Tennessee is well-loved for its southern charm, but its idyllic scenery is not something to forget. Though land surrounds the state, it is full of rushing rivers and waterways with a diverse landscape. It is the stomping ground of many famous musicians, including Elvis, Dolly Parton, and Aretha Franklin, making it a great vacation for music lovers.
While the state is most well known for the hustle and bustle of Nashville, its many picturesque small towns are worth the visit. They each boast beautiful landscapes, ranging from mountain valleys of the Great Smoky Mountains, over 10,000 caves, and vibrant cityscapes. Learn about the 12 most picturesque small towns in Tennessee to decide where you will visit next.
Located on the Tennessee River, Knoxville offers a beautiful downtown area labeled the Market Square, which features gorgeous 19th-century buildings home to exciting boutiques and restaurants. Knoxville brands itself a "nature-loving-adventure-seeking-artsy-kinda-town," offering numerous cultural and outdoor attractions. The town sits in the Great Appalachian Valley, a sub-range of the Appalachian Mountains, boasting a captivating view of the mountainscape.
When visiting Knoxville, you will find historical town tours, treetop trekking, and an enchanting urban wilderness. There are many biking and hiking trails to take in the scenery, and you can paddle along the river, enjoying the beautiful cityscape at all hours of the day. Rock climbing, camping, and golfing are other popular activities in the area.
Maryville has a rich history, being a center of abolitionist activity in the 19th century and experiencing liberation in May 1864. It sits at the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, ideal for hiking trips and visiting the national park. It is also home to the Sam Houston Schoolhouse, which earns the title of a historic site as the oldest schoolhouse in Tennessee.
The Bicentennial Greenbelt Park was originally brought to life to reduce the pollution in the area, bringing plant and animal life back into the town. Enjoy the beauty of the Blue Goose Vineyards along with a glass of wine, choosing from 13 award-winning labels. Visit the Capitol Theatre or Palace Theatre, two older, historic buildings that provide entertainment and shows.
A site of the gold rush during the 1800s, Tellico Plains is home to Coker Creek which is a great place to spend an afternoon enjoying the gold-panning attraction and souvenir shop. Visitors can also explore the nearby gold mines, which were popular during the Gold Rush, and the hillsides.
Situated near the Cherokee National Forest and the Smoky Mountains, Tellico Plains boasts beautiful forests and waterfall views, including the Bald River Falls. There are mountain view log cabin rentals available, ideal for enjoying the excitement and adventure of the great outdoors.
The Tellico River is another spot to visit, perfect for fishing, canoeing, camping, and scenic drives. It is now recognized as a premium trout stream in the beautiful Cherokee National Forest.
The Cherokee National Forest surrounds the town of Erwin, providing a flawless view of the encapsulating Buffalo Mountain, Rich Mountain, and the Unaka Mountains. The Appalachian Trail is nearby, perfect for anyone looking to hike or cycle to lookout points and enjoy the wooded area. The trail reaches several unique spots, including the Nolichucky Gorge, Unaka Springs, and "Moaning Rock."
Erwin offers numerous cabin getaways, which are still secluded yet close to many amenities, boasting access to rivers, orchards, and state parks. The 522,427-acre Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers solitude along many of its hiking trails, as well as views of Cades Cove loop and Abrams Falls.
A mountain town in eastern Tennessee, Gatlinburg offers easy access to and beautiful views of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A Space Needle observation tower provides panoramic views of the cityscape. Also, the downtown area offers a Sky Lift, a 2.1-mile aerial cable car that travels over the beauty of the town.
You will find breathtaking views no matter where you go in Gatlinburg, whether you wander along the Appalachian Trail, walk through fields of colorful wildflowers, or enjoy the rushing waters of one of the many waterfalls. The town offers something to do year-round, with numerous campgrounds and lodgings, as well as fishing opportunities, hiking and biking trails, and places to bird-watch and horseback ride.
Leipers Fork sits along the Natchez Trace Parkway and earns a spot on the list of National Register of Historic Places because it is a historic district. The downtown area is beautifully decorated with a range of restaurants, cafes, boutiques, and theatres. The distillery in the town is the best spot to sample Tennessee whiskey, and the area itself is an excellent spot for a photo op, decorated with wooden beams and surrounded by rolling hills.
