Posted by Phil Rodgers in Wears Valley
Anyone who has ever spent any time in the Smokies knows that there are enough vacation destinations in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevierville to fill a lifetime's worth of travel. From great attractions and restaurants to unique shops and special events, there's something for every age, every interest and every budget.
But sometimes, it's nice to stray from the beaten path and explore some of the smaller and lesser-known points of interest when vacationing in East Tennessee. One community that's always worth visiting is Wears Valley, located about 11 miles from Pigeon Forge on U.S. Hwy. 321. For many travelers, Wears Valley strikes the perfect balance, offering lots of laid-back rural charm but with just enough points of interest to make you glad you went out of your way to go there.
Here are just a few of the places to go and things to do you might want to incorporate into a Wears Valley day trip:
Although Wears Valley sits about 1,454 feet above sea level, the community is essentially a gently rolling valley, surrounded by mountains. The most prominent of these is Cove Mountain, which watches over the town's southern border. The mountain itself reaches more than 4,000 feet above sea level, standing more than 2,000 feet above the valley floor. The impact is dramatic, and the views alone are worth this trip. If you're interested in an overnight stay, you'll find ample overnight rental options that give you the flexibility of either enjoying stunning views of Cove Mountain or staying on or near it.
The Metcalf Bottoms entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the better-kept secrets in the area. It makes the park easily accessible because it doesn't see even a fraction of the traffic that the park's other popular entrances receive. From U.S. 321 in Wears Valley, just turn onto Line Springs Rd. and follow it about a mile and a half directly to the national park entrance. From there, Wear Cove Gap Rd. will take you about another 1.5 miles to the Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area. There you can enjoy picnicking on the Little River and nearby hiking trails. The picnic area is also right on Little River Gorge Rd., one of the main east-west arteries through the national park. Points of interest like The Sinks, Meigs Falls, Townsend and Elkmont are easily reachable, only miles away.
There are several good eateries in Wears Valley, but one of the most popular is Elvira's Café. Weather you're going for breakfast or lunch, you're in for a treat, thanks to her lineup of crepes, pancakes and sandwiches, any of which would be a great pre-hike fuel-up or post-hike wind-down.
On the west end of Wears Valley, as you're headed out of town on the way to Townsend, you'll pass by this small church that's on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1902, it has been the center of community and religious life in the town for 120 years now. Legend has it that local residents chose that site for the chapel when a thunderbolt struck and destroyed an old oak tree on the hill where the chapel stands now. The location offers worshippers and visitors awesome views of both the valley and the mountains.
We're not technically in Wears Valley, but if you're driving that way from Pigeon Forge, you'll pass right by our roadside attraction. We're just shy of the halfway point between the two communities. We're known for the live goats that graze on the roof of our main building as well as other family-fun activities like an alpine coaster, gem mining attraction and general store. If you decide to make a day trip to Wears Valley starting in Pigeon Forge, be sure to stop by and say hello on your way out or on your way back in.