Is Gatlinburg Safe? Crime Rates & Safety Report

Updated On April 27, 2024
Gatlinburg, United States
Safety Index:
82
* Based on Research & Crime Data

The Gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains is Gatlinburg, Tennessee, with a mixed blend of natural beauty and vibrant attractions.

This land was home to the Cherokee for millennia before settlers arrived in the early 19th century.

Over the years, it evolved into a bustling mountain resort town, attracting visitors with its picturesque scenery and quaint charm.

The biggest tourism surge came when Great Smoky Mountains National Park was opened in 1940.

Today, Gatlinburg offers a plethora of activities for all ages.

Outdoor enthusiasts can explore the nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park, home to diverse wildlife and scenic trails.

History buffs can delve into the area’s past at places like the Gatlinburg History Museum, which showcases the town’s heritage through artifacts and exhibits.

One of Gatlinburg’s main draws is its vibrant downtown area, filled with shops, restaurants, and entertainment options.

Visitors can stroll along the bustling Parkway, sampling local treats like handcrafted fudge and moonshine, or take in the sights of the iconic Gatlinburg SkyBridge, the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America.

From breathtaking mountain vistas to family-friendly attractions, Gatlinburg offers a memorable escape for travelers seeking a blend of outdoor adventure and mountain hospitality.

Whether it’s hiking through the wilderness or indulging in Southern hospitality, Gatlinburg invites visitors to experience the best of Appalachia.

Warnings & Dangers in Gatlinburg

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK: LOW

There's a low risk and a lot of things to do, so start planning as early as possible.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW

Gatlinburg has a free trolley to get around, with a free app available to help you track the trolley. Taxis and rideshares are available, but in some cases, you might be able to walk faster than a taxi would get you there. Having a rental car is the best way to get access to the expanses of the park and neighboring communities.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW

With only two pickpockets or purse snatchings in the past five years and just three more incidents dating back a decade, I can't help but give this a low risk. However, the potential is there in these large crowds. Don't let your guard down.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM

Treat this as a medium risk due to the number of things designed to be done outdoors. Bigger risks are tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, flash flooding, and winter storms. However, even storms from the previous day can make creeks and streams in the park treacherous to cross. Winter visitors should always bring micro spikes for the higher elevations to navigate ice and snow.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK: LOW

In the past five years, just two highway robberies were reported, which gives this a low risk. Robberies as a whole are low in this area, too.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK: LOW

A major tourism hub like this will always be a potential target, but there's a lot of security and vigilance among the community. The best way to help is to report anything suspicious. However, the bigger risk is the weather.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK: MEDIUM

Home rental scams can be challenging here, but the smartest way to approach them is by using a rental company that is approved by the Better Business Bureau or local Chamber of Commerce. The police will report common scams as well. Treat this as a medium risk if for nothing else but to educate yourself.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW

This is another low risk. There's a lot to do for women of all ages, and it's a family-friendly environment. The only caution I would give is to avoid going hiking solo on the longer trails due to the inherent risks.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK: LOW

Gatlinburg uses more than one billion gallons of water each year and has received a Safe Drinking Water Act Excellence Award for ongoing superior tap water.

Safest Places to Visit in Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg.com is the official tourism website for the city.

You can download a free vacation guide without having to give personal information.

You also have the option to download the Gatlinburg app to keep track of the things you want to do while you’re there.

The biggest and most popular attractions in the Smokies are in Gatlinburg, while Pigeon Forge is known for having the best shows and dinner theaters.

I’m just going to highlight the major attractions here, but there are so many unique places to explore you could spend a whole week here without repeating anything.

Anakeesta offers an array of attractions, including treetop canopy walks, ziplining, shopping, dining, and mesmerizing views from the Firefly Village.

The attraction is built above the city, with gondola, chairlift, or truck access.

Various experiences transition from day to night, and the holidays always bring a new layer of excitement.

The Gatlinburg SkyPark is only accessible by a chairlift (SkyLift).

Take a stroll across North America’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge for panoramic views of the Smoky Mountains.

The SkyBridge also features a thrilling glass-floor section for an adrenaline rush.

Climb the Tulip Tower and walk the SkyTrail, all the while getting epic views of the Smokies and Gatlinburg.

Ascend 407 feet to the observation deck of the Gatlinburg Space Needle for unparalleled views of the surrounding mountains and downtown area.

