A trip to the Smokies packs in quite a lot. First, there's the sweeping national park full of wildlife, deciduous forests, and rolling hills – perfect for outdoorsy types. Then, there's the resort towns that sit just on the edge, offering amusement parks, quirky museums, hillbilly bars, BBQ joints, and the like. Great Smoky Mountains lodging in vacation rentals will quickly immerse you in it all, whether you arrive with the family in tow or are looking for a little R&R with you significant other. This guide will introduce you to the best locales and accommodations out there.

The variety of Smoky Mountains lodging

Once you've decided on that next trip to the Great Smoky Mountains, it's time to narrow down the type of accommodation that will fit your getaway. If you want all the amenities of home set in this scenic landscape, a vacation rental is just the ticket. They come in every size and shape, from cozy huts for two to sweeping chalets set on large plots of land. Here's just a sampling…

Spacious luxury lodges

Bringing the whole crew along to the Smokies? Whether it's a family vacay or a reunion with friends, the oversized lodges and chalets here have room for all. They pack in 10 or more sleeping quarters, and feature perks like game rooms with billiards and table tennis, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, and stacked decks with rockers and grilling kitchens. And don't forget the mountain views – through floor-to-ceiling windows and from private balconies alike.

Secluded mountain cabins

One of the best parts of Great Smoky Mountains National Park lodging is the setting – peaceful forests, babbling brooks, scampering wildlife. If you're looking to get away from it all, this is certainly the place to do it. Look for quiet cabins sheltered in the woods on the brink of the hills and park, where the hum of road traffic fades away into hammering woodpeckers and chirping chickadees. The organic features of these bungalows are also a treat – think rustic wood beds and tables, pine-scented walls, stone fireplaces.

Cheap Smokies vacation rentals

So, you don't want to bust the budget on your Appalachian escape. No problem. There are plenty of wallet-friendly options available on the cusp of the national park. Whether it's a glamping RV on a quiet plot of land or a cozy bungalow just a skip away from the hopping resort hubs, you won't be short on choices here. And if you want one of those roomy family lodges on the cheap, consider opting for leaf-peeping in fall instead of visiting in the busy summer season.

Where to look for Smoky Mountains vacation rentals

North Carolina or Tennessee? Buried in the forest or on a buzzing town street? When it comes to narrowing down Smoky Mountains lodging locales, the tips below should help.

Pigeon Forge for amusement parks

Skimming down water slides. Tapping your toe to banjo tunes. Mining for rubies and fool's gold. It's all on the menu with a stay in Pigeon Forge, TN. Most folks come here for the high-flying rides and rollicking shows of Dollywood's theme park and water park – a can't miss for family visits. Plus, the live music and barbecue joints up and down the main parkway through town will keep your toes tapping and belly full. The national park is only about 15 minutes away, too, so you'll be able to sneak in some hikes if that's what you're into.

Gatlinburg for national park access

Gatlinburg is the Tennessee gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so if you plan on spending lots of time hunting for waterfalls and hiking alpine trails, this may the right spot for you. It's got plenty of in-town amusements, too, from mountain roller coaster rides to kitschy Appalachian museums to putt-putt golf courses. Gatlinburg vacation rentals put you in the middle of it all, in walking distance to smoky BBQ joints and the Ober Gatlinburg tram ride up the mountain for views.

Bryson City for outdoorsy types

A hair quieter and more remote than its Tennessee counterparts, Bryson City offers ease of access to the national park from the North Carolina side and train rides on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. It's surrounded by mountains and forests, so you'll feel tucked away and secluded in the creekside cabins and elevated lodges available. And with the Tuckasegee River meandering through, white-water rafting here is all the rage.