Most Common Mistakes People Make When Renting a Cabin

large cabin in the smoky mountains

(photo by Morgan Overholt/

What not to do when you rent a cabin in the Smoky Mountains

There are a lot of factors you want to consider when you book a cabin in the Smoky Mountains. For example, you’ll want to make sure you book at a good price, get a good view and find a convenient location. But have you ever considered what NOT to do when renting a cabin? As someone who grew up close to the mountains and frequently rents cabins for friends and family gatherings, here are a few things I recommend:

When you’re renting a cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains, there are definitely a few key things you want to avoid. As someone who grew up in the mountains, I’ve rented cabins several times for family and friends. The most important things to do include locking up your cars and trash as well as being aware of the black bears. There are also a few important considerations to make when selecting your cabin rental.

1. Don’t play with the bears

It’s not uncommon to spot a black bear when you’re renting a cabin in the Smoky Mountains. True story: One time my sister was casually video-calling us from a back porch in the Smokies, and we had to warn her of a black bear approaching behind her. Fortunately, the bear didn’t care about her. Still, she slowly backed away and went inside until the bear wandered off, as bears typically do. But bears don’t need to be too comfortable with humans. It’s best for both of us if we keep a safe distance. Not only is it for the best, it’s the law.

Sleeping Bear Cub With Feeder on His Head Awaits the Feeder Removal
Trash is dangerous for bears. This bear spent two months with a pet feeder on its head (photo courtesy of the TWRA)

2. Don’t leave trash or doors unlocked

Speaking of bears, most of the rentals in the Smoky Mountains will (or should) have a locked outdoor garbage can. Use the lock. The lock is your friend. Black bears (and other critters) love getting into the garbage, and it happens all too frequently. It’s bad for them, and bad for us humans, too.

While you’re at it, be sure to lock your cabin door and car doors too. Black bears are smart creatures, and they are smart enough to know that we humans like to leave food in our cars. Even if you do not leave food in your car, unfortunately, the bears have learned to look in cars for food. Plus, they have gotten quite good at opening the car doors.

3. Don’t get scammed

Asking your friends for vacation tips is good. Asking strangers is … not. Sadly, I’ve heard a horror story or two where someone asks about a cabin on social media and ends up getting scammed. Be careful about giving away personal information to people on the internet. If anyone wants you to pay for a rental with a pre-paid card, that’s a red flag. Book with reputable sources, like VRBO or go directly to the source.

groceries sitting on doorstep
You can have some basic supplies delivered in some cabin locations (photo by Alaina O’Neal/

4. Don’t arrive empty-handed

It’s smart to bring some basic necessities when you venture up into the mountains. This is especially true if you’re traveling in the winter. One Christmas, several folks were caught off-guard by a winter storm and did not have enough supplies. You don’t need to panic or over-supply your rental cabinets, but it’s smart to bring some snacks. I recommend bringing some water, non-perishable foods and maybe even a power supply, just in case.

5. Don’t bring a two-wheel drive (in the winter)

If you’re somewhere that’s not too far off the main strip, a two-wheel drive is probably fine. But if your cabin rental mentions anything about any steep inclines, they probably aren’t exaggerating. I’ve seen driveways at cabins in the Smokies that I wouldn’t want to tackle on a dry, sunny day, and certainly never in any wet or icy weather. If available, opt for an all-wheel drive if you have the option to do so.

6. Don’t discount someone’s fear of heights

Some people are afraid of heights. And the mountains can be pretty high up on some frightening roads. For example, my mom refuses to drive on some roads around the Smoky Mountains. And unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot you can do about it if you book a cabin that is way up on the mountain and someone in your party is scared of heights. It’s something you’ll want to consider when selecting your cabin.

7. Don’t break the rules

Read the rules when you book your cabin and remember to obey them. Cabin owners will often have outdoor security cameras. They will look for rule-breakers, whether you’re bringing your pup to a cabin that’s not pet friendly or trying to sneak in extra guests. These rule breaks can, and will, incur extra fees.

Renting a cabin in the Smoky Mountains isn’t necessarily cheap. Owning one isn’t cheap, either. It should go without saying, but remember to treat the property with respect. Owners will fine you for damage, and you will lose your security deposit. No one wants to ruin a perfectly good getaway in the mountains with extra fees and damaged property.

Subscribe to our newsletter for area news, coupons and discounts

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Please wait...

Thank you for sign up!

What are things YOU would recommend not to do when renting a cabin in Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg, Tennessee? Comment below. And if you’re planning a trip to the Smoky Mountains, be sure to check out this coupons page.

Have a question or comment about something in this article? Contact our staff here. You may also contact our editorial team at


Disclosure: We have used and experienced all the products and activities recommended on The Smokies. We may receive compensation when you click on links to some products and experiences featured.

2 thoughts on “Most Common Mistakes People Make When Renting a Cabin”

  1. We would like to rent a really nice one bedroom cabin in Gatlinburg – pet friendly. We would like relative isolation and a good view. Our projected date is around March 15, for 4 or 5 days. We have rented from Mama Bug’s before, and have not been disappointed.
    Thanks for your input!!

  2. Me and my mom are looking for a one bedroom cabin pet friendly for may10-14, 2021. Nothing fancy but something comfortable .


Leave a Comment