Sevier County Tennessee Recovers from 2016 Wildfires

Great time to plan a Great Smoky Mountains vacation!

Story & Photos by: Ed & Fran Stone

The City of Gatlinburg has recovered extremely well.  People are walking the downtown area, the attractions are busy, the restaurants are experiencing good business and the hotels are back to a normal occupancy. 

In November 2016, wildfires killed 14 people, destroyed 2,400 buildings and burned 17,000 acres across Sevier County, Tennessee. This was one of the biggest disasters in the State’s history and in particular the Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville areas.  The fire also spread into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that backs up to the city of Gatlinburg.

On a recent visit, we found the county and especially the City of Gatlinburg have recovered extremely well.  People are walking the downtown area, the attractions are busy, the restaurants are experiencing good business and the hotels are back to a normal occupancy. Pigeon Forge and Sevierville are also enjoying heavy traffic and lots of vacationers. Bottom-line…businesses are back and so is the invitation for a fun family vacation…”come see us!”

Sevierville and the Sevierville Golf Club were never in danger of the fires.

For our golfing readers, Sevierville and the Sevierville Golf Club were never in danger of the fires. This section of the County was the furthest distance from the wildfires.  We played the River Course and enjoyed it immensely.  Two years ago we played the Highlands Course.  Comparing the two courses is like apples and oranges…they both offer challenging holes, beautiful mountain range vistas and attractive rates.  The River Course plays 7,120 yards from the tips down to 4,967 yards from the forward tees. The layout takes advantage of the Little Pigeon River that runs through the property with some four holes crossing the river or its tributaries.  The Highland Course takes advantage of the terrain and presents more elevations to the tees, fairways and greens.  It too has five sets of tee boxes and plays 6,200 yards from the back tees and 4,186 yards from the front tees. Here’s where you’ll find lots of information about these courses: www.seviervillegolfclub.com.

Sevierville offers the vacationer a variety of places to stay. Name brand and locally owned hotels and secluded cabins are attractive to all budgets. Of note, the Wildness Lodge with its indoor waterpark, adjacent to the Sevierville Golf Course is very popular. Outlet shopping is a large draw for the area and the Five Oaks Outlet Mall is one of the largest with many name brand stores. See what all Sevierville offers: http://visitsevierville.com.

The area offers an abundance of accommodations in all price ranges and a variety of options.

Pigeon Forge offers just about any kind of vacation activity one could ask in Sevier County. One of the latest additions is The Island offering over 35 retail shops, restaurants, rides, games, a giant Ferris wheel and a four star Margaritaville Island Hotel.  Pigeon Forge also offers the upscale Riverstone Resort & Spa, and attractions such as The Egyptian Tomb, the Titanic Museum, racing tracks, outlet malls, etc. Of course, the big attraction is Dollywood Theme Park and Splash Country. We also took a quick tour of the new Dollywood Dream More Resort. There is so much to see and do in the area that you’ll just need to surf the Internet to find your pleasures…here’s the place to start: www.mypigeonforge.com.

Johnny Baker
Ole Smoky Moonshine

In Gatlinburg, we checked out the Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine attraction. Our host was Johnny Baker, one of the founding family members of this “must see” and experience on the Parkway. Johnny is pure Smoky Mountain’s fabric.  He has the walk, the talk and the love for this area and his product. Ole Smoky is the first federally licensed distillery in the history of East Tennessee and leading distiller of premium moonshine in the U.S.  The operation is located in “The Holler” and occupies some 20,000 square feet and employs over 200 people. Visitors can see moonshine being distilled and, those over 21, can pay a $5 fee for tasting of the products.  Ole Smoky lays claim to being America's Most Visited Distillery, including their other locations: The Barrelhouse in Gatlinburg and The Barn in Pigeon Forge. The distilled product boasts more than 20 flavors of moonshine and eight flavors of whiskey.  The operation offers fifteen flavors in Gatlinburg and products globally (all 50 states and 50 countries).  This creation has taken place since opening in 2010 when the State of Tennessee changed its laws in 2009 making it legal to distill and sell moonshine.  Johnny acknowledges that the family already had experience in making authentic, mountain-made moonshine.  Making it legal was a great windfall.  For more information about Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine, visit www.olesmoky.com and find them on social media @olesmoky.

Ole Smoky is the first licensed and leading distiller of premium moonshine in the U.S.  The operation is located in “The Holler.” Visitors can see moonshine being distilled.


Gatlinburg is back to a bustling city hosting and entertaining millions of visitors. Our stay at the beautiful Gatlinburg Hilton Garden Inn was a perfect place to have access to all the downtown attractions, restaurants and entertainment venues. It offers great service, very nice appointed rooms and is within walking distance for all the places such at Ole Smoky Moonshine, Aquarium of the Smokies and other places you'll want to visit in the area.  From a historical point, this city grew as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park grew and became America’s most visited National Park. Here vacationers can indulge in a plethora of attractions, eateries and places to stay. Enjoy local arts & crafts to unusual exhibits, i.e., Museum of Salt & Pepper Shakers, putt-putt in the dark to the Ober Gatlinburg Tramway offering scenic views, a mountain coaster ride…plus lots more.  You’ll need to check out the Gatlinburg website at: www.gatlinburg.com to get the full scope of activities, restaurants and accommodations.

The Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge & Sevierville areas offers a variety of Cuisine for every taste and budget.

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is adjacent to the City of Gatlinburg and attracts over 11 million visitors a year. The Park was established June 15, 1934. The effort to save and protect this beautiful area of the United States was the combination of people in both Tennessee and North Carolina.  John D. Rockerfeller provided $5 million to cinch the deal with the government anting up $2 million and private citizens from the two states providing the remainder to create the Park.

The Great Smoky Mountains is a favorite to visitors because of the size and scope of the views, walking trails, educational offerings and just sheer beauty.

This is one of those national parks you must see and experience to appreciate it. It is our favorite because of the size and scope of the views, walking trails, educational offerings and just sheer beauty. We should all be thankful to the early visionaries who amassed the land and protected this beautiful place for mankind to enjoy forever. For more information: https://www.nps.gov/grsm/index.htm

The areas of the county and park that were affected by the wildfires are being rebuilt or Mother Nature is fast replenishing with the green beauty of the Great Smokies. Most all businesses are back in operation and serving the visitors. If you are a past visitor, take time to return, you won’t be disappointed. If you’ve never visited, now is the time to plan your dream vacation to Sevier County and the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. You’ll be glad you did!

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