Every year, millions of visitors stream into Great Smoky Mountains National Park for hiking, fishing, rafting, skiing, or simply taking in the breathtaking views. The popular mountain destination has far more rustic inns and cabins than true luxury properties, but travelers wanting a more upscale stay would do well at these three hotel picks.
The Lodge at Buckberry Creek is an Adirondack-style escape set on a secluded mountain road, an easy drive (via the Gatlinburg Bypass) to downtown Gatlinburg and nearby Pigeon Forge. Unfortunately, the luxury property was impacted by the 2016 Great Smoky Mountains wildfires. One building was left in tact, and the lodge plans to rebuild the structures that were lost to the fires. As of summer 2017, the lodge is accepting reservations.
The 145-room Inn at Christmas Place is an upper-middle-range hotel with a year-round Christmas theme and distinctive Bavarian style that puts it on a different level from other local hotels. Air-conditioned rooms feature microwaves, mini-fridges, coffeemakers, flat-screen TVs, and DVD players. Sleep in Heavenly Peace mattresses receive fantastic reviews from past guests. Additionally, some rooms have fireplaces, granite countertops, and furnished balconies with mountain or garden views. Suites offer multiple bathrooms and fully-equipped kitchens with breakfast bars and stainless steel appliances like Keurig coffeemakers, dishwashers, full-size refrigerators, and ranges. The Inn's outdoor seasonal pool includes a splash pad and waterslide for kids. Indoors, the hot tub and pool are open year round.
The Bearskin Lodge is located right across the street from the entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with hiking trails that start practically at its doorstep. In the 140 rooms, contemporary decor is accented with rustic touches like forest-print wallpaper and log furniture. All of the large rooms have sitting areas, mini-fridges, coffeemakers, flat-screen TVs, and free Wi-Fi. Many have corner gas fireplaces, and some have in-room whirlpools (spa rooms have whirlpools in the bathrooms). 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.