Paint brushes and palette on a table in an art studio
February 11, 2013

For over 75 years, the Great Smoky Mountain Arts and Crafts Community of Gatlinburg has been sharing the heritage of the surrounding mountains with Tennessee visitors. The eight mile trail is home to over 120 artisans whose handcrafted wares showcase the many beautiful and whimsical traditions of the Smokies.

The eight mile trail is a loop located on Highway 321 North, just three miles from downtown Gatlinburg. Visitors can drive the loop and stop at any of the shops to admire and purchase arts and crafts. Best of all, they can spend some time visiting with the artisans themselves, learning about the long-standing skills that go into the making of the goods. Often the craftspeople will be working when you arrive, so you can watch them in action and see firsthand how some of the wares are made. It's living history at its best.

No matter what kind of arts you enjoy, there are treasures to be found in the Arts and Crafts community. A quick look at your trail map will reveal shops and galleries that feature both fine arts and more rustic, traditional crafts. The key element they hold in common is the handmade care that goes into each item made.

You can visit a watercolor gallery whose artist specializes in paintings of quilts, a definite historic feature of the mountains. Other shops feature watercolor botanical paintings of regional flora and fauna. Still other galleries feature oil painted landscapes, jewelry, metal work and sculptures.

If you're in the mood to bring a bit of the mountains into your own home, you may want to shop among the artisans who create hand thrown pottery, braided rugs, stained glass sun catchers, handcrafted wooden furniture, candles, handmade tapestries or woven baskets. Don't forget the crafts that can grace your yard or garden, like birdhouses, birdbaths, fountains, or flowerpots. Some of the goods are handcrafted by materials from the surrounding region, like oil lamps made from Smoky Mountain slate.

If all that shopping makes you hungry, the trail also provides places to enjoy a meal or handmade ice cream and confections. Several shops sell handmade jams, jellies and relishes too.

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