The Best Airports Near Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Taking a trip to see the Great Smoky Mountains National Park?  One thing you’ll need to decide is where to fly into.   

The park straddles the borders of North Carolina and Tennessee, so there are several airports near the Smoky Mountains to choose from.  

This guide is here to help you decide which of the Great Smoky Mountains nearest airport options makes the most sense for your trip.

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This guide outlines a range of convenient airports that you could be the best for your trip. However, the nearest airport with commercial flights to Great Smoky Mountains National Park is McGhee Tyson Airport (Knoxville) on the Tennessee side and and Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (Greenville) on the South Carolina side of the park.

Planning Your Trip to Great Smoky Mountains 

Before we get into the details of different airports, take a quick look at the step-by-step planner below:  

  1. First up, you’ll need to decide when to go
  1. You’ll also need to decide how long to go for.
  1. Then, you’ll need to decide where to stay.  There are no accommodations inside the park, so which gateway town you stay in may affect which airport makes the most sense to fly into. out of.  If you choose to stay in Gatlinburg, here are some top vacation rentals in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. If you choose to stay in Asheville, here are some top picks for vacation rentals in Asheville, NC
  1. Now that you have decided where to stay, the next thing is to decide the best way to get to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  If you’re taking a road trip, you’ll need to rent a car and plan out your route. Book a car through Discover Cars – you enter your destination and they scan all of the available cars in all the agencies to find the best price for the type of car you want.   You can also read my Guide to Finding the Cheapest Rental Car for handy tips.  Check my Road Trip Packing List to make sure you have everything you need for your trip.      
  1. If you’re going to fly, read on to find the nearest airport to Smoky Mountains National Park.  That’s what this guide is to help you do! 
  1. Then you’ll need to book a flight.  I recommend using Skyscanner to search through all available flights to find the cheapest. 
  1. Finally, you will need to decide your itinerary
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The Best Airports Near Great Smoky Mountains National Park

How to Decide Your Flights to Great Smoky Mountains National Park  

Planning your trip is more than just about choosing an airport near to Smoky Mountains area. Going through the specifics of your travel itinerary will help you get the best airport to fly to Smoky Mountains Park.  

Consider some of the details below:  

  • Where else are you planning to go on your trip?  There are sights and nearby cities you can visit near the different park entrances. It’s best to find an airport near the park entrance you want to access for less hassle on your travel.   

There are three main park entry points you can access. The two entrances of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee are Gatlinburg, and Townsend while the south Cherokee or Oconaluftee entrance is located in North Carolina.  

You can go to the nearest airport to Tennessee if you’re planning to access these north entrances.  The Gatlinburg entrance is the most popular entry point because of its proximity to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge in Tennessee. Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s Townsend entrance provides a more quiet alternative and is ideal if you’re also seeing Cades Cove Loop Road and historic buildings like the Cable Mill and the Becky Cable House.  

The park’s Cherokee entrance is located west of  Waynesville, North Carolina. You can also drop by the Visitor Center and Mountain Farm Museum from this entrance. 

  • When are you going?  Peak season months at the park are from June to August and October. If you visit outside these months some airports may have fewer flight options.   
  • Where are you staying? It may make the most sense to fly into an airport near where you’re staying. 
  • How much time do you have? If you have less time to travel but want to get the most out of your trip to the Smoky Mountains, so it’s wise to choose an airport closer to the park.  
  • What’s your budget? Larger airports often offer more cheap flights to Smoky Mountains National Park than other airports.  
  • Do you have a frequent flyer program with a specific airline? Earning points for your miles? Some airports have more airline services than others which can help you decide where to fly to.  
  • Where are you flying from? Are you flying domestic or international flights? Some airports have more flight routes than other air hubs.  
  • What type of car do you want to rent when you arrive? To enjoy more of the park scenery, you can drive along the park road. Different airports offer different car rental services.  

What are the best airports Near Great Smoky Mountains National Park 

The airports near Smoky Mountains, TN are: 

  1. McGhee Tyson Airport 
  2. Asheville Regional Airport 
  3. Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport 
  4. Charlotte Douglas International Airport
  5. Tri-Cities Airport
  6. Chattanooga Airport
  7. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
  8. Nashville International Airport
  9. Columbia Metropolitan Airport
  10. Blue Grass Airport

McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS)

Buildings surrounded by trees under clear blue sky and behind are mountains in Knoxville Tennessee near McGhee-Tyson Airport

Located south of Knoxville’s downtown area, is East Tennessee’s main airport. It’s around 40 miles from Gatlinburg and the nearest Great Smoky Mountains National Park airport on the Tennessee side.  

