Overall Rating
Overall Rating (93 Reviews)
4.7
(93 Ratings)(93 Reviews)
DIFFICULTY
3
SCENERY
4.5
PRODUCTION
4.6
SWAG
4.6
Escape to the “Peaceful Side of the Smokies” with a gorgeous race through the woods. The Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon is a stunning race with sweeping panoramic views of the Smoky Mountains and Tennessee countryside. Both events finish in front of the Talley Ho Inn in Townsend, TN, “The … MORE
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Recent reviews

    If you are going to choose a race to run your very first half, make it a vacation race!! Arrived at 4:50 am and glad we did, as by 5:30 … MORE

    If you are going to choose a race to run your very first half, make it a vacation race!! Arrived at 4:50 am and glad we did, as by 5:30 there were hundreds of cars backed up behind the shuttle buses waiting to load. Parking area was all grass (recommend plastic bags to avoid morning dew soaking your running shoes), shuttles were efficient for those early in, and early arrival made port-o-let’s widely available. Nice energy throughout the race and MC was exceptional.

    Slanted roads through miles 9-11 (Sunshine neighborhood) made me wish I had one long leg and one short – but hell of a race, lots of fun, and proud of my first half. Thanks for making it easy!

    Finally, cyclists and motorists on the open course were difficult due to lack of adequate police and lost 15 minutes on my time waiting for a port-o-let at mile 5 so I would triple up there.

    All said, though, super fun and can’t wait til my next race at Zion in 2022!

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    4
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    4
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    Mueller375 FIRST-TIMER '21

    This race was their first time on this course (From what I have been told) add in COVID and it showed quite a few cracks in their plans. That being … MORE

    This race was their first time on this course (From what I have been told) add in COVID and it showed quite a few cracks in their plans. That being said… Here is an honest review.

    Location Overall:
    You are close to Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Knoxville (closest airport) however Southwest only flies to Nashville so we rented a car and made the trip a few days longer and experienced Tennessee by droving through Chattanooga & Nashville as well.

    I am Assuming you’re doing the Black Bear Challenge because who doesn’t want an extra medal? (5K Friday Night + Half Saturday Morning) so some of this is copy/pasted from my 5K review and I will add stuff for the half as well.

    5K & Half – Packet Pick-Up:
    Packet Pickup was outdoors in the sun the day of the 5K (10a – 5p) then the 5K doesn’t start until 6p (if you’re lucky enough magically to get the first wave) which leaves you stuck sitting in your car at a random hotel that is in the middle of nowhere for at least an hour unless you are staying at one of the few small town hotels.

    5K – Start Line:
    Just before 6p we did the anthem and then walked across the street ALL 1,500 OF US (Guestimate) there was no organization what so ever there were people with signs up but they were marked with times like 2 hr 45 min (for the half marathon) so that was useless. Walkers and people/children doing the fun run (untimed) mixed with us competitive runners. We stood on a sidewalk in the sun forever!!! They released us in like 15 small waves and my group (which was not the last) didn’t even start until the well after the first 10-15 runners crossed the finish line (18-25 minutes).

    Half – Start Line:
    This raceis a P2P (point to point) so you have 2 choices: #1 Get Dropped off at the Start line by your non-running teammate (we did this option) or #2 Park at the finish line and they shuttle you to the start line. The last shuttle bus SHOULD have stopped at 6am so the race can start at 7am… I should have known this wouldn’t have happened based on the day before’s start line. We waited over 25 minutes at the split in the road where you had to decide which option you were going to choose because it was taking too much time to get people through the intersections/parking lot entrance. This delay caused the race to start a bit later. There was no PA system that I ever heard because we barely could hear the Anthem.

    5K – Actual Race:
    Course was fine except you started and finished on a sidewalk along the main street (albeit a small town main street) Walkers and people/children doing the fun run (untimed) mixed with us competitive runners. After a ton of zigging and zagging along the course to get around all the non-runners from all the previous waves.

