Closest Airport to Gatlinburg TN: A Traveler’s Guide for Easy Access to the Smokies

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Are you considering a trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee? If not, you should, and if you are not within driving distance, you’ll probably need to know the closest airport to Gatlinburg TN. Gatlinburg is one of our favorite family vacation spots, and as it’s an easy six-hour drive from Indianapolis, we pack our bags, throw a cooler in the car, and visit regularly.

Gatlinburg, tucked away in the heart of the Smoky Mountains, is a gem waiting to be discovered. Whether you’re looking to immerse yourself in nature or seek thrilling adventures, this quaint mountain town has it all. But, if driving isn’t an option for you, flying is the next best way to embark on your Gatlinburg journey.

Knowing the nearest airport to Gatlinburg can save you time and hassle, letting you dive straight into the fun and relaxation as soon as you land. Get ready to learn everything you need to know about the closest airport to Gatlinburg, ensuring your trip starts and ends as smoothly as your time spent in this picturesque mountain retreat.

Gatlinburg Weekend Itinerary

Don’t worry about planning your weekend itinerary to Gatlinburg – with this done-for-you printable, I’ve done all the heavy lifting.

All you’ll need to do is pick your dates, make your reservations, and then follow along for a fun trip!

Where is Gatlinburg?

Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is a widely acclaimed family vacation destination known for its proximity to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – it’s literally at the base of one of the entrances to the park. This vibrant town offers a perfect blend of outdoor adventures and family-friendly attractions, making it a top choice for travelers seeking a mix of natural beauty and recreational activities. Its location in Eastern Tennessee makes it accessible yet distinct, drawing in visitors from all over the country.

stream in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The closest airport to Gatlinburg

When planning your trip to Gatlinburg, the most convenient airport to consider is McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS) located in Knoxville, Tennessee. This airport serves as the primary gateway for both commercial and general aviation in East Tennessee and is the nearest major airport to Gatlinburg.

Situated about 45 miles from Gatlinburg, McGhee Tyson Airport is approximately a one-hour drive away, depending on traffic. This makes it a practical choice for those looking to minimize travel time to and from the airport. The drive itself is straightforward, with scenic views along the way, especially as you approach the Smoky Mountains.

As the nearest airport to the Smoky Mountains, McGhee Tyson Airport offers a range of facilities and services to ensure a comfortable travel experience. It features various dining options, from quick snacks to sit-down meals, as well as shops for last-minute gifts and travel essentials. The airport also provides free Wi-Fi, charging stations, and comfortable seating areas, making layovers or waiting times more enjoyable.

If you are traveling with kids, the airport’s family-friendly amenities, including designated play areas, can be particularly convenient. Additionally, car rental services are available directly at the airport, making it easy to start your road trip to Gatlinburg as soon as you land.

🚗Look for the best rates for your dates at if you fly into McGhee Tyson Airport and need to rent a car.

A walkway under a bridge in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Which airlines fly to McGhee-Tyson?

McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS) in Knoxville serves as a hub for several major airlines, so there is a flight there from almost all major US cities. So which airlines fly to Gatlinburg TN? Among the notable airlines operating here are Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, United Airlines, Allegiant Air, and Frontier Airlines. Each of these carriers offers regular flights, ensuring convenient scheduling options for travelers.

Delta Air Lines provides extensive connectivity with numerous flights to major cities like Atlanta, Detroit, and Minneapolis. American Airlines connects travelers to its extensive network with flights to hubs like Charlotte, Chicago, and Dallas/Fort Worth. For those flying with United Airlines, key destinations include Chicago, Houston, and Washington D.C. Meanwhile, Allegiant Air offers cost-effective travel options, particularly useful for budget-conscious families, with flights to popular destinations such as Orlando, Tampa, and Fort Lauderdale. Frontier Airlines, known for its affordable fares, also serves routes to and from Knoxville, making it a practical choice for economical travel.

While McGhee Tyson Airport primarily focuses on domestic flights, its range of destinations covers most regions of the United States. This network allows for easy connections from various parts of the country, making the journey to Gatlinburg accessible regardless of your starting point. The availability of direct flights and numerous connecting options ensures that reaching Gatlinburg via McGhee Tyson Airport is both convenient and efficient for families and solo travelers alike.

Sign for the Nature Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Ground transportation options

When you land, you will want to rent a car to get to Gatlinburg. Not only is it a one-hour drive (probably more if you visit in the busy season and traffic is bad), but you really need a car to get around the area. You could walk when you are in downtown Gatlinburg, but if you want to visit nearby Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, or even the Great Smoky Mountains National Park you’ll need a car to get there.

