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
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Recent reviews

    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    cowboyrock48 FIRST-TIMER '21

    This Was My First time Doing The Half Marathon I Have Done The 5k A Few Times.... So I Just Had To Do the Half Marathon To See If I … MORE

    This Was My First time Doing The Half Marathon I Have Done The 5k A Few Times…. So I Just Had To Do the Half Marathon To See If I Could Finish It… I Did.. it Was A Beautiful Day and A Awesome Route…

    DIFFICULTY
    4
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5
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    kmusheno FIRST-TIMER '21

    Scenic run along creeks with views of the foggy Smoky Mountains in the horizon: the perfect setup for a morning run at sunrise Course was nowhere near as difficult as … MORE

    Scenic run along creeks with views of the foggy Smoky Mountains in the horizon: the perfect setup for a morning run at sunrise

    Course was nowhere near as difficult as the elevation map suggests.

    VR does a great job with producing events: great race amenities, swag, locations, etc.

    DIFFICULTY
    2
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    3
    SWAG
    5

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    CG23 FIRST-TIMER '21

    Great place for a race, the weather cooperated extremely well. Cool morning and foggy so the sun didn’t peak through and make it unbearably hot. Did not notice the humidity … MORE

    Great place for a race, the weather cooperated extremely well. Cool morning and foggy so the sun didn’t peak through and make it unbearably hot. Did not notice the humidity being too uncomfortable either. Ran along a stream and through old country roads with many neat sights and sounds. Finish line was well placed and made for great atmosphere.

    DIFFICULTY
    2
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    As a 43 year old first half marathon runner,, this course was a perfect way to start. The course is very well marked, perfect temperature for running. Loved having stops … MORE

    As a 43 year old first half marathon runner,, this course was a perfect way to start. The course is very well marked, perfect temperature for running. Loved having stops every couple miles to grab a stinger, water, or snack. Roads paved and fairly flat. Overall the marathon was perfectly organized, will do again.

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    4
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    katieknits FIRST-TIMER '21

    The scenery was spectacular! Due to the morning start, we got to run the race during the early morning fog, which is why the mountains are named the “smoky” mountains, … MORE

    The scenery was spectacular! Due to the morning start, we got to run the race during the early morning fog, which is why the mountains are named the “smoky” mountains, which added a lot of beauty to the race. I was worried about the “mostly uphill” description of the race, but it didn’t seem bad to me at all, and I am not a super strong runner. I will definitely do this one again.

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5
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    aip2479 FIRST-TIMER '21

    It started with a beautiful sunrise over the smokies. The course skirted the little river the whole way. It was a tennessee backroad pleasure to run this. There was elevation … MORE

    It started with a beautiful sunrise over the smokies. The course skirted the little river the whole way. It was a tennessee backroad pleasure to run this. There was elevation gain but ever so slight the whole way you never truly noticed until you saw your watch later. Youre missing out if you skip this run hands down.

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    runsforkitkats REPEAT RUNNER '21

    I’ve run nearly 30 half marathons. This race is in my top 5- along with another Vacation Races race (Grand Tetons). This company does everything well when it comes to … MORE

    I’ve run nearly 30 half marathons. This race is in my top 5- along with another Vacation Races race (Grand Tetons). This company does everything well when it comes to races- they’re experiences are top notch and this weekend was no different. I cannot recommend this race enough. From the scenery to the ease of participation. They really made this weekend magical!

    DIFFICULTY
    1
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5
    My Media

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    mitchq FIRST-TIMER '21

    Absolutely amazing. Course has some rolling hills, but nothing too bad. Vacation Races is stellar. Gorgeous medal. Will definitely be back next year. MORE

    Absolutely amazing. Course has some rolling hills, but nothing too bad. Vacation Races is stellar. Gorgeous medal. Will definitely be back next year.

    DIFFICULTY
    3
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5

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    cmann4343 FIRST-TIMER '21

    Was A Awesome Day For My First Time Doing The Half Marathon in Townsend, TN... I have done the 5k A Few times... The Route on the half marathon was … MORE

    Was A Awesome Day For My First Time Doing The Half Marathon in Townsend, TN… I have done the 5k A Few times… The Route on the half marathon was Awesome,Nice Views..Will be Back Next Year I Hope..

    DIFFICULTY
    5
    PRODUCTION
    5
    SCENERY
    5
    SWAG
    5
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