    Half – Actual Race:
    This course WAS BRUTAL on my body. The elevation is not bad however the pitch of the roads that we ran on were sloped so the rain can run off the road. On a normal street the middle (where the center lines are) is the high point and the road slopes down to the edges of the roadway. Quite a few of the roads were sloped to one side one way from edge to edge. My hips, ankles and knees are sore days later which is never usual for me.

    5K – Finish Line/Post Race/Escaping to cars:
    PERFECTION – ZERO COMPLAINTS – Beautiful Medal!
    They had this zone down like world freaking champions!

    Half – Finish Line/Post Race/Escaping to cars:
    Once Again…. PERFECTION – ZERO COMPLAINTS – Beautiful Medal(s)!
    They had this zone down like world freaking champions!

    I highly recommend doing the Black Bear Double
    5K on Friday Night
    Half on Saturday Morning

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    2
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    2

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    Mueller375 FIRST-TIMER '21

    This race was their first time on this course (From what I have been told) add in COVID and it showed quite a few cracks in their plans. That being … MORE

    This race was their first time on this course (From what I have been told) add in COVID and it showed quite a few cracks in their plans. That being said… Here is an honest review.

    Packet Pick-Up:
    Packet Pickup was outdoors in the sun the day of the 5K (10a – 5p) then the 5K doesn’t start until 6p (if you’re lucky enough magically to get the first wave) which leaves you stuck sitting in your car at a random hotel that is in the middle of nowhere for at least an hour unless you are staying at one of the few small town hotels.

    Start Line:
    Just before 6p we did the anthem and then walked across the street ALL 1,500 OF US (Guestimate) there was no organization what so ever there were people with signs up but they were marked with times like 2 hr 45 min (for the half marathon) so that was useless. Walkers and people/children doing the fun run (untimed) mixed with us competitive runners. We stood on a sidewalk in the sun forever!!! They released us in like 15 small waves and my group (which was not the last) didn’t even start until the well after the first 10-15 runners crossed the finish line (18-25 minutes).

    The Actual 5K
    Course was fine except you started and finished on a sidewalk along the main street (albeit a small town main street) After a ton of zigging and zagging along the course to get around all the non-runners from all the previous waves.

    Finish Line/Post Race/Escaping to cars
    PERFECTION – ZERO COMPLAINTS
    They had this zone down like world freaking champions!

    DIFFICULTY
    2
    PRODUCTION
    1
    SCENERY
    2
    SWAG
    2

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    mandyhunter FIRST-TIMER '21

    Arrive early, parking is in a grassy field, consider plastic bags over your shoes to keep the pre dawn dew off of your shoes. Plenty of porta potties at the … MORE

    Arrive early, parking is in a grassy field, consider plastic bags over your shoes to keep the pre dawn dew off of your shoes. Plenty of porta potties at the start. Course is open not all drivers or cyclists are willing to share the road. Aide stations were well stocked volunteers were amazing. The course has a lot of slant you will have one longer leg at the end. Swag at finish AMAZING. Great cheering in across the finish line. Would run again. Nice to have gender specific race shirts. I paced my wife for her first half on this course and she had a great time.

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    4
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5
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    bonniec218 FIRST-TIMER '21

    This was my first Vacation Race and I am completely in love. Everything was so well-organized and flowed nicely. I had heard the slope was brutal on your hips/knees but … MORE

    This was my first Vacation Race and I am completely in love. Everything was so well-organized and flowed nicely. I had heard the slope was brutal on your hips/knees but I taped my knee, tried to run on the high end of the slope and didn’t have any issues. We got a late start so we got caught in traffic on the way there; the lines were horrible getting to the parking area (totally our fault). The buses were great though and waited on everyone to board for the shuttle to the starting line. The view was amazing with a beautiful sunrise and peaceful mountain streams. The course has a few hills but they are small. I did intervals for the 1st half and ran the rest of the way in. Water stops and bathrooms are about every 2 miles. Bananas are available at mile 7 and 11 (I think)… I wish they were at 5 and 9 but I am not complaining. The awards ceremony was quick and very organized. I ran the “Black Bear Double) which meant I got 3 medals… 1 for the 5K, one for the Half, and 1 for doing both.