The airport offers nonstop and seasonal commercial flights to over 30 US destinations. You can fly via Delta, American, Frontier, United, and Allegiant airline services.  

This airport near Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a good option if you’re staying or visiting Gatlinburg, Townsend, Pigeon Forge, or Cades Cove. 

From McGhee Tyson, you can drive to US-129 S, then take the US-321 N going to Line Springs Road in Sevier County. Head towards Little River Gorge Road, then turn left going to US-441 N.

Location:

  • McGhee Tyson Airport is located south of Knoxville, Alcoa in Blount County.  

Distance Knoxville to Smoky Mountains National Park: 

  • Distance from Knoxville – Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg: 42 miles 
  • Distance to Townsend: 21 miles 
  • Distance to Cherokee: 73 miles 

Travel time Knoxville to Great Smoky Mountains National Park

  • Travel time Knoxville TN to Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg: 1 hour and 10 minutes 
  • Travel time to Townsend: 30 minutes 
  • Travel time to Cherokee: 2 hours 

What airlines fly out of McGhee Tyson Airport? Which airports connect to there? 

  • Delta: Atlanta, New York – La Guardia, Detroit, Minneapolis−Saint Paul 
  • American: Chicago – O’Hare, Charlotte, Miami, Philadelphia, Dallas – Fort Worth, Washington D.C. – Reagan 
  • Frontier: Orlando – International, Denver 
  • United: Chicago – O’Hare, Washington D.C. – Dulles, Houston – George Bush, Denver 
  • Allegiant: Fort Lauderdale, Houston – Hobby, Las Vegas, Minneapolis−Saint Paul, Orlando – Sanford, Phoenix, Punta Gorda, Sarasota, St. Petersburg Tampa Bay, West Palm Beach 

*Seasonal flights (Allegiant): Austin, Baltimore/Washington D.C., Boston, Chicago – Midway, Denver, Destin/ Ft. Walton Beach, Myrtle Beach, Newark 

Rental car options: 

  • Onsite: Alamo, AVIS, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz, National, Dollar, Payless   

Getting from McGhee Tyson Airport to Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 

  • Car rental  
  • Rocky Top Tours (Shuttle service) 

Pros: 

  • Closest domestic airport to the park entrances on the Tennessee side 
  • Several nonstop flights to other states 
  • Plenty of car rental services are available here  
  • Visit the nearby areas like Gatlinburg, Townsend, Pigeon Forge, or Cades Cove 

Cons:

  • Only domestic flights are available 
  • Less convenient for the North Carolina side of the park 

This is the best airport for Great Smoky Mountains National Park … 

  • If you have lesser time to travel  
  • If you plan to see nearby cities  
  • If you’re staying on the Tennessee side of the park 

Asheville Regional Airport (AVL)

Buildings surrounded by trees and mountains in the background in Asheville North Carolina near Asheville Regional Airport

If you’re looking for an airport near Smoky Mountains’ North Carolina area, you can fly to Asheville Regional Airport. This small airport lies near the town of Fletcher, south of Ashville. It is serviced by major domestic airlines with direct and seasonal flight routes to get you to different US states.  

Getting around Asheville and nearby areas is easy with plenty of ground transportation services available at this airport like taxis, public transits like Asheville ART Public Transit and Apple Country Transit, and limousine services.  

Six car rental companies operate onsite at the airport so you can rent a car and easily access the park from here.  

To get to the Cherokee entrance, get on I-26 W. Drive to US-74 W and take I-40 W going to US-19 S/Dellwood Road in Lake Junaluska. Head towards Exit 103 from US-74 W and follow US-19 S towards Blue Ridge Parkway. You’ll eventually reach Swain County and the Cherokee park entrance in about an hour from the airport.  

Location: 

  • Asheville Regional Airport is near the town of Fletcher, nine miles south of Asheville. 

Distance Asheville to Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 

  • Distance to Gatlinburg: 86 miles 
  • Distance to Townsend: 117 miles 
  • Distance to Cherokee: 68 miles 

Travel time Asheville, NC to Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 

  • Travel time to Gatlinburg: 1 hour and 45 minutes 
  • Travel time to Townsend: 2 hours and 30 minutes 
  • Travel time to Cherokee: 1 hour and 10 minutes 

What airlines fly out of Asheville Regional Airport? Which airports connect to there? 

  • Allegiant: Austin, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Key West, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Newark, Orlando/Sanford, West Palm Beach, Ft. Myers/Punta Gorda, Sarasota, Clearwater-St. Pete. *Seasonal: Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Destin 
  • American Airlines: Charlotte, Dallas/Ft. Worth  *Seasonal:  Austin, Boston, Chicago, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C.  
  • Delta: Atlanta  *Seasonal: LaGuardia, Minneapolis 
  • JetBlue: Boston 
  • Sun Country Airlines: Minneapolis 
  • United: Chicago, Newark 

Rental car options: 

  • Onsite: AVIS, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz, National and Alamo, Dollar and Thrifty 

Getting from Asheville Regional Airport to Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 

  • Car rental service  

Pros: 

  • Closest airport to the Smoky Mountain’s Cherokee entrance 
  • Budget flights are available  
  • Can also visit Asheville.   