When you land at McGhee Tyson Airport and plan to head to Gatlinburg, renting a car is indeed the most practical option. The airport hosts a variety of rental car companies, including well-known names such as Enterprise, Hertz, Alamo, and Budget. You’ll find their counters conveniently located in the baggage claim area, making it easy to pick up your vehicle shortly after arrival. Make sure to book your rental car in advance, especially during peak travel seasons, to ensure availability and potentially better rates.

For those who prefer not to drive, shuttle services are available from the airport to Gatlinburg. You could use a shuttle service like Smoky Mountain Transportation to get to Gatlinburg, but it’s recommended to book these in advance. And then you’d still need to find a way to get around town once you arrive, so I’m still a fan of renting a car if you fly.

Taxis and ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft are also available at McGhee Tyson Airport. They provide a convenient, albeit usually more expensive, alternative to renting a car or using shuttle services. The cost of a taxi or ride-share to Gatlinburg can vary based on traffic and time of day, so it’s wise to budget accordingly. Ride-sharing apps offer the advantage of estimating your fare before you book, giving you a clearer idea of the cost upfront.

While having a car is advisable for exploring the broader Gatlinburg area, including Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there are several transportation options available to suit different preferences and budgets.

Viewing area behind a fence overlooking smoky mountains.

Alternative airports near Gatlinburg

While McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville is the closest major airport to Gatlinburg, there are a couple of alternate airports you might consider, depending on your location and flight preferences. Asheville Regional Airport and Tri-Cities Airport are two such options, each with its own set of advantages.

Asheville Regional Airport, located in North Carolina, is about 90 miles from Gatlinburg. The drive usually takes around two hours, but it can vary depending on traffic conditions, especially during peak tourist seasons. This airport is smaller than McGhee Tyson, which can mean fewer crowds and a more relaxed experience. However, this also means fewer flight options and potentially higher ticket prices due to less competition among airlines.

Tri-Cities Airport, situated in Northeast Tennessee, is roughly 100 miles from Gatlinburg, translating to a driving time of approximately two and a half hours. Like Asheville, this airport offers a quieter, less hectic experience compared to larger airports. It serves a limited number of destinations, which could be convenient if you’re flying from one of these locations. However, the longer drive to Gatlinburg and potentially fewer flight options are factors to consider.

Choosing one of these airports over McGhee Tyson comes down to balancing convenience with personal travel preferences. While McGhee Tyson offers more flights and a shorter drive to Gatlinburg, Asheville, and Tri-Cities might offer less crowded, more relaxed airports, albeit with longer drives to your final destination. If you plan on visiting more of Tennessee – especially some of the cities near the other airports, then they might be viable options for you.

airplane wind from window

Tips for travelers flying to Gatlinburg

For those flying to Gatlinburg, a few key tips can make your journey more affordable and enjoyable, especially if you’re traveling with family or visiting for the first time.

When it comes to booking flights, timing can significantly impact affordability. Generally, it’s advisable to book your flights at least three to four weeks in advance for domestic travel. However, if you’re planning to visit Gatlinburg during peak seasons, such as summer or around major holidays, consider booking even earlier to secure the best rates.

Keep an eye on flight prices and set alerts on travel websites to snag deals when they pop up. Flying mid-week, particularly on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, can also be more cost-effective than weekend flights – if i can swing it, I’ll almost always fly on a Tuesday and return the next Tuesday or Wednesday.

Navigating airport security and check-in processes efficiently is crucial to ensure a stress-free start to your trip. To expedite security checks, have your identification and boarding passes easily accessible. Be familiar with TSA guidelines – wear shoes and outerwear that are easy to remove and avoid wearing excessive metal accessories. If traveling with electronics, have them readily accessible for screening.

I’ve found that enrolling in TSA PreCheck can be a time-saver, allowing you to go through shorter lines without removing shoes, belts, or light jackets – honestly, now that we’ve had TSA PreCheck for a few years, I can’t imagine ever not having it!

For families and first-time visitors, preparation is key. If traveling with young children, pack snacks, entertainment, and comfort items like a favorite toy or blanket to keep them occupied and content during the flight. Check with your airline in advance about their policies for traveling with children, including stroller check-ins and seating arrangements. For first-time visitors, familiarize yourself with the airport layout in advance to find your way around more easily. It’s also helpful to know the amenities available at the airport, such as dining options and family restrooms, to make your wait more comfortable.

By planning ahead and staying informed, your flight to Gatlinburg can be a smooth and enjoyable experience, setting the tone for a wonderful visit to this beautiful region.

sign for ole smoky moonshine tastings

Exploring Gatlinburg post-arrival

There are so many fun things to do in Gatlinburg and the surrounding area that I can’t possibly cover them all here. So, I’m just going to share some of the highlights and suggest you check out the Tennessee section on my website for more ideas.