    DIFFICULTY
    2
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    tessa.paul REPEAT RUNNER '21

    First time running this course. It was gorgeous. Plenty of aid stations, portapotties, etc. Be advised the road tends to slope in some parts, but not as bad as I … MORE

    First time running this course. It was gorgeous. Plenty of aid stations, portapotties, etc. Be advised the road tends to slope in some parts, but not as bad as I expected. Swag was great.

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    5
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    all0201 FIRST-TIMER '21

    Great swag and beautiful venue. Get to parking early for the shuttle because traffic can be backed up causing you to be late. With so many runners, the course can … MORE

    Great swag and beautiful venue. Get to parking early for the shuttle because traffic can be backed up causing you to be late. With so many runners, the course can get congested in places. The elevation/hills are not nearly as bad/scary as they look on the course map, but the slant in the road can make it painful on your toes and hips.

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    4
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    5

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    jdoctor FIRST-TIMER '21

    The race was held in the "quiet" side of the Smokies in beautiful Townsend. The crew was friendly, encouraging, and enthusiastic. The swag was awesome! The entire race was well … MORE

    The race was held in the “quiet” side of the Smokies in beautiful Townsend. The crew was friendly, encouraging, and enthusiastic. The swag was awesome! The entire race was well organized and executed. I will definitely come back next year, but I am trying to figure out how to go to ALL of them. Loved the experience!!

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    Bamarunner FIRST-TIMER '21

    Tough enough to challenge a first timer.(my wife and I both) Easy enough to not turn me away from running it again. Over all, great experience. MORE

    Tough enough to challenge a first timer.(my wife and I both) Easy enough to not turn me away from running it again. Over all, great experience.

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5
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    nurseJulie FIRST-TIMER '21

    Start to finish was smooth. Picking up bibs all the way through to getting our medals was easy. The aid stations were well placed and everyone was cheerful while helping … MORE

    Start to finish was smooth. Picking up bibs all the way through to getting our medals was easy. The aid stations were well placed and everyone was cheerful while helping each runner as they went through. The camber of the road in areas was hard on ankles and knees.

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    4

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    cclose00 REPEAT RUNNER '21

    - Beautiful location! - Well organized - great swag :) - little cell phone reception on expo/start/finish line - gradual incline/grade of road - pitched road MORE

    – Beautiful location!
    – Well organized
    – great swag 🙂
    – little cell phone reception on expo/start/finish line
    – gradual incline/grade of road
    – pitched road

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    5

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    bee.laser FIRST-TIMER '21

    Everybody was so kind and generous! Due to some unfortunate travel circumstances, I was late on race morning, but staff and volunteers went above and beyond to make sure I … MORE

    Everybody was so kind and generous! Due to some unfortunate travel circumstances, I was late on race morning, but staff and volunteers went above and beyond to make sure I could a) still participate and b) enjoy the race anyway. I mean, they set up the timing mat just for me and sent me on my way with kindness and encouragement. I cannot rave about them enough!!!
    The course was beautiful, weather was perfect, aid stations were well staffed and well placed, port-a-potties were also well placed and relatively clean, race fuel was good (love those Honey Stinger gels). Overall an excellent experience. I’m already recommending Vacation Races to everyone I know, but after this one I’m gonna shout it from the rooftops VACATION RACES ARE THE BEST RUNNING EXPERIENCES!!!!

    DIFFICULTY
    2
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    Ldunlap33 REPEAT RUNNER '21

    This was my 2nd race in Townsend and the weather and scenery were perfect. The course was great except for the slope but otherwise it was great. Very organized and … MORE

    This was my 2nd race in Townsend and the weather and scenery were perfect. The course was great except for the slope but otherwise it was great. Very organized and aid stations were very abundant on the course. The finish was great and all staff & volunteers were so nice.

