From floating down the river to enjoying hikes among serene scenery, residents in East Tennessee embrace the art of relaxation.
From standout parks to outdoor adventures, Blount County appeals to outdoors lovers.
Smoky Mountain River Rat offers a choose-your-own tubing adventure in Townsend. Your first option: Take the lazy river route, Outpost A, and enjoy a slow float down through a series of relaxing rapids with views of the Smoky Mountains that tower above. (Dogs are even welcome to join their humans on this leisurely float).
Or, you can take a more intrepid ride along Outpost B, rambling throughout rapids that get the adrenaline pumping.
Tubing and taking dips in nature’s refreshing swimming holes are just two of the time-honored outdoor traditions enjoyed by those who live in and visit Blount County.
Bask in the Peaceful Side of the Smokies
Known as the Peaceful Side of the Smokies, Blount County gives residents and visitors alike all manner of ways to enjoy the outdoors, from scenic trails for hiking to waterfalls and waterways for kayaking, tubing or fishing to adventure sports like zip lining.
“We have a big following,” says Jennifer Duerer, general manager of Smoky Mountain River Rat, an outpost that rents tubes and operates a shuttle and riverside cabanas. “We have people who came as kids who come back with their own kids and make it a tradition.”
Explore the Most Visited National Park in the U.S.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the country, with tourists coming to see some of Mother Nature’s best spectacles, like synchronous fireflies, fall foliage and cascading waterfalls.
Blount County is at the front porch of the beloved national park, which offers dozens of trails for all levels of hikers. In fact, some of the easier trails are in the Townsend/Walland area of Blount County. Cades Cove, a verdant valley cradled by mountains, offers several loop trails – some that include views of spectacular waterfalls. White-tailed deer often make cameos here.
Enjoy Parks for Pooches and More
But even with close access to the national park, you don’t have to visit the Smokies to enjoy a top-notch park in Blount County. The area has more than two dozen parks and recreation facilities, from the Clayton Disc Golf Course to the PetSafe Pistol Creek Dog Park.
Residents here have something to do year-round, from refreshing outdoor swimming pools in the summer to sports leagues and outdoor adventure camps, says Joe Huff, executive director of Blount County Parks and Recreation.
Find Unmatched Hiking and Biking Trails
One of the most treasured amenities in Blount County is the abundance of its hiking and biking trails as well as its greenway paths.
“We have a greenway system that’s unmatched,” Huff says. The county began developing its greenway system in the mid-1970s and has expanded it over the years. Today, the system includes nearly 15 miles of paved walking trails that wind through Maryville and Alcoa. The shaded trails welcome both bikes and dogs, and connect schools, libraries and parks.
Another popular spot is Shadows of the Past Trail in Townsend, a paved walking and biking path with informative historical markers along the route. For those who like to explore on two wheels, Vee Hollow is a 164-acre mountain bike trail system located in Townsend just outside the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Bikers of all skill levels can enjoy over 13 miles of trails.
Go Glamping Close to Home
Those who live in Blount County have plenty of fun options for filling up their weekends, with staycation options close to home.
Not only are residents close to the Smokies, but the Tennessee River borders Blount County, and the nearby Little River is a popular spot for boating, fishing and other watersports.
“It’s nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the other side of the mountain, and simply relax and enjoy the outdoors
at a slower pace.”
Cassie Simpher/Little Arrow Outdoor Resort
For a fun and unique escape, locals can go glamping at Little Arrow Outdoor Resort in Townsend, which is nestled in the foothills. The destination landed on USA Today’s 10 Best Readers’ Choice Travel Awards for Best Glamping Resort. Guests here can choose to stay in glamping tents, tiny homes, RVs and more.
“People come to Blount County to enjoy the peaceful side of the Smokies,” says Cassie Simpher, marketing manager of the family-run resort. “It’s nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the other side of the mountain, and simply relax and enjoy the outdoors at a slower pace.”