Cons: 

  • Only domestic flights are offered here  
  • Limited flight routes  
  • Limited car rental companies 
  • Some flights are seasonal 

This is the best airport for Great Smoky Mountains National Park … 

  • If you choose to enter the park’s Cherokee entrance  
  • If you’re also going around the Asheville area  

READ MORE: Things To Do in Blue Ridge Mountains 


Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP) 

Bended road in the middle of the city surrounded by buildings and trees below the beautiful blue sky in Greenville, South Carolina.

Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport is located between Greenville and Spartanburg. It’s South Carolina’s second-busiest airport next to Charleston International Airport. You can fly direct to several cities across the country with seven major domestic airlines from this airport.  This makes it easier to book budget flights and earn miles from your airline of choice.  

Local transportation services like minivans, sedans, SUVs shuttle bus services, and limousine coach services are provided by Eastside Transportation.  

Alamo, AVIS, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz, and National are your options for car rentals at this airport. The nearest Smoky National Park entrance from here is in Cherokee which will take you about two hours to drive.   

Car rental:

  • Onsite: Alamo, AVIS, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz, National 

Location:

  • The airport is located near the city of Greer between Greenville and Spartanburg in South Carolina.

Distance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park:

  • Distance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg TN: 150 miles 
  • Distance to Townsend: 180 miles 
  • Distance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cherokee, NC: 130 miles 

Travel time to Great Smoky Mountains National Park:

  • Travel time to Gatlinburg: 2 hours and 45 minutes 
  • Travel time to Townsend: 3 hours and 25 minutes 
  • Travel time to Cherokee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 2 hours and 10 minutes 

What airlines fly out of Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport? Which airports connect to there? 

  • Allegiant: Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando/Sanford, Tampa/St. Petersburg 
  • American Airlines: Charlotte, Chicago (ORD), Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), Miami, Philadelphia, Washington D.C. (DCA) 
  • Contour: Nashville  
  • Delta: Atlanta, Detroit, New York (LGA) 
  • Silver Airways: Orlando (MCO), Tampa (TPA) 
  • Southwest Airlines:  Atlanta, Baltimore, Houston (HOU) 
  • United: Chicago (ORD), Denver, Houston (IAH), Newark 

Rental car options: 

  • Onsite: Alamo, AVIS, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz, National  

Getting from Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport to Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 

  • Car rental  

Pros:

  • Options for several domestic flight routes  
  • Cheaper flights available   

Cons:

  • Limited car rental service options  
  • Longer driving hours to Cherokee entrance    
  • Selected flight routes to US cities  

This is the best airport for Great Smoky Mountains National Park … 

  • If you are planning to see local sights at Greenville and Spartanburg 
  • If you have more time to travel   

Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)

Green grass in the middle of the runway and an Airplane departing from Charlotte Douglas International Airport in the middle of the day

Charlotte Douglas International Airport also called Charlotte Douglas or Douglas Airport is located six miles west of Charlotte city’s central business district. This is the nearest international airport to get you to Smoky Mountain National Park’s Cherokee entrance.  

Charlotte Douglas offers plenty of domestic and international flights to different US cities and destinations worldwide. So if you’re looking for great flight deals and points for miles for your chosen airline, you’ll most likely get it here.   

Eight car rental services operate and are located at the airport’s Rental Car Facility across the terminal building.  

It’ll take you more or less three hours to get to the Cherokee entrance. Your route starts on Josh Birmingham Parkway to I-85 S. Take US-321 N, then I-40 W heading to US-276 S in Haywood County. Continue to drive and take exit 20 from I-40 W until you reach Cove Creek Road. 

Location:

  • This airport lies in Charlotte a few miles from the central city area in the state of North Carolina.  

Distance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 

  • Distance to Gatlinburg: 189 miles 
  • Distance to Townsend: 221 miles 
  • Distance to Cherokee, Smoky Mountains National Park: 171 miles 

Travel time to Great Smoky Mountains National Park

  • Travel time to Gatlinburg: 3 hours and 35 minutes 
  • Travel time to Townsend: 4 hours and 15 minutes 
  • Travel time to Cherokee: 2 hours and 55 minutes 

What airlines fly out of Charlotte Douglas International Airport? Which airports connect to there? 

  • Many domestic and international flights fly to and from Charlotte Douglas International Airport. 

