Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Many are familiar with this popular tourist location in the Great Smoky Mountains and for good reason. Its’ convenient location alone brings in millions of visitors every year who are looking to spend quality time with family in downtown Gatlinburg, Pidgeon Forge, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. If you have not yet visited Gatlinburg, or haven’t returned in over 20 years, I can tell you it is the very definition of a tourist attraction. Not that I’m bashing touristy locations, but two of the biggest things my husband and I wanted with this weekend honeymoon trip was (one) a little seclusion in the beautiful Smokies and (two) not to leave the weekend with an empty bank account. This is how we made the absolute most of our trip, enjoyed every minute, and traveled on a budget!
Before we left for our trip, I told my husband I wanted to plan the hiking and outdoor activities (the type A really comes out of me when I get to plan trips and pick out the best hikes), and all I wanted him to do was surprise me with a cute secluded cabin on Airbnb. Well, my husband definitely proved how well he knows me, but he also chose an Airbnb I will literally never forget! Not only was this off-grid cabin absolutely secluded, but both the drive and hike to find this place was wild. I really must show you some pictures before I can fully describe this experience.
Bare Bones Cabin
Now, what these pictures don’t show you, and what I neglected to take a picture of due to me freaking out in the car, was the drive in to this location. Most of the drive from the main road is on a windy path that is basically as wide as a one way street. Let me tell you, there were moments where I would have been scared if someone was coming from the other direction! But of course, my husband was not bothered, and I was bothered enough for the both of us. This is quite typical. When you get to the cabin’s drive way, you follow a winding path uphill and then down, to finally cross over a small stream and enter the designated parking area. At this point, your seclusion is apparent, and it is truly peaceful. There is a small camping spot next to the parking area and running stream, as well as a porta potty area that I did not use. After we take in the area and grab our belongings, we take the steep climb to our cabin.
The Bare Bones off-grid cabin is truly that – bare necessities and simple. There were solar panels, a small generator, a cute porch to sit and relax, and even an outdoor shower. It’s funny because in the moment it was honestly a little rough going – no bathroom (trust me that porta potty wasn’t happening), no AC, no running water, no fridge to store a few groceries, really just nothing. But the nothing is what made it so great, and I can tell you right now, again, I will NEVER forget that trip simply because of the cabin! Here is the link for anyone interested: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/20639330?s=67&sharer_id=34447274.
Our first night out, we decided to keep it simple and enjoy some of the the less touristy attractions in Gatlinburg, due in part to our late arrival. Right off the bat, our night led us straight to Ole Smoky Moonshine distillery. They had a bluegrass band playing outside between the distillery and the store, and there were sample stations available as we shopped.
In the end, we decided to buy a jar of Apple Pie Moonshine and Pumpkin Pie Moonshine, as well as a few stickers.
We decided to head back to the cabin to enjoy some moonshine on the porch and stare at the stars. This was when the darkness and seclusion became the most apparent. I will not lie to you guys, that first night we kept the gun right beside us. We also nicknamed the cabin Murder Cabin, but this is not based on anything in reality so please don’t think this is turning into a negative review. We were just a little disturbed when we realized the only door to the cabin did not close all the way, and this of course is the easiest moment for your brain to decide to remember all the true crime stories and horror movies it has ever seen. But we woke up safe and sound.
Smoky Mountains National Park
Saturday was when we really got to explore! This first full day is when we knew we wanted to steer clear of the touristy locations, save money by enjoying the outdoors, and truly feel the beauty of the mountains. After all my research, we decided to hike out to Andrew’s Bald and Clingmans Dome. Clingmans Dome is definitely a popular location, as the hike is little over a mile, and it is the highest point both in the Smoky Mountains and on the Appalachian Trail.
We decided to hike Clingmans Dome first since it was shorter. It was also completely uphill, so it was a good challenge to start off the day!
Once you get to the top, there is a huge ramp that takes you above the tree line; from there, the view is awesome, but I will admit I found the view from Andrew’s Bald more enjoyable. Maybe because there were less people around and no man made ramp to climb. The tower and ramp kind of take away the beauty of being immersed in the woods and enjoying a natural view.
I was excited to see a sign for the Appalachian Trail on the hike back down! How many thru-hikers and section hikers have come across this sign…
Andrew’s Bald Trail was definitely the more enjoyable of the two. At 3.5 miles, this trail had a lot of beautiful sights, completely immersed in green foliage, and the view at the end was worth the hike! Even though the trail head is located next to the popular Clingmans Dome, this is a great one to hike if you’re looking for a great view and doable within a couple of hours.
After our hiking adventure, we had a new adventure of sharing one bag of outdoor shower water at the cabin. Thank God we were secluded! If someone happened to come upon this sight in the middle of a huge clearing… I can’t even imagine how ridiculous we looked. We both had to balance ourselves on one thin piece of wood to keep from standing in the dirt. While one person held the shower bag as high as they could, the other had to simultaneously crouch down, soap up, and use the shower hose to rinse off as quickly as possible. Every drop of water was used in about 3 minutes. Surprisingly, I felt clean. Unsurprisingly, there is no picture for this.
Our second night on the town, we did splurge a little on a nice dinner and a couple of drinks, but afterward we enjoyed a nice walk and incredibly cheap mini golf before heading back to our cabin. We also slept with the gun incredibly close. Again.
Blue Ridge Parkway take us home!
The next morning was the first morning my husband has ever woken up before me, and the first words out of his mouth were “Let’s pack and get out of here.” As much as we love camping and roughing it, the uneasiness that came at night with a door that doesn’t close was enough. But I wouldn’t change our trip is any way. Completely unforgettable!
Before completely ending our trip, my husband wanted to visit one of the caves and do a quick tour. We decided on Tuckaleechee Caverns in Townsend, and it immediately proved to be worth the trip. The total cost for both tickets were between 20 and 25$, and the tour lasted between 1.5 to 2 hours. Well worth the visit for such a low price and quality tour!
We decided to take the Blue Ridge Parkway as a roundabout way home and stopped at a few overlooks and one waterfall. Our honeymoon weekend had come to an end, and we had successfully stayed in an off-grid cabin and enjoyed a weekend without excessive spending. A success in my book and another trip to keep in our memory book!
I hope you guys enjoyed this post! Please feel free to comment down below! Any suggestions on exciting hikes or adventures are welcome.