It’s particularly stunning at sunset or during the evening when the city lights come alive.

Dive into an underwater world at one of the top-rated aquariums in the United States.

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies includes fascinating exhibits, including the Shark Lagoon and Penguin Playhouse.

Ripley’s also has a slew of attractions here, and buying tickets for multiple attractions is the best way to save money compared to buying each one individually.

Options include things like a haunted house, a mirror maze, a mountain coaster, a moving theater, and the Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum.

Ride the Aerial Tramway to Ober Gatlinburg, a mountain-top amusement park and ski area.

Enjoy activities such as skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, and scenic chairlift rides.

The Nantahala Outdoor Center is the place to go for rafting adventures.

You can choose slower sections of the river or go for the toughest whitewater in the Smokies with an expert tour guide leading the way.

They can also hook you up with jeep tours, fishing adventures, or a variety of other outdoor experiences.

The Smokies are known for robust waterfalls, and several of the most popular are in Gatlinburg.

You can see the Place of a Thousand Drips, Rainbow Falls, and Grotto Falls on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.

Head to Sugarlands in the national park for Cataract Falls.

One of my favorite spots in the park is Elkmont, a historic district that shows you life before the national park in Appalachia.

You can also walk the historic trail through a ghost town where homes that once lined the creek are removed, but random chimneys and stairs remain.

One of the hidden gems in the Smokies is the Troll Bridge on this trail.

Clingmans Dome is half in Gatlinburg and half in North Carolina, standing at the tallest spot in the Smokies at 6,643 feet.

You can drive to the half-mile trail leading up to the dome, but there is a steep incline on the way up.

Places to Avoid in Gatlinburg

You don’t need to worry about bad parts of town or dangerous neighborhoods here.

I will tell you, traffic is abysmal, yet it seems to flow easily if you have the patience to deal with it.

I didn’t the first time I went, but I had a much better mindset the second time.

Plus, getting up early to visit the park or learning about the backroads around the Parkway helps.

One thing to note is that some of the more challenging and winding back roads or scenic drives can be very twisty with sharp drop-offs.

Plus, motorcycle riders and hot rod drivers sometimes excessively speed on the roads.

It’s easy to get lost in the beauty of the region, but you have to keep an eye on the road.

The speed limit on some roads, like Roaring Fork Motor Natural Trail, is 10 miles per hour, and you’ll be pressed to find a way to go faster if you want to.

The road is one of the best places to visit, in my opinion, as it’s one way, so there is no traffic coming at you.

At the same time, the twists and turns demand a slow pace.

Finally, October is the busiest month in the Smokies, followed by summer.

January through March make the slowest time, but also some of the shows and attractions aren’t open or are on limited schedules.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Gatlinburg

  1. Gatlinburg has a police department, and you can follow them on Facebook @GatlinburgPoliceDepartment. Call (865)436-5181 if you have specific safety questions.
  2. Sign up for CodeRED notifications to get alerts about severe weather, winter weather, or other public safety hazards. You can also review the new Sevier County Emergency Management Agency website at sevierema.org. Follow them on X (Twitter) at @EmaSevier.
  3. Download the National Park Service app to get Great Smoky Mountains National Park alerts, offline maps, and a list of hiking trails. Mobile service is sketchy in the park, and you can’t rely on that for updates when driving or hiking.
  4. Winter visitors should know that the highest point on Newfound Gap Road is prone to winter weather, even when it’s raining or cloudy in Gatlinburg. This could lead to the main highway being closed until snow plow crews clear it.
  5. Several roads in the park are closed for winter, like Clingmans Dome Road and Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. Usually, you can walk or ski on the roads when they are closed.
  6. Nearly 2,000 black bears live in the Smokies, and you should carry bear spray with you to use as a last resort if a bear approaches you. Never feed or bait a bear, and leave at least 100 yards between you and any wildlife.
  7. Fall is the mating season, called a rut, in the Smokies. This can lead animals like elk to be more aggressive and active, especially around sunrise and sunset.
  8. Fishing is allowed in Gatlinburg and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but you do need a fishing license from the state of Tennessee. Use the Go Outdoors Tennessee website to get more information.
  9. Always do a tick check when you come back from a hike, as ticks can spread disease. They like to hide in dark, moist areas. You don’t need emergency care if you find a tick attached. Just remove it by the head with a pair of tweezers and disinfect the area.
  10. Many restaurants in Gatlinburg don’t make reservations, meaning you’ll face long lines to get a spot at a popular place. I can tell you from experience that these lines move faster than you’d expect. You can take steps to limit crowds, like don’t go for a pancake breakfast during the post-church crowd rush on Sundays. The best option is to get there when it opens.

