of two groups:
- The “wow, I love all of these attractions, there’s so much to see and do” group.
- The “leave me alone, I’m turning my phone off and ain’t leavin’ the house for three days” group
If you fall into the first group, consider getting a cabin a little closer to town.
You may also want to be closer to town if any of your family members have a fear of heights or are prone to motion sickness.
Long, winding trips up and down a giant mountain will get old really fast if you’re trying to make it to Dollywood before the crowds.
If you fall into the second group, location doesn’t matter as much.
The higher and deeper into the mountains you go, the more breathtaking the views become.
5. Print directions, don’t rely on cell service
Once you find your perfect cabin, remember that cell service is notoriously bad in the Smoky Mountains.
Take screenshots, make notes and even consider taking a printout with your directions. It’s always a good idea to be prepared.
4. You may need an all-wheel drive vehicle
I get a bit of a thrill taking narrow, long, winding mountain roads.
But in the wintertime, those mountain roads can actually be quite dangerous.
And there’s nothing scarier than losing control of your car or feeling the car slipping backward on a road with no guard rails.
Treat the mountain roads with respect.
Consider bringing a front-wheel or all-wheel drive if you can. And if you aren’t sure you can make the trip, just don’t risk it.
If you can’t bring an all-wheel drive and you’re planning a winter trip, consider getting a cabin that is not far from the main road.
3. Bring your own drinking water
Many cabins in the Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg area use well water due to their remote locations.
This is par for the course, but it can affect the way the water tastes, smells and cleans.
For example, this means you might see a few more water spots on your dishes.
The laundry might not be quite as soft, and you might have a difficult time working up a soap lather. Also, water from the tap may taste a little different.
Consider bringing your own bottled, filtered or distilled drinking water.
Pack extra fabric softener if you plan on doing laundry and bring plenty of good conditioners and lotions for your skin and hair.
If you’re really sensitive to the way your water tastes (like my husband), you might want to consider bringing your own ice cube trays.
This brings me to my next point:
2. Bring basic supplies and extra snacks
While most cabins are fairly well stocked with the basics, there’s always that rare occasion where the property management company didn’t see a problem with leaving your 15-person crew with three rolls of toilet paper and a single travel-sized bottle of shampoo.
And if it snows – that’s all the more reason to be prepared. No one wants to be stranded in a snowstorm with zero supplies.
Our pre-cabin shopping list usually includes:
- Bottled water
- Travel soaps, shampoos and lotions
- Toilet paper
- Dish detergent (if you plan on cooking)
- Laundry detergent and fabric softener
- Food and snacks
Consider packing a small hairdryer as this is a rare commodity when it comes to cabin rentals.
Also, remember to bring a swimsuit if you plan on using any of the hot tubs. Most Gatlinburg cabins will offer a hot tub, but always check when making your reservation.
1. Watch out for black bears and other wild animals
While renting a cozy cabin in the mountains ain’t exactly anyone’s idea of “roughin’ it”, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s not uncommon to run into wildlife.
The two biggest troublemakers for cabin-goers are black bears and raccoons.
Both bears and raccoons have an excellent sense of smell and an ability to get into unattended cars, cabins and trash cans that would make Houdini jealous.
Keep your cars, cabins and trash cans locked up.
I’ve seen all too many guests forget to lock their cars and wake up and find that a bear has ransacked their car.
Even if you don’t keep food in your car, many bears have learned to associate cars with food.
Also, you’ll notice most cabins keep their outside trash cans behind lock and key at all times. This is for good reason. We don’t want the bears to associate humans with food.
And you generally want to keep your small pets indoors while at the cabin. You don’t want them being confused for prey.
Finally, if you do happen to see a bear, please keep your distance, avoid confrontation and do NOT feed them under any circumstance.
Feeding the bears is actually very dangerous for both the bears and yourself.
We hope this list will help you plan for your next trip to the Great Smoky Mountains.
What tips would you give to folks who are looking for their perfect cabin rental in Tennessee? Let us know in the comments!
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