Just about every hotel in the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge/Sevierville area in the Smoky Mountains has a pool of some sort, often a 24-hour indoor pool with a hot tub, an outdoor pool with a slide, or both. Many properties even have fun aquatic extras, like splash pads, lazy rivers, and waterfalls. But these five properties take their pool game to the next level, offering elaborate water complexes packed (or should we say drenched?) with geyser-jetted zero-entry pools, interactive playgrounds with 300-gallon buckets, and waterslides so extreme, they merit names like The Wall, Wild Vortex, and Cyclone Race.
The kid-friendly Wilderness at the Smokies is the largest water park resort in Tennessee. Modeled after the huge water parks in the Wisconsin Dells (and owned by the same family company that operates many of them), Wilderness at the Smokies Resort is the mountain-themed cousin of those Midwestern mega-resorts, and includes three free water parks and a massive adventure center (accessed with a fee). The two outdoor parks are seasonal, and feature pools, 150-foot waterslides, four-story interactive play structures, inner-tube slides, a wave pool, and a vertical-drop water ride. The 66,000-square-foot indoor water park is open year-round and has even more ambitious features, like a 450-foot-long enclosed looping waterslide, a five-story rafting ride, a huge wave pool, and a surf rider. Wilderness also offers cabana rentals, towel service, lockers, and poolside snack bars.
The size and scope of this time-share resort set it apart from most other hotels in the area. The attached Wild Bear Falls Waterpark -- open year round -- makes Westgate especially attractive to families, but, unlike Wilderness at the Smokies, park admission is not included in either the room rate or the resort fee. The mountain-themed water park is also open to the public, so guests may have to compete with other tourists for the giant waterslides. However, the complex totals 60,000 square feet of pools, grotto hot tubs, waterslides, interactive playgrounds (including a treehouse structure with a 300-gallon bucket), a tube slide ride, and a 900-foot lazy river. There are two other heated outdoor pools, both of which have sundecks/lounge areas and small hot tubs. Note that Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort was tragically impacted by the 2016 Great Smoky Mountains wildfires. At the time of this writing, the hotel is open and in the process of rebuilding affected areas.
The 158-room Resort at Governor’s Crossing is a condo-style property with a lively atmosphere. The vast majority of guests here are families booking rooms for access to the indoor and outdoor water parks -- which include five pools, two hot tubs, waterslides, a sauna, and a 250-foot lazy river between them. The indoor pool has a mushroom-shaped fountain, water volleyball area, a small splash pad, and two waterslides, while the outdoor pool has a shooting and mushroom-shaped fountains, a hot tub, and a waterslide. Free lifejackets are provided for children. The outdoor water park is only open seasonally, but the hotel has other kid-friendly features, like an indoor game room, playground with a pirate slip, and nine-hole mini-golf.
The family-owned Music Road Hotel in Pigeon Forge is conveniently located right near the main Parkway. Its billing of its large outdoor pool as a water park is a bit far, but the pool does have more extensive features than the average area hotel, including a 60-foot waterslide, lazy river, and a deep end with a diving board. There is also a more subdued indoor pool, open 24 hours. Guests also have access to the amenities across the street at Music Road Inn, which include an outdoor pool with waterslide, lazy river, and kids' pool.
Holiday Inn Club Vacations Gatlinburg Smoky Mountains is a condo-style property that stands out for its on- and off-site activities, like free kids' fishing trips, free bird shows, and tubing adventures with lunch (fee). The outdoor pool has a large sundeck with umbrella-covered tables and lounge chairs, a hot tub, and a fire pit, and in 2016, the hotel opened a small indoor water park, with twisty slides, water squirters, and bucket dumps.