As a runner residing in the North Georgia foothills, I am no stranger to hill work. It’s difficult to plan a route of more than a mile or two without some elevation gain. That being said, sometimes you just need a relatively flat place to run, especially when you’re on vacation in the mountains. Of course, there is no shortage of hills and tricky terrain in and around the Great Smoky Mountains. Recently, we stayed in a cabin situated at the top of a hill that provided an excellent opportunity for hill work. However, it was not a great place for a long or even moderate-distance run. Enter the Pigeon Forge Greenway.
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How long is the Pigeon Forge Greenway?
According to the city website, the Pigeon Forge Greenway system includes “over six miles of trails”. Like many Greenways, it consists of a combination of sidewalks and trails that connect existing trails in several of the area’s parks. Also, there are plans to connect different sections of trails to increase the length of the Greenway even further.
The main section of the existing 4-mile Greenway has three components.
The first is the Old City Park Loop. This paved loop is accessible from the Pigeon Forge Municipal Complex, which includes the public library, trolley depot, public pool, tennis and pickleball courts, playground and Pigeon Forge community center. The second component is the paved loop surrounding Patriot Park. This transportation hub has plenty of parking early in the morning but can fill up later in the day. It’s a popular spot for offsite Dollywood parking close to the Old Mill Historic District. The paved loop surrounding the park is approximately 0.5 miles. The third component of the Pigeon Forge Greenway system is the City’s Riverwalk nature trail. It connects Patriot Park and City Park while following the west prong of the Little Pigeon River.
The Riverwalk Greenway is about 2.5 miles long, and it’s easily the most beautiful section of the Greenway.
Additional sections of the Greenway
Importantly, there is another existing section of the Greenway system that I did not have a chance to explore. On the side of the City Park loop near Pigeon Forge high school, there is a small bridge that connects to a fourth Greenway component: Wear Farm Greenway. This park adds 1.1 miles to the Greenway system. Wear Farm City Park is home to a baseball complex and would be another good parking option. I also noticed some construction work between the KOA campsite and the river at the southeast corner of the park. According to the map key posted along the Greenway, this is a section of the proposed Greenway that will continue alongside the river past the Gatlinburg Golf Course and Dolly’s Stampede.
Where can I park at the Pigeon Forge Greenway?
I parked near the tennis courts at the Pigeon Forge Community Center. I also parked at Patriot Park, but I think there are more likely to be available spots at the Community Center. On busy days at Dollywood, I could see the Patriot Park lot filling up.
Greenway parking near The Island
You can also park at The Island if you don’t mind starting in the middle. On the side of The Island, there is a massive parking lot. This would be another good option for parking if you don’t mind starting in the middle. There’s also a trolley stop here and at several points along the Greenway system. This makes it possible to make use of the trolley system when accessing the Greenway. The path continues along the river past the LeConte Center and to Patriot Park.
I turned around at this point and headed back down the Riverwalk Greenway. At the time, I didn’t have a firm sense of the different Greenway components and did not realize that the Patriot Park loop would’ve only added 0.5 miles to my run. And, I saw some herons on the return trip and navigated The Island with no problems. When I arrived back at my minivan, I noticed there were several people playing pickleball at the Community Center. I also ran slightly faster than my average easy run pace thanks to the pleasant absence of uneven terrain.
Can you run a 5K on the Pigeon Forge Greenway?
Yes, there’s plenty of trail for a 5K on the Pigeon Forge Greenway. On one of my runs, I started at Patriot Park and ran counterclockwise around the loop before heading down the Riverwalk Greenway. I turned around at The Island and completed my 5K just before arriving back at Patriot Park.
My experience on the Pigeon Forge Greenway, tips for other runners
I was there on a Friday and Saturday in June fairly early in the morning. On that day, there were walkers pushing baby strollers, a few cyclists, couples walking a dog or two and also a father and son fishing. I also saw a couple of huge herons take flight from the river near the LeConte Convention Center. Overall, it’s a popular spot for geese to hang out along the riverbank. For this reason, I would strongly recommend against wearing white running shoes if you plan to include this loop on your route.
My first run on the Pigeon Forge Greenway was a 10K. I parked at the Community Center and ran counterclockwise around the one-mile loop before taking a right and heading down the beautiful Riverwalk Greenway. That trail crosses under the Parkway near MagiQuest. This allows pedestrians to avoid a traffic crossing, which is a convenient safety feature.
I noticed that there are several hotels situated along the river with easy Greenway access in this area. I also recognized the backside of some iconic Pigeon Forge attractions like The Track and The Comedy Barn. After about a mile, I arrived at The Island. Thankfully, I had just been passed by a fellow runner moving slightly faster than me. I followed her as she took a left across a couple of bridges and continued on the trail. I was glad to have had someone to follow because I found the commercial section between the island bridges a bit confusing and not well-marked. It would be easy to make a wrong turn at this juncture, but once you know where you’re going, you’ll be okay.
Have you visited the Pigeon Forge Greenway? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!