The city is a popular vacation resort, as it rests on the border of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park along U. Route 441, which connects Gatlinburg to Cherokee, North Carolina through the national park. Gatlinburg is hemmed in on all sides by high ridges, with the Le Conte and Sugarland Mountain massifs rising to the south, Cove Mountain to the west, Big Ridge to the northeast, and Grapeyard Ridge to the east. Route 441 is the main traffic artery in Gatlinburg, running through the center of town from north to south.
The main watershed is the West Fork of the Little Pigeon River, which flows from its source on the slopes of Mount Collins to its junction with the Little Pigeon at Sevierville. Along 441, Pigeon Forge is approximately 6 miles (9.7 km) to the north, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (viz, the Sugarlands) is approximately 2 miles (3.2 km) to the south. Route 321 enters Gatlinburg from Pigeon Forge and Wears Valley to the north before turning east, connecting Gatlinburg with Newport and Cosby.
TN-73 (Little River Road) forks off from 441 in the Sugarlands and heads west for roughly 25 miles (40 km), connecting the Gatlinburg area with Townsend and Blount County. For centuries, Cherokee hunters (and Native American hunters pre-dating the Cherokee) used a footpath known as the Indian Gap Trail to access the abundant game in the forests and coves of the Smokies.
US-441 largely follows this same route today, although it crests at Newfound Gap rather than Indian Gap.
While various 18th century European and early American hunters and fur trappers probably traversed or camped in the flats where Gatlinburg is now situated, it was Edgefield, South Carolina native William Ogle (1751–1803) who first decided to permanently settle in the area.
He returned home to Edgefield to retrieve his family and grow one final crop for supplies.
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