How to Spend 48-Hours in Townsend Tennessee (with an RV)

In this post I’ll walk you through reasons to visit Townsend, Tennessee as well as the tops things to do, where to eat and which campground to stay at in Townsend, Tennessee.

Plus, I’ll share a 48-hour itinerary to make the most out of your visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Townsend, Tennessee including the famous Cades Cove Loop.

If you’re looking for a weekend away, look no further than Townsend, Tennessee. Known as the peaceful side of the Great Smoky Mountains, you’ll find tons of activities and relaxation. 

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Reasons To Visit Townsend, TN

The “peaceful” side of the Great Smokies

It was in fact the peaceful side of the Great Smoky Mountains. Driving through the towns of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, you can’t help but get caught up in the traffic and extra people. But you never get that feeling in Townsend. 

Plenty To Do Outside of the National Park

There were plenty of activities to do outside of the national park. There was a bike ride through town, a river for rafting and paddle sports, local shopping, along with local riverwalk path. 

Location, Location, Location

The location was perfect for accessing the western side of Great Smoky Mountains, including the famous Cades Cove Road. We were minutes away from the entrance gate. Keep in mind the national park is quite big, so you’ll want to plan strategically here to stay based on which activities you want to do. 

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You’ll Have Everything You Need

Townsend has everything you need, especially if you stay for multiple days. We found it super convenient to have a major grocery store, laundry mat, multiple coffee shops, hardware store (for a quick camper repair), and car wash after a long road trip. 

Fun fact: The Smoky Mountain Bigfoot Festival happens in this area during May and was happening during our visit. There was bigfoot merch everywhere!

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Where We Stayed in Townsend (We Loved this Campground!)

During our visit, we stayed in Mountaineer Campground. This was the perfect place for us to stay to get away from the crowds and had everything we needed. 

There is a charming creek behind the campground which you can access next to site #12 and site #23. We took our puppies down to the water multiple times and really enjoyed listening to the babbling water go by. 

Mountaineer Campground’s Picnic Table area with a ping pong table that was so much fun!
Mountaineer Campground also had this adorable public fireplace and would load it with wood every night.

We did sneak over a bit towards the end of the campground line and set up our chairs. We’re not totally sure if this is allowed so use your discretion and of course be respectful if anyone tells you to move. 

The campground also had a pool that looked very clean, although it wasn’t open in the early weeks of May when we visited. 

One of the beautiful tunnels in the Great Smoky National Park

The sites had both full hook-ups for RVs and cabins. Be aware that the hookups were a bit low to the ground, our electricity tripped a few times, and you’ll need 2 sewer hoses because it’s located at the front of the campsite. But we still highly recommend the campground! 

As a bonus, you could see beautiful sunsets each night and there’s a ice cream stand right next door! 

They also had an adorable pavilion with a ping pong table, which I have to admit, was a blast! 

If you’re looking for a quiet campground, Mountaineer is a great choice. But there isn’t a huge number of amenities, so just be aware. 

Best Things to Do Around Townsend, Tennessee

Visit the Great Smoky Mountain National Park

This one is obvious, because it’s most likely why you’re staying in the area in the first place.

  1. Clingman’s Dome  – if you visit before lunch time you shouldn’t have a problem finding parking. This hike is steep but doable for the average person. 
  2. Bike Cade’s Cove road. There are no cars allowed on Wednesdays so pack up your bike and head out for the 11 miles of paved biking. Keep your eyes out for wildlife, especially black bear! We saw two while biking. 
  3. Look for Elk in the Cataloochee Valley. This is a long drive from the campground, but worth it! We saw at least 20 elk. 
  4. Hike Abram Falls trail down to a pretty, albeit crowded, waterfall. We saw a bear while on the trail! 

Visit Nearby Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge

We opted to only pass through these towns but if your party is interested in shopping, shows, and activities like mini golfing, go karts, or obstacle courses, this is your place. 

Bike through Townsend, Tennessee

This was one of my favorite things we did. We biked from our campground to the Apple Valley Store and Cafe and stopped along at the Visitor’s Center, a swinging bridge behind the IGA grocery store, a riverwalk, and the Artisan Bean coffee shop. 

We saw at least 20 Elk within Cataloochee Valley. This photo was taken right as we were leaving the area. You can’t tell but he was standing completely still and staring at a female elk in the woods across the way. We waited for 10 minutes while they had a staring contest.
A black bear on the Abram Falls Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This was by far one of the coolest travel experiences we’ve had so far.

Best Places to Eat in Townsend, TN

We were pleasantly surprised by the food selection in Townsend. We found multiple coffee shops and plenty of restaurants to choose from. Here are our favorites!

Peaceful Side Social

I really enjoyed this place. The sauces on the sandwiches were surprisingly good and I loved the atmosphere of this eatery. The smoked trout sandwich was delicious! Also, you need to get the pretzel with beer cheese. 