So... How Safe Is Gatlinburg Really?

Even before you add in the 11 to 13 million people who visit Gatlinburg each year, the crime rates wouldn’t set off any alarms.

The violent crime rate is 21% lower than the state average and 24% higher than the national average.

In addition, just 5% of those crimes involved strangers over the past five years.

When you break it all down, it comes to this – in the past five years, an average of one violent crime against a stranger happened each year in Gatlinburg.

That’s about as safe as you can get in a major tourist town.

Thefts come down to not even two a week, on average.

Theft rates have also dropped 67% in the past decade.

I was shocked to see that less than one car break-in a month happened in 2022, considering how many cars are parked here.

I could throw more crime data at you to punctuate the point, but the tourism numbers tell the story.

More than 11 million people wouldn’t visit this town, much less repeatedly visit, if it wasn’t a safe place.

Even with all those cars and pedestrians in proximity, there aren’t as many accidents as you might expect.

As someone who has been to Gatlinburg many times, I can tell you it feels safe (and I was a 20/30-year-old woman).

It’s a controlled chaos of sorts, with large crowds yet space for you that fits comfortably.

I should add that I really don’t like crowds, but for some reason, they don’t bother me here.

Maybe it’s because everything feels so safe.

How Does Gatlinburg Compare?

CitySafety Index
Gatlinburg82
Philadelphia60
Houston59
Atlanta58
St. Louis58
Los Angeles56
Oakland57
La Paz (Bolivia)52
Sao Paulo (Brazil)45
Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)43
Sofia (Bulgaria)73
Siem Reap (Cambodia)63
Phnom Penh (Cambodia)61

Useful Information

Visas

Visas

Visa and visa waiver information can be found on the U.S. State Department website. Start with the Visa Module to help get started down the right path. You also want to confirm your passport is valid for six months from the last day of your trip or renew it beforehand.

Currency

Currency

The U.S. Dollar (USD) is the currency of the land. Traveler's checks are accepted in many places, but you won't find foreign currency exchange options here aside from ATMS or maybe a bank if you're a member. Use credit cards for as much as possible, but I do recommend carrying about $20-$40 in case you come across cash-only locations.

Weather

Weather

Gatlinburg and the Smokies get four robust seasons. However, if you're visiting the park, you'll need to plan for cooler weather at the higher elevations. Generally, plan for a trip up Newfound Gap to be 10 degrees cooler any time of year. Wear comfortable walking shoes and bring bug spray. Plan to sweat a lot from late spring through early fall, and bring fabrics that will be comfortable at that level of humidity. In winter, bring a coat and hiking boots, but you'll likely only see snow above 5,000 feet.

Airports

Airports

McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville is about an hour away from Pigeon Forge, making it the closest and largest option. However, you have to get through Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge traffic, which could cause delays - add 30 minutes to your travel time. Asheville (North Carolina) has an airport two hours away.

Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is a great stress reliever, especially when visiting a rugged area prone to weather dangers. You also want rental car insurance with a roadside assistance plan and uninsured motorist coverage.

Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

Gatlinburg Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan 3° C
Feb 5° C
Mar 10° C
Apr 14° C
May 18° C
Jun 22° C
Jul 24° C
Aug 23° C
Sep 21° C
Oct 15° C
Nov 9° C
Dec 5° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
91217222528302927221611
Low
°C
-3-226101517171471-2
High
°F
485463727782868481726152
Low
°F
272836435059636357453428

Tennessee - Safety by City

CitySafety Index
Bell Buckle79
Chattanooga69
Clarksville72
Cordova62
Dyersburg62
Franklin75
Gatlinburg82
Germantown70
Hendersonville79
Johnson City68
Jonesborough78
Kingsport52
Knoxville57
Lawrenceburg77
Memphis54
Murfreesboro78
Nashville58
Pigeon Forge78
Pulaski79
Rogersville76
Sevierville73
Wears Valley78

Where to Next?

Share Your Experience

Share
Facebook Pinterest