historic log buildings surrounded by fall colors in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Take a Trip Back in Time to the Best Smoky Mountain Historical Areas

Apr 01, 2013


Are you interested in taking a trip back in time to settler days? Although we can’t put you in a time machine, the Smoky Mountains can give you a glimpse of what it was like for early settlers to the area because of the preservation efforts of the National Park Service. If your family is interested in seeing historic homesteads, schools and cabin sites, we have the top four to get you started.

1. Cades Cove

There’s no question that Cades Cove is one of the historically preserved settler areas in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Whether you take the auto-tour or delve into the hiking trails, there are wonderful things to discover about the families who made the valley home.

There are hiking trails that lead to waterfalls for a refreshing toe dip in the water. For a more educational experience, most of the trails lead to historic cabins, mills and churches.

Cades Cove Loop Road

Townsend, TN

2. Cataloochee

Nestled among the mountain peaks, Cataloochee is not only an amazing historic site, but also a wonderful place to watch wildlife grazing and frolicking. Deep in the National Park, this is a bit of a drive, but there’s no doubt you’ll enjoy the historic homesteads and elk population.

Once a  thriving farming community, Cataloochee now holds historic structures including cabins, churches and a school. Similar to Cades Cove, Cataloochee’s historic preservation can be seen from the winding gravel roads to the abundant wildlife. Since this is a more remote area, Cataloochee has lower crowds year-round.

3. Elkmont


In Little River Valley, Elkmont has been home to a logging community, pioneer settlers and resorts. Today, the Elkmont historic district still holds some structures from each distinct era. Two original pioneer cabins are on site, as well as the sites of a former hotel for loggers.

Elkmont Rd

4. Metcalf Bottoms

The Metcalf Bottoms Trail leads to Little Greenbrier School and the Walker Sisters’ Farmstead. Only a mile from the trailhead, these historical structures are hidden back in the wooded area on dirt paths. Also along the way is a picnic area, perfect for a relaxing family lunch stop.

To reach the trail, take US 411 toward Sugarlands Visitor Center. At the Visitor Center, turn onto Little River Road. From there, the trailhead is less than 6 miles away.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is filled with history, but, when looking for a vacation rental, families enjoy having comfortable, modern amenities. At Parkside Cabin Rentals in Gatlinburg, our cabins feature luxurious extras including hot tubs, open floor plans, stone-crafted fireplaces and spectacular outdoor views.