The traffic in Gatlinburg can pose a real challenge, especially if you’re visiting during peak holidays. Repeat visitors know how tricky the parking situation can get at some of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge’s top attractions and restaurants. Plus, sometimes it just feels lower-stress to be able to hop on and off a trolley as needed, rather than figuring out where to park to then wander and explore the area. Public transportation can be your friend when touring Gatlinburg.
If you like the thought of exploring without being tethered to a vehicle (and its attendant parking challenges), maybe taking public transportation is the solution. Now, if the term “public transportation” calls to mind images of stuffed metros and questionable city buses, think again. Gatlinburg’s public transportation solution is actually aesthetically pleasing, convenient, cheap, and well-engineered.
Here’s what you need to know about it as you plan your trip:
Rates and Fares
Will you save money by taking public transport in and around Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge? The short answer is a resounding “yes!” Gatlinburg’s trolley system is completely fare-free; just hop on and ride to your destination. There are dozens of stops, and there’s even a scenic drive through a corner of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so you can hop on and off the Gatlinburg trolley as many times as you’d like without worrying about fare cards or having the right amount of change.
If you’re taking the trolley in or out of Pigeon Forge or Sevierville, you might pay .50 for a fare, or you could spend $2.50 for a day pass. Either way, it’s a very inexpensive ride.
The trolley buses themselves are both cute and well-maintained. Expect a clean atmosphere and friendly patrons; trolleys are most often used by tourists, but locals take them as well. The buses mimic the old-school look of a classic trolley. You can’t miss them on the streets: they’re red, gold, and green, with classic rounded-at-the-top windows that set them apart from most city buses.
Over 20 trolley buses regularly run, connecting the cities of Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and Sevierville–and they run their routes rain or shine, 365 days a year. Hop on a bus at any stop (the trolleys only stop at designated stops and signs). Online maps are available, or you can pick up a paper copy at the Gatlinburg Visitor Center or various other stops around town.
Trolley stops are painted strategically. Gatlinburg stops are marked with signs painted red and tan, while Pigeon Forge and Sevierville stops are marked with green and tan. Trolleys are usually very reliably on time, but you can always check the Gatlinburg Mass Transit’s website for their Trolley Locator if you’re antsy to find out when the next one will reach your stop.
Park & Ride
Figuring out where to park and ride can be a challenge when you’re taking public transportation, especially if you’re coming from a cabin out of town or driving in from another area. If you’re coming from out of town, you can always park for free for the day at the Gatlinburg Visitor’s Center, then hop on the trolley to catch a ride.
- Some routes have different schedules during different parts of the year. Check an up-to-date map to make sure your route works for you, especially if you’re relying on a trolley ride in the evening.
- In the winter, the Gatlinburg Winter Tour of Lights offers a great way to take in the city’s best Christmas lights from the window of a trolley–rather than rubbernecking while you drive yourself.
- Depending on the time of year, you can also take a short tour of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park by trolley. Get your camera ready and enjoy the scenic ride!