Trailhead Trout & Steak

This restaurant had a true local feel. The atmosphere was very cozy and family style. We enjoyed our rainbow trout and country fried steak. 

You could tell this was truly a local restaurant with the friendliest staff!

Artisan Bean Coffee Shop

This was a spontaneous stop. It’s conveniently located right next to a laundry mat, car wash, and hardware store. Their selections were delicious! Ben picked up some local ground coffee and I loved their artistic environment. 

Wears Valley Social Food Trucks

Located in Sevierville, TN, this is the cutest food truck scene. Highly recommend sampling each food truck’s menu. It’s my understanding the food trucks come and go so you’ll have to see who is there when you arrive! 

We decided to do a small sampling of each truck and do an appetizer from two of them, a main dish from another, and finally a dessert from the 4th. DELICIOUS! They have a wonderfully inviting atmosphere with the mountain scenery and the picnic table settings. Definitely would recommend!

If You Only Have 48 Hours in Townsend, Tennessee (with an RV)

Here’s what we would recommend if you only have 48 hours in the Townsend, Tennessee area. 

Friday Afternoon and Evening

Check into your accommodation or campground. Although we recommend the Mountaineer Campground, the Little Arrow Camping Resort and the Big Meadow Family Campgrounds looked great too! 

Mountaineer Campground (around $70/night)

Little Arrow Camping Resort (around $95/night)

Big Meadow Family Campground (around $80-$110/night)

Don’t forget to stop at the local IGA grocery store for snacks for tomorrow’s adventure!

Peaceful Side Social

Once you’re all checked in and refreshed, head to the Peaceful Side Social for dinner. 

They have great outdoor seating and a delicious local menu. I highly recommend the Smoked Trout + Avocado sandwich and you have to try the Pretzel + Beer Cheese – yum! 

Don’t forget to stop by the local IGA grocery store for some snacks for tomorrow’s adventure. 

Saturday in Townsend, Tennessee

I hope you had a good night’s sleep because this day is going to be full of adventure!

Start your day off with an early morning drive through Great Smoky National Park. 

Entrance into the national park is free however you will need to pay to park. 

Passes cost $5 per day, $15 per week, or $40 annually. You can purchase the parking pass ahead of time here

Drive or Bike Cades Cove Loop Road in Great Smoky National Park

Take advantage of low traffic in the early morning and head for Cade’s Cove Loop. 

Cades Cove Loop is just 11 miles long but gives the best chance for seeing wildlife within the park, especially black bears. 

I’d recommend getting on the road as early as you can because by 10 the traffic in the park will pick up. 

Did you know there are 1900 black bears within Great Smoky Mountain National Park?? We saw 11 while we were visiting!

I highly recommend bringing binoculars, sometimes the bears are far off and it’s hard to see.

Cades Cove Loop in the early morning hours…get there early to beat the crowds!

Hike Abram Falls Trail

If you’re feeling up for a hike, take the 2.5 miles (one way) to the Abram Falls waterfall. We even saw a bear while we were hiking! 

A few tips if you encounter a bear:

  1. Don’t run away. (A young woman started running away from the bear we saw. Don’t do this. It will think you’re food). 
  2. Don’t get closer. 
  3. Talk loudly. 
  4. Don’t feed or try to pet the bear. Bears don’t like that. 

Another tip for this trail is to avoid the bathrooms. I’m not sure why but this trailhead bathroom was beyond yucky. 

Bonus: Hike Clingman’s Dome

If you’re still up for an adventure after the Abram Falls Trail hike you could venture over to Clingman’s Dome. About an hour and a half away, this drive will take you through the park and along gorgeous scenery. The trail is only 1.3 miles but it’s quite steep.

I may have had to take a few breaks…it was steep but so worth it!

Dinner at Wears Valley Social Food Trucks

On the way back from Clingman’s Dome, head for dinner at Wears Valley Social Food Trucks. This was such a pleasant find. We made sure to sample a dish from each truck and had the most delicious cannoli.

Wears Valley Social Food Trucks

Sunday Morning and Afternoon in Townsend, Tennessee

Artisan Bean Coffee Shop + Townsend Bike Ride/Walk

Start your final day in Townsend with a tasty treat from Artisan Bean. Their chai tea was delicious! They also have a selection of organic, fair trade whole beans that you can ask to be ground on site. And the staff was super friendly – a must visit!

If you’re feeling up for one more adventure, there is no better way to see this charming town then to take a bike ride along State Highway 73. 

I would recommend the Townsend Bicycle Trail. If you’re staying at the Mountaineer Campground, you can connect to the trail across the street. 

You could also start at the Visitors Center and follow the path going left or right. 

Townsend Bike Ride

We rode from the Mountaineer Campground to the Apple Valley General Store. This was such an adorable store, full of local souvenirs. We picked up a few goodies for our nieces there! 

*Bring a backpack so you can carry all of your goodies back to your accommodation.

There you have it! A weekend in Townsend, Tennessee will be memorable for sure!

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Happy traveling, 

Kendra