Overall Rating
Overall Rating (101 Reviews)
4.7
(101 Ratings) 🏆 (101 Reviews)
DIFFICULTY
3
SCENERY
4.4
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
Local Weather (Sep 09):
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H (°F) 80 85 94 89 78
L (°F) 63 61 66 71 58
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Recent reviews

    brbender262 FIRST-TIMER '21

    If you're looking for a good Tennessee Half Marathon that lets you explore nature, look no further. The Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon is a great option for a vacation … MORE

    If you’re looking for a good Tennessee Half Marathon that lets you explore nature, look no further. The Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon is a great option for a vacation race.

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    4
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    4

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    2pugdogmom FIRST-TIMER '18

    I love the Vacation Races produced runs. This is a gem that goes thru the back roads of Townsend TN. It's rolling hills and flat, making it a very approachable … MORE

    I love the Vacation Races produced runs. This is a gem that goes thru the back roads of Townsend TN. It’s rolling hills and flat, making it a very approachable race. The weekend opportunity to explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is icing on the cake.

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    5

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    2pugdogmom FIRST-TIMER '18

    Love Vacation Races. The 5K that's part of the Great Smoky Mountain weekend is run on a paved greenway thru Townsend and loops a large field. The field most people … MORE

    Love Vacation Races. The 5K that’s part of the Great Smoky Mountain weekend is run on a paved greenway thru Townsend and loops a large field. The field most people prefer to walk as it’s very uneven ground. Still the production from VR is always top class.

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    4
    SCENERY
    3
    SWAG
    4

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    2pugdogmom REPEAT RUNNER '20

    I love the Vacation Races produced runs. This is a gem that goes thru the back roads of Townsend TN. It's rolling hills and flat, making it a very approachable … MORE

    I love the Vacation Races produced runs. This is a gem that goes thru the back roads of Townsend TN. It’s rolling hills and flat, making it a very approachable race.

    DIFFICULTY
    2
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    5

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    milbs FIRST-TIMER '21

    I loved this race. It was my first half marathon in five years and it felt like such an amazing race to start back up on. The scenery was gorgeous, … MORE

    I loved this race. It was my first half marathon in five years and it felt like such an amazing race to start back up on. The scenery was gorgeous, and the time of year for the race made it not too cold, and not too hot. It was perfectly timed. The volunteers were incredibly helpful and there were an ample amount of aid stations. Everyone seemed so excited to be able to participate. It’s a beautiful course that I’d love to run again. It’s in an excellent area so that post race you can adventure into the National Park.

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    Profile photo of Laura Forsythe
    lforsythe80 REPEAT RUNNER '21

    I loved this race! Cute covered bridge, Smokey morning what’s not to love? Usually the vacation races tshirt colors are muddy (brown, tans and grayish) this one was a beautiful … MORE

    I loved this race! Cute covered bridge, Smokey morning what’s not to love? Usually the vacation races tshirt colors are muddy (brown, tans and grayish) this one was a beautiful teal color which was a nice change. We stayed in Gatlinburg and brought kiddos. It was close to tourist attractions like Dollywood and ended up being fun for the whole family.

    DIFFICULTY
    2
    PRODUCTION
    4
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5
    My Media

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    psddalton FIRST-TIMER '21

    I loved being a part of this! Having friends and my alma matar so close in Maryville made running this a no brainer. The Airbnb I stayed at in Townsend … MORE

    I loved being a part of this! Having friends and my alma matar so close in Maryville made running this a no brainer. The Airbnb I stayed at in Townsend made it truly feel like a ‘Vacation’ Race.

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    5
    My Media

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    50StateRunner50 FIRST-TIMER '21

    Gently rolling course. It was listed as an uphill run, but the elevation gain was gradual. The Vacation Races organization did another outstanding job of producing this race. The free … MORE

    Gently rolling course. It was listed as an uphill run, but the elevation gain was gradual. The Vacation Races organization did another outstanding job of producing this race. The free race photos are always appreciated. Water, Gnarly Mix and Honey Stinger Gel Packs were offered and every aid station. This event is held at the perfect time of year in East Tennessee for a morning run.

    DIFFICULTY
    2
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    4
    SWAG
    5

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    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
    My Media

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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 isn’t 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. There was a good amount of water stations (every 2 miles or so) so soak up that energy because that will be the only time you see someone who isn’t a homeowner having morning coffee or driver trying to get around you. The race pictures are free but keep in mind if you are a 2:45 or greater runner like me you will end up with very few race pictures. I only got pictures at mile 11 and the finish line whereas the faster runners also got a picture at mile 4.

    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
    My Media

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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
    My Media

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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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  2. Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon