The following is a guest blog by Regatta Ltd:
A vacation at Great Smoky Mountain National Park is not only a great place for memories and photos, it's a very affordable vacation and recreation spot as well. There are many reasons for this that are self-evident such as the nature of the activities - fresh air and beautiful scenery are free. In addition, GSMNP is one of the very few national parks that do not charge an entrance fee at all – it's completely free access and simple day use thanks to an agreement between Tennessee, North Carolina and the Federal Government.
Activity fees are very reasonable for camping and use of the facilities - like picnic pavilions for a larger get-together - than what is found in commercial places around parks and what many would consider traditional resorts areas. Since the majority of the actual activities enjoyed are things like hiking and watching wildlife, most of the daily activities to be enjoyed have no additional cost. If camping you will likely be cooking your own food or making sandwiches most of the time, so exorbitant food prices that are the norm at resort style vacations will be eliminated.
What is left to budget for a vacation in the Smokies? If you don't want to camp there are many cabins and houses for rent available throughout the area. Your budget for these is discretionary with many 2-4 bedroom cabins routinely available for under $150 per night. This can also go considerably higher based on your tastes, but you cannot get a 1 bedroom suite in a resort for near the 3 bedroom budget cabin price. Everybody enjoys a little luxury, so if cooking over a campfire for every meal gets old, there are numerous restaurants and diners available with affordable and quality dining in nearby towns.
Some additional activities are available that do have fees. A very popular activity for those tired of hiking themselves, but still wanting to see the sights, is horseback riding. Carriage tours and hay wagon rides are also available. For those who want to combine other activities there is whitewater rafting on the Pigeon River near Gatlinburg.
The largest expense in an outdoor vacation for the inexperienced is in purchasing appropriate gear, like hiking boots, camping equipment, and suitable clothing. This need not be a huge investment. While it's easy to spend a lot of money on top end gear, for basic camping and hiking you won't need a $300 tent or a $180 backpack. Shopping more economical places like box stores and online vendors like Regatta Ltd will allow you to find good quality gear and clothing affordably. You can upgrade if you choose to make these things a regular activity, and you will also have a better idea where to put the emphasis on your next trip once you have a week of experience.
Hiking in the Smokies