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5
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    chelsea_sf52 REPEAT RUNNER '21

    I love almost everything about this race! The weather is perfect, views are great, and race organization is done very well. I have done it twice and think it is … MORE

    I love almost everything about this race! The weather is perfect, views are great, and race organization is done very well. I have done it twice and think it is well worth your time!
    The only thing that bothers me is the side slant of many of the mountain roads. It’s not super hilly, but the slant can be problematic.
    It is a beautiful course. I live in TN, so the humidity isn’t a concern for me (although I generally hate it too, just used to it!)
    It’s cupless, so be sure to figure out what works for you! There aren’t exceptions, so plan ahead!

    DIFFICULTY
    2
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5
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    ddrabik61 FIRST-TIMER '21

    This was my third VR this year! I had completed the Grand Teton and Yellowstone half marathons in June. My daughter and I signed up for the Great Smoky Mountains … MORE

    This was my third VR this year! I had completed the Grand Teton and Yellowstone half marathons in June. My daughter and I signed up for the Great Smoky Mountains Black Bear Double and it did not disappoint! I was not in this one for any PR’s just getting my daughter across the finish line. The race was perfect, the weather fantastic and the scenery beautiful. I can guarantee you, this will not be my last VR!!!! Great job guys!!!!!!

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    JayMo REPEAT RUNNER '21

    I ran my 80th half marathon at GSM Half, my 5th time at this race. I keep coming back for several reasons: 1. BEAUTIFUL scenery near an area that offers … MORE

    I ran my 80th half marathon at GSM Half, my 5th time at this race. I keep coming back for several reasons: 1. BEAUTIFUL scenery near an area that offers more to explore pre and post race 2. Fantastic organization with a legion of friendly and helpful volunteers (including me!), 3. a course that offers some challenge without completely depleting my ability to have fun afterward, and 4. the absolutely most beautiful medals anywhere. 5. The sunrise start over the mountains is breathtaking! I could say more, but suffice to say that I have recommended this race to everyone within driving distance, and I highly encourage anyone to enjoy the peaceful side of the gorgeous Great Smoky Mountains in this epic race!

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    4
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    dnthall REPEAT RUNNER '20

    If you want to run a race like no other, this one is for you. It is well organized. The scenery can not be beat. There are rolling hills and … MORE

    If you want to run a race like no other, this one is for you. It is well organized. The scenery can not be beat. There are rolling hills and the angle of the road occasionally messed with my knee. There were plenty of water stations throughout the course. It is a well planned course.

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    4
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    BKSTEIN40 REPEAT RUNNER '21

    This was my what doesn't challenge you run. Doing a 5k the night before and then the half marathon the next morning. The 5K is a little congested. One suggestion … MORE

    This was my what doesn’t challenge you run. Doing a 5k the night before and then the half marathon the next morning.
    The 5K is a little congested. One suggestion would be to have the double bear runners go first, the timed 5K runners go second and then the fun run/walkers go last. Until you get to the road it was way to crowded, had to run on the grass to get around the walkers.
    The Half Marathon was wonderful, great scenery as always. Got on the shuttle bus no problem with plenty of time to get myself mentally ready. This is my second vacation race and it won’t be my last!! Thanks to all the volunteers also, races like this don’t happen with out them!!

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    RMM1987 FIRST-TIMER '21

    I had a great time doing the fun run/5K. Great time with friends and enjoying the scenery. The race was very well organized. I’ve done a lot of 5K and … MORE

    I had a great time doing the fun run/5K. Great time with friends and enjoying the scenery. The race was very well organized. I’ve done a lot of 5K and this was the first one I got a metal! I felt official 😀

    DIFFICULTY
    1
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    3
    SWAG
    5

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    cangibso53 REPEAT RUNNER '21

    This race was so well organized and run! All aspects from packet pickup to race transportation to instructions to awards ceremonies were done with precision! The volunteers and staff were … MORE

    This race was so well organized and run! All aspects from packet pickup to race transportation to instructions to awards ceremonies were done with precision! The volunteers and staff were friendly and supportive. The half marathon course was beautiful running along a river with undulating elevation. The medals and awards ceremonies were wonderful!

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    5

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