While larger cities like Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg tend to get the lion’s share of visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains, Cosby, Tennessee, deserves some laurels of its own. This town has a population of less than 700 but punches well above its weight when it comes to outdoor recreation, as it’s surrounded by some of the most stunning natural scenery in the southeastern U.S.
To help you plan your vacation here, we’ve put together a handy list of all the best things to do in Cosby, Tennessee. You can see all kinds of exciting sights and have so many new experiences during your visit, as there’s truly something here for every kind of traveler. To name just a few, you can hunt for waterfalls, take scenic drives, hike dozens of trails, and so much more.
Once you’ve planned out your itinerary, don’t forget the final step — booking your stay with Prestige Vacation Rentals. With locations all over Cosby and neighboring towns, we’ve got your dreams of a mountain cabin vacation more than covered so you can get down to the business of enjoying and exploring East Tennessee.
About Cosby, Tennessee
Just a 5-minute drive from Great Smoky Mountains National Park and less than 40 minutes away from all the attractions of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, Cosby provides a welcome alternative for a much less crowded mountain getaway. That means that visitors to this peaceful small town can take advantage of all the excitement in neighboring areas without fighting through traffic or packed parking lots.
Visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Let’s start our guide to Cosby with its most famous attraction: Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Just a few minutes outside of Cosby town limits, this 522,427-acre national park is a paradise for flora and fauna of all kinds (wildlife includes elk, black bears, and rare bird species).
As such, it’s also a paradise for nature lovers of all stripes, from birdwatchers to backpackers and everyone in between. Come to hike through beautiful forests, explore historic structures, or just eat a picnic lunch as you soak up the fresh mountain air. Certain parts of the park close during the winter, but the Smokies can still be enjoyed year-round, as hikers and cross-country skiers also frequent the park during colder months.
Take an Off-road ATV Adventure
Meandering dirt roads and gravel paths crisscross the Smoky Mountain foothills, but if you want to tackle them, you’re better off leaving your two-wheel drive at home. Instead, rent an ATV or, better yet, take a guided tour to get some mud on your tires (without worrying about getting stranded in the backwoods somewhere, that is).
Smoky Mountain Adventure Tours, Bluff Mountain Adventures, and Foxfire Adventure Park are just some of the companies offering exciting ATV experiences in the Cosby area, guaranteed to get you some great Smoky Mountain views and a bit of an adrenaline rush along the way.
Hike to Mount Cammerer Lookout Tower
The climb to Mount Cammerer Lookout Tower is just one of many fun hikes within Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but a couple of extra perks set it apart. First of all, the trail culminates in a picturesque and historically significant stone fire tower, and second of all, you’ll get to walk part of the Appalachian Trail, a legendary footpath that stretches all the way from Georgia to Maine.
Like the rest of the A.T., the 11.4-mile hike to Mount Cammerer can get a bit steep in some places, but visitors will be rewarded with an abundance of panoramic views upon reaching the tower. Make sure to snap some photos of the surrounding vistas, and watch out for any chipmunks looking to snag your trail mix.
Drive the Foothills Parkway
If you’re visiting Cosby to avoid crowds and traffic, go for a scenic drive on the literal road less traveled: the Foothills Parkway. Stretching a little more than 30 miles from US-129 and US-321, this peaceful section of highway winds past some of the loveliest spots in the Smokies.
You can drive the parkway in either direction, starting or ending at the famously twisty Tail of the Dragon road and carving through thick forests as you ride. Chances are that with nobody rushing you, you’ll want to take at least a few breaks along the way to admire the scenery and quietude of the area.
Get Your Shine on at Adventure Distilling Company
The backwoods of East Tennessee have long served as a haven for moonshiners, who have been brewing incredibly strong corn liquor since the earliest European settlers arrived in the Smoky Mountain foothills.
Adventure Distilling Company keeps that tradition alive and well, cooking up white lightning right on site for visitors to sample both in cocktails and in its purest form. You’ll only get the good stuff here — Adventure Distilling Company uses a recipe crafted by moonshiner JB Rader, who assisted the legendary Popcorn Sutton back in the day.
You can take a tour of the distillery and learn more about the history of moonshine in the region, or just settle down at one of the outdoor picnic tables for a drink you won’t forget any time soon.
Soar Through the Trees on a Zipline
Though the area’s lush forests are among its best features, getting up above the canopy on a zipline will give you a totally new perspective on the Smoky Mountains. As you fly down cables and over treetops, the views and speed will surely take your breath away.
For a safe, fun, and thrilling zipline ride near the Smoky Mountains, book a trip with CLIMB Works Smoky Mountains on the outskirts of Gatlinburg or with Legacy Mountain Ziplines in Sevierville. Serious adrenaline junkies, meanwhile, should look into Legacy Mountain’s famous seven-line zipline experience, which includes two-and-a-half hours worth of cable time at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour.
Enjoy Dinner and a Show at Dollywood
It’s hard to think of East Tennessee without twangy country music coming to mind, and there’s no better place to celebrate the genre than Dollywood. “9 to 5” and “Jolene” crooner Dolly Parton opened the theme park back in 1961 under the name Rebel Railroad. Dollywood is still going strong today as one of the number one attractions in the Southeast.
With roller coasters, a water park, restaurants, and, naturally, plenty of live music performances, Dollywood will keep visitors of all ages entertained from dawn ‘til dusk.
Raft Down the Pigeon River
For a one-of-a-kind outdoor adventure, book a guided rafting trip down the Pigeon River, which runs through the foothills in East Tennessee just outside Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Several companies offer guided trips, including Smoky Mountain Outdoors, Big Bear Rafting, and Five Rivers Adventure.
Whichever company you choose, you can expect to have a great time and plenty of expert assistance while you’re out on the river. Those who prefer a quiet ride should plan to raft the relatively tame Lower Pigeon, while any thrill seekers can get into the splash zone on the rapid-packed Upper Pigeon.
Hike to Hen Wallow Falls
Looking for a short day trip? The hiking trails just a few minutes south of Cosby offer a tranquil escape. Lined by groves of hemlock and rhododendron trees, the trail to Hen Wallow Falls is only 4.4 miles roundtrip, making it an ideal half-day hike.
Your prize at the end? Views of a gorgeous, 90-foot-tall cascading waterfall, and you might just spot some native salamanders in the pool of water at the base. Try to time your visit shortly after a rainfall to see the strongest flow at Hen Wallow or during winter, when the waterfall freezes into a sparkling pillar of ice.
It’s Time to Visit Cosby, Tennessee
Now that you know all the best things to do in Cosby, Tennessee, get ready for your trip by booking your stay with Prestige Vacation Rentals. Our clean, comfortable cabins will all make you feel right at home. But no matter how comfy our rentals are, just make sure you take at least a little time to get outside and experience everything that Cosby has to offer.