The town is home to numerous events and festivals, ideal for adding an exciting touch to your scenic trip. Events include music festivals, turkey shoots in November, and model airplane competitions in the fall. The town is about 20 minutes from Nashville, making it the best spot for a day trip to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.
Cosby sits right at the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. In the early 20th century, the town earned the name "The Moonshine Capital of the World," as it was one of the top liquor producers during the time Tennessee outlawed alcohol. The beautiful homes and architecture of the area add to the appeal.
There are "glamping" locations in Cosby, ideal for enjoying the serenity of nature in style, with options ranging from fabulous campers to fanciful treehouses. The remote, mountain-town atmosphere offers plenty of beautiful scenes, including the historic Whitson's Fort on the Big Pigeon River. There are many boutiques and restaurants to enjoy in the area, perfect for indulging in the small-town charm.
Though it is small, Wears Valley boasts endless activities to enjoy in the great outdoors. It sits just outside Pigeon Forge and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The town is in a Valley called Wear Cove, offering a beautiful view of Cove Mountain, especially during autumn. There are numerous cabins to visit to extend your stay, enjoying the serenity of the area.
Wears Valley also boasts access to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park via the Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area. The picnic area has a spot on the Little River, which offers several hiking trails and visits to plenty of historic buildings. There are also mountain roller coasters built into the mountainscape for a unique view, as well as zip lines and horseback riding opportunities.
Rogersville is home to the oldest courthouse, inn, and post office in Tennessee, earning it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. It is also the birthplace of the state's first newspaper, "The Knoxville Gazette." The main street is a popular destination because it offers plenty of unique restaurants and trendy cafes, though historic charm covers the entire place.
There are lots of festivals and events in the area, including "Cruise-In On The Square," an exciting car show, and Civil War reenactments. If you want to extend your stay in the gorgeous downtown area, there are a few different hotels and inns offering relaxation and comfort.
Pigeon Forge is a gorgeous mountain town and is home to Dollywood, which is Dolly Parton's Appalachian-themed park. It is also known for the Smoky Mountain Opry, though the town boasts more than musical attractions. The Smoky Mountains offer endless beauty to discover, ranging from vast hiking trails to gorgeous waterscapes and wildlife.
Pigeon Forge offers numerous family-friendly outdoor activities, including mini golf, go-karting, and scenic city parks. The waterways are ideal for whitewater rafting, canoeing, fishing, and more. You will find different events year-round, ranging from car shows to food festivals and concerts. Check out one of the many cabins or chalets, or even head towards one of the campgrounds to extend your stay in the picturesque mountain town.
Known as the birthplace of Jack Daniel's whiskey, Lynchburg sits in a valley forged by the East Fork Mulberry Creek. Though the county itself is dry, you can still enjoy a drink in the distillery. The Cave Spring Hollow, part of the Jack Daniels Distillery tour, is a beautiful and interestingly functional place, as it is the source of all the water for the whiskey.
The Historic Lynchburg Square is home to gorgeous restored buildings, now restaurants and boutiques, and a Courthouse that was originally built in 1885. The Moore County Old Jail Museum is another interesting stop, housed in an old red brick building. While you are in town, go for a scenic drive down the serene roads, enjoying the rolling hills and old homes and churches.
Ideal for a girl's getaway or a family vacation, Sevierville is one of the best-hidden gems in Tennessee. The town boasts numerous postcard-worthy murals and a statue of its most famous resident, Dolly Parton. Take in the area's beauty with a hike through the Smoky Mountains, enjoying the crisp air and colorful landscape. There are many rivers flowing through the national park, ideal for a quick dip or fishing trip.
When in Sevierville, the Forbidden Caverns are a must. They consist of a vast underground cave system featuring unique calcite formations. Other outdoor adventures include whitewater rafting, golfing, paddling through the Little Pigeon River, skydiving, and scenic helicopter tours.
Tennessee Towns Worth A Visit
Tennessee is brimming with delightfully charming and picturesque small towns. They each boast their own beauty, from unique and historic infrastructures to lookout points and flowing rivers. If you are searching for a place to enjoy a day trip or spend a week exploring, these small towns have something for everyone. From wine tours and active adventures, you will find plenty of enjoyment and idyllic scenery in these Tennessee towns.