Rental car options: 

  • Onsite: Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, Sixt 

Getting from Charlotte Douglas International Airport to Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 

  • Rental car services  

Pros: 

  • Plenty of options for domestic and international airline services 
  • More flight routes to US and international destinations 
  • Competitive flight rates  
  • More options for frequent flyer programs  

Cons: 

  • Longer driving hours to the park  

This is the best airport for Great Smoky Mountains National Park … 

  • If you have more time to travel  
  • If you’re flying internationally and want fewer connections 
  • If you’re also visiting Charlotte 

Tri-Cities Airport (TRI)

A tree beside the river under the blue sky and on the side are trees surrounding the river in Bristol, TN, near Tri-Cities Airport

Tri-Cities Airport is a small airport that serves Northeast Tennessee, South Virginia, the Western part of North Carolina, and Eastern Kentucky areas. It provides nonstop services on three major airlines to Orlando Sanford, St. Pete-Clearwater, Charlotte Douglas, Dallas/Fort Worth, and Hartsfield Jackson International Airport.  

You can visit the Blountville area along with nearby cities Kingsport, Bristol, and Johnson via transport services like taxis and transportation network companies at the airport.  

For your car rentals, you can choose from eight rental car companies in Tri-Cities. The airport is closer to the Gatlinburg and Townsend entrances, which are about two hours away.  

Location:

The airport is located in Blountville, Tennessee, right in the middle of Bristol, Kingsport, and Johnson City.  

Distance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 

  • Distance to Gatlinburg: 112 miles 
  • Distance to Townsend: 109 miles 
  • Distance to Cherokee: 137 miles 

Travel time to Great Smoky Mountains National Park

  • Travel time to Gatlinburg: 2 hours 
  • Travel time to Townsend: 2 hours and 5 minutes 
  • Travel time to Cherokee: 2 hours and 20 minutes 

What airlines fly out of Tri-Cities Airport? Which airports connect to there? 

  • Allegiant: Orlando Sanford International Airport, St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport 
  • American Airlines: Charlotte (Charlotte Douglas International Airport), Dallas (Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport) 
  • Delta: Atlanta (Hartsfield Jackson International Airport)  

Rental car options: 

  • Onsite: Alamo, AVIS, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, Thrifty 

Getting from Tri-Cities Airport to Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 

  • Rent-a-Car service  

Pros:

  • Feasible driving hours to the park’s Tennessee entrances 
  • Connecting flights to selected airports  
  • Enough car rental services  
  • Near the cities of Bristol, Kingsport, and Johnson just in case you’re also traveling to these areas  

Cons:

  • Limited airline choices  
  • Few flight routes  
  • Longer hours to get to the park entrance  

This is the best airport for Great Smoky Mountains National Park … 

  • If you have more time for your trip  
  • If you’re also traveling to nearby regions like Northeast Tennessee, South Virginia, the Western part of North Carolina, and Eastern Kentucky areas.  

Chattanooga Airport (CHA)

River beside the building is surrounded by trees and a bridge above the water, and in the background are mountains, near Chattanooga Airport

Chattanooga Airport is located in the eastern portion of downtown Chattanooga in Tennessee. They offer daily non-stop flights to Atlanta, Detroit, Charlotte, Dallas, Washington, Chicago, Orlando, and seasonally to Tampa.  

This airport gives you less hassle over the long airport lines, crowded parking, and traffic concerns you would usually encounter in larger airports.  

If you’re visiting the downtown area, there are plenty of car rentals, taxis, limousines, and ride-sharing services at Chattanooga Airport. Millenium Transportation and Nooga Shuttles also provide shuttle transportation services from here.  

Car rental services are available onsite so you can get a car and drive to the park. The nearest Great Smoky Mountains entrance from here is Townsend. From the airport, you can drive to TN-153 S. Head towards I-75 N going to TN-33 S in Alcoa. Take US-321 N/E Lamar Alexander Parkway, then head to Mountain Avenue in Townsend. Driving time to the park will take you about two hours.  

Location:

  • Chattanooga Airport is located east of downtown Chattanooga, Hamilton County.  

Distance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 

  • Distance to Gatlinburg: 144 miles 
  • Distance to Townsend: 123 miles 
  • Distance to Cherokee: 139 miles 

Travel time to Great Smoky Mountains National Park

  • Travel time to Gatlinburg: 2 hours and 45 minutes 
  • Travel time to Townsend: 2 hours 
  • Travel time to Cherokee:  2 hours and 50 minutes 

What airlines fly out of Chattanooga Airport? Which airports connect to there? 

  • Delta: Atlanta, Detroit 
  • American Airlines: Charlotte, Dallas, Washington