Once you arrive in Gatlinburg, you’ll quickly find that it’s a hub of endless adventure and entertainment. For nature enthusiasts, a visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a must. It’s America’s most visited national park, offering breathtaking views, hiking trails for all skill levels, and the chance to spot diverse wildlife. Whether you’re looking for a leisurely walk or a challenging hike, the park has something for everyone.

Downtown Gatlinburg itself is a treasure trove of attractions. On our last visit, we had some older “kids” with us (over 21), so we tried a few of the Moonshine tastings – it was so much fun and we came home with an amazing Banana Pudding Moonshine from Ole Smoky Moonshine– ideal for nights around the firepit.

👉A fun way to try Moonshine tastings in Gatlinburg is to join this highly rated Wine and Shine Walking Tour. They’ll take you to the BEST places and you’ll get top-notch service at each location!

For families, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is a delightful experience with its fascinating marine life exhibits – I was honestly impressed with what a great aquarium it is when we visited. Thrill-seekers might enjoy the Moonshine Mountain Coaster or a zip-lining adventure through the forest!

A short drive to Pigeon Forge opens up even more possibilities. Here, Dollywood, the famous amusement park co-owned by Dolly Parton, features a blend of thrilling rides, live music, and traditional crafts. It’s such a fun place to visit year-round, and especially beautiful lit up for the holidays! The Island in Pigeon Forge is another popular destination, with its unique shops, restaurants, and entertainment options. I have some hilarious pictures of my son and his friends with parrots at the Island from our most recent trip!

Remember, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to exploring Gatlinburg and its surroundings. There’s so much more to discover, from hidden mountain trails to cozy local eateries. Whether you’re visiting for relaxation, adventure, or both, Gatlinburg has something special for every kind of traveler.

one of the waterslides at the Club Wyndham Great Smokies Lodge
One of the waterslides at the Club Wyndham Great Smokies Lodge

Where to stay in Gatlinburg, Tennessee

There is no shortage of accommodations in the Gatlinburg area – of all types. Some visitors prefer cabins in the woods, others condos or timeshares, and some like a regular chain hotel. Luckily, Gatlinburg has them all, so regardless of your preference, it’s pretty darn easy to find something that fits your budget and desires.

We’ve stayed in a variety of accommodations through the years, but here are a few of my favorites:

My Top 3 Picks: Gatlinburg, Tennessee


hotel logo

Margaritaville Resort Gatlinburg
✔️ Fun atmosphere
✔️ Great location
🚫 Books up quickly


hotel logo

Smoky Blue
✔️ Private Home
✔️ Tons of extras
🚫 No pool


hotel logo

Club Wyndham Great Smokies Lodge
✔️ Indoor waterpark/activities
✔️ Our favorite place with kids
🚫 Far from Gatlinburg

FAQs: Closest airports to Gatlinburg, TN

What airport would you fly into for Gatlinburg Tennessee?

McGhee Tyson in Knoxville

What airlines fly out of Gatlinburg, Tennessee?

Allegiant, American, Delta, Frontier, and United all fly out of McGhee-Tyson.

How far apart are Nashville and Gatlinburg?

Nashville is about 220 miles from Gatlinburg.

Does Southwest fly into Knoxville TN?

No, it does not.

What airport should I fly into for Pigeon Forge TN?

McGhee-Tyson airport

Is Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge closer to Smoky Mountains?

Gatlinburg is closer to the Smoky Mountains than Pigeon Forge.

Squirrel on a trail

Conclusion: Closest airport to Gatlinburg, Tennessee

I think it’s clear that whether you’re flying in for the first time or are a returning visitor, this charming mountain town never fails to offer a memorable experience. From choosing the closest airport, McGhee Tyson in Knoxville, to exploring the myriad attractions in and around Gatlinburg, every aspect of your trip is poised to be an adventure in itself.

Remember, the key to a wonderful Gatlinburg getaway lies in planning—right from booking your flights for affordability, to navigating airport logistics and selecting the best ground transportation options. Once you’re in Gatlinburg, whether you’re soaking in the natural beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains, enjoying the thrills of downtown attractions, or exploring the unique things to do in Pigeon Forge and Sevierville, there’s no shortage of experiences to fill your days with joy and excitement.

Don’t forget to check out the Tennessee section on my website for more in-depth information and hidden gems in the area. Or if you want someone to do all the planning for you, consider my Gatlinburg Weekend Itinerary in my Etsy store.

Gatlinburg is not just a destination; it’s a starting point for a multitude of stories, adventures, and memories waiting to be made. I know every time we visit I discover something new and am reminded of how much I love this fun family vacation destination. So, pack your bags, set your sights on the Smokies, and get ready for an unforgettable journey!


Gatlinburg Travel made easy - closest airport to Gatlinburg TN, picture of a trail in the Great Smoky Mountains.