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Bearskin Lodge on the River Hotel 3.0

Gatlinburg, Sevier County, Tennessee

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The Bearskin Lodge's location right outside the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park distinguishes it somewhat from other hotels in the Gatlinburg area, and means it's slightly quieter than hotels right on the main strip. There are even hiking trails that start practically at the hotel's doorstep. The outdoor pool and lazy river, while they might attract families, are small and crowded. Many of the "mountain stream views" offer little more than views across to another hotel's balconies, with the stream largely out of sight in the narrow ground below. On the plus side, most of the large rooms have gas fireplaces and whirlpools (either in-room or in the bathroom), making them cozy spots for couples. The nearby Old Creek Lodge isn't right on the Smoky Mountain hiking trails, but it has the same decor (due to the same owners), with better views and slightly lower rates.

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Huge wooden beams, taxidermy, and rustic log furniture

The 140-room hotel takes its name from an old Gatlinburg hotel from the early 1900s that stood on the same plot as the current Bearskin Lodge. The mountain craft-style decor is typical of the area, with rough-hewn stone work, exposed wooden beams, and rustic log furnishings. The typical taxidermy wildlife specimens (including bears, of course) adorn the walls and mantles with floor-to-ceiling windows brighten the small lobby's otherwise dark palette. Though views of the nearby stream can be lackluster, the pleasant sound of birds and running water provide the hotel's natural soundtrack.


Southern end of Gatlinburg, right outside the park entrance

Gatlinburg is a resort town in the heart of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, known for its mountain views, hiking, fishing, rafting, and skiing. The Bearskin Lodge is on River Road at the edge of Gatlinburg's tourist area with other hotels, restaurants, and some shopping within walking distance. It's also right across the street from the entrance of the national park (at the base of Ski Mountain road), and some of the area's hiking trails. Other nearby attractions within walking distance include the Ober Gatlinburg Tram, the Space Needle, and Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies. Dollywood theme park is about a 25-minute drive, and Knoxville is an hour's drive. Expect at least a three-and-a-half-hour drive to Nashville.


Large rooms; some have balconies, gas fireplaces, and/or whirlpools

The contemporary decor is accented with such rustic mountain touches as forest print wallpaper and crafted log furniture, giving the rooms a bit of regional character. All the large rooms have sitting areas with tables and chairs, as well as a living room chair and ottoman. Many have gas fireplaces set in the corner, and some have in-room whirlpools (spa rooms have whirlpools in the bathrooms). Separate sink and vanity areas make the small bathrooms in the standard rooms, with just toilets and dated shower/tub combos, feel even smaller. The vanity area is cramped too, doubling not only as the room's entire closet space but as the space for the coffeemaker and mini-fridge. Most rooms have private balconies, but some of the mountain stream views offered aren't worth the up-charge -- the stream is visible only by looking straight down -- the actual view is of another hotel and its balconies. All rooms have coffeemakers, flat-screen TVs, and free Wi-Fi.


Outdoor pool, lazy river, extensive continental breakfast, and free parking add to value.

For hikers and tourists taking in the great outdoors, the Bearskin Lodge's proximity to the entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is its stand-out feature, and the hotel also provides easy access to the beginning of the Gatlinburg Trail (one of the few that allows pets). In contrast to the miles of mountain trails, the hotel's common spaces feel cramped. The small pool and tiny lazy river make crowding a problem, and they are situated next to the road with a view of fast-food restaurants. Two small outdoor fire pits add to the ambience and provide nice spots to warm up after a dip. Inside the lobby, free cookies, coffee, and lemonade are set out on a small table every day. The free continental breakfast has the usual fare, plus such hot items as biscuits and gravy and waffles (there's self-serve waffle makers), but the breakfast room is far too small for the number of guests. The fitness center is so tiny it's hard to use or move around in if other guests are using it at the same time. Free HBO, Wi-Fi, and secure parking are included in the room rate.

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840 River Rd, Gatlinburg, Tennessee 37738-3133, United States

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