Scenic Resort Bordering Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The earliest inhabitants of the Fontana area were loggers; they lived out of simple tents along the Tennessee River. Later, the town was lined with log cabins inhabited by builders of the Fontana Dam—a 480-foot-high structure, and the tallest dam east of the Mississippi. Nowadays, hikers on the Appalachian Trail pass by here to pitch tents as they make their way through Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Fontana Village Resort is situated just south of the dam, but you don't have to rough it quite like the loggers and hikers—it features comfortable lodge accommodations right near the Appalachian Trail amid views of the mountains.
The hotel maintains more than 20 miles of hiking and mountain-biking trails in the immediate vicinity. Trails vary in terrain from meandering, creek-side footpaths along Lewellyn Cove to steep switchbacks. Down at the resort's marina, you can hop on a pontoon boat to navigate the 30-mile-long Fontana Lake during a scenic cruise.
In the Village, the resort's activity hub, you can flash your included recreational passes to get free, unlimited rentals of putt-putt clubs and tennis rackets. Feel free to toss frisbees down the wooded fairways of the 18-hole disc-golf course, or test the buoyancy of your cell phone at the Stone Creek Pool and Lazy River. There's also a dance floor at the Recreation Hall; once that begins to settle down late in the night, the party might move outside to a community campfire, where visitors roast marshmallows.
Deluxe rooms are situated in the main lodge, which features a lobby with stone pillars, oversize leather couches, and a crackling fireplace. Reserve your room early to get one with a good view—some rooms include private balconies overlooking forested slopes.
Fontana Dam, North Carolina: Historic Settlement amid Smoky Mountains Wilderness
Before it gained protected status, the Fontana area was a coveted resource for logging and copper mining. Today, Fontana Village Resort is a convenient outpost to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The two nearest entrances are about 50 miles away in either direction, through Townsend, Tennessee, or Cherokee, North Carolina.
Within the park, visitors should check out Cades Cove, an 11-mile loop accessible to both cars and bicycles. Regarded as some of the area’s best wildlife-viewing spots, the meadows along Cades Cove are often visited by deer, black bears, and picnicking college mascots. Alternatively, head to Clingman's Dome, a 6,600-foot mountain, where you can get spectacular panoramic views from the highest point in Tennessee.
Read the Fine Print for important info on travel dates and other restrictions.