Under Canvas, In The Great Smoky Mountains


Photo by Paul Joyner

Rate: $199 to $604 per night

Glam Factor: 4 of 5

Known for its high-end camps outside Yellowstone, Moab, and Zion national parks, this chain of glamping destinations expanded east of the Mississippi in 2018 to the Great Smoky Mountains. Situated on a hilltop not far from Pigeon Forge, Tennessee (but a world away, culturally), the cluster of 40 safari tents looks something like a 17th-century French fur-trading village—if those pioneers had king-size beds, private bathrooms, and USB battery packs.

At the camp’s entrance, a large communal tent brings everyone together for morning coffee, a surprisingly good menu of breakfast and dinner options, and yoga. In better times, live country and bluegrass bands serenade visitors at dusk, although that has been suspended until the pandemic has passed. But the complimentary, fireside s’mores remain, gooey proof that the best things survive a crisis.


When you’re not exploring Great Smoky Mountains National Park 10 miles away, most of your time will be spent around your tent, and there are worse places to lounge. All of them are furnished with hardwood tables and beds, and feature a covered front porch for leaf-peeping. Most include a woodstove to keep the autumn chill at bay. Some have a skylight for stargazing. The family suites even offer a side tent for the kids.

Founded by world travelers Sarah and Jacob Dusek, Under Canvas strives to minimize its impact on land, which leads to a few of what they call “intentional inconveniences.” The showers only operate while you pull a chain. What little electricity there is in the tents comes from a solar-powered battery. And there’s no Wi-Fi or cell service here. But the simple pleasure of watching kids play on the lawn and catch fireflies as the mist gathers on the surrounding peaks beats doom-scrolling on Twitter any day. Don’t worry: The world will be waiting for you at the bottom of the hill. 1015 Laurel Lick Rd., Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, 865-622-7695, undercanvas.com/camps/great-smoky-mountains

While You’re There…

Eat:  Chesapeake’s Seafood and Raw Bar (chesapeakes.com) flies in its catch daily, and is one of the finer establishments in nearby Gatlinburg. The oysters on the half shell and Maryland crab cakes rival those on the East Coast.

Hike: Many of the easy hikes in Great Smoky Mountains National Park are very crowded, so you’ll need to brave one of the more challenging ones to get away. The spectacular Alum Cave Trail ascends Mount LeConte, and is worth the 10.5 miles.

Explore: Gatlinburg’s multiple ski lifts up the mountains provide amazing views. We recommend the Skylift Park (gatlinburgskylift.com) for its suspension bridge at the top.