Dolly Parton, East Tennessee's most famous native, loves her home region so much that she's made a successful career out of singing about girls who leave the honeysuckle-scented embrace of the Smoky Mountains for the false glitter of the city. They're always sorry.
Largely a rural region of small towns, rolling hills and river valleys, the eastern third of the state is noteworthy for its friendly folks and pastoral charm. The lush southern Appalachian Mountains are great for hiking, camping and rafting. Pretty waterfalls are a regional specialty. Nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park lures millions every year, but the crowds are easily ditched in East Tennessee's Cherokee National Forest.
The region's two main urban areas, Knoxville and Chattanooga, are easygoing riverside cities with lively student populations, great restaurants, fun craft breweries and outdoor adventures galore. For a blast of all things tacky and wacky, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge await.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout East Tennessee.
Whether it’s a guided tour of a historic landmark, private tasting of local delicacies, or an off-road adventure — explore the best experiences in East Tennessee.