Townsend is a small city in Blount County, Tennessee, at the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. The area has been populated by Native American peoples for thousands of years. Townsend is known as one of the gateways to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The unfinished Fooothills Parkway crosses the northern Great Smoky Mountains foothills near Townsend. Little River that runs nearby is famous for great tubing on the rapids. The family-friendly tubing trips are offered by the River Rat Tubing company. The Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center preserves the culture and heritage of the folks living in the Great Smoky Mountains, the Native Americans, the pioneers and the Appalachian communities.


1.Foothills Parkway

Foothills Parkway
© bettys4240/stock.adobe.com

The Foothills Parkway crosses the northern Great Smoky Mountains foothills in East Tennessee, near the town of Townsend. The parkway is 72.1-miles long and it connects U.S. Route 129 that runs along the Little Tennessee River with Interstate 40 along the Pigeon River. Parts of the parkway pass through Blount, Sevier, and Cocke counties. Large segments cross a number of high ridges that run parallel to the border of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The views of the Great Smokies and the Tennessee Valley are spectacular. Foothills Parkway is the oldest highway project in Tennessee that has not been finished yet.

Townsend, Tennessee

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2.Smoky Mountain River Rat Tubing

Smoky Mountain River Rat Tubing
© Smoky Mountain River Rat Tubing


River Rat Tubing is a local business in Townsend, Tennessee, offering tubing excursions in the Smoky Mountains, family-friendly trips down the Little River and gear rental for tubing trips. They offer trips on both the upper and lower sections of the Little River. The lower section, together with the main outpost, are the family-friendly options with relaxing rapids, scenic views and even a few rock jumps. The lower part of the river is perfect for kids two years old and older and for newbies to tubing. The upper section of the Little River offers more of the “adventure float” with adrenaline-pumping rapids and cool swimming holes. This option is suitable for kids six years old and older. River Rat Tubing is located 15 miles from Pigeon Forge, 20 miles from Gatlinburg and nine miles from Cades Cove Scenic Loop in the Smoky Mountain National Park.

205 Wears Valley Rd, Townsend, TN 37882, Phone: 865-448-8888

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3.Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center

Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center
© Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center

The Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center is a private museum in Townsend, Tennessee, near the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The museum’s mission is to preserve the culture and heritage of the folks living in the Great Smoky Mountains, the Native Americans, the pioneers and the Appalachian communities. The center was officially opened in February 2006. The center has more than 17,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor exhibits. The outdoor area includes a number of structures from around the region, such as a log cabin, an AME Zion chapel, two cantilever barns, a logging town house, a sawmill and a still that was once operated by a local moonshiner. The indoor displays showcase tools, furniture and musical instruments and a collection of Cherokee and other Native American artifacts. Some of them are dating to the Archaic period (8000–2000 B.C.).

123 Cromwell Dr, Townsend, TN 37882, Phone: 865-448-0044

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4.Little River Railroad Museum

Little River Railroad Museum
© Little River Railroad Museum


Little River Railroad Museum is a small local museum preserving the logging and railroad heritage of the region around the town of Townsend, Tennessee, at the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. The museum is run by the Little River Railroad and Lumber Company, a non-profit corporation founded in 1982. The corporation’s goal is to preserve the heritage of the Little River Lumber Company and the Little River Railroad. The corporation was established by the Townsend-in-the-Smokies Chamber of Commerce. One of the main exhibits is the restored Shay engine that had been used in the logging operation. In addition, the depot at Walland was moved to Townsend to be a part of the museum. The Little River Railroad was established as a subsidiary of the Little River Lumber Company in 1901, primarily as a logging railroad.

7747 E Lamar Alexander Pkwy, Townsend, TN 37882, Phone: 865-661-0170

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5.Cades Cove Cellars

Cades Cove Cellars
© Cades Cove Cellars


Cades Cove Cellars is a family-owned and operated winery in the town of Townsend, Tennessee, at the base of the Smoky Mountains. The winery offers a variety of 16 wines for visitors to try. The area in the foothills of The Great Smoky Mountains is known as “the peaceful side of the Smokies”, and is the perfect setting for inspired winemaking. Free tastings of the wines are offered daily and there is no need for a reservation. There is a viewing area at the tasting room from which the visitors can observe the laboratory and tank room as well as see the bottling in operation. The gift shop has a selection of wine accessories, gifts, and crafts made by local artisans.

7126 E Lamar Alexander Pkwy, Townsend, TN 37882, Phone: 865-325-9463

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5 Best Things to Do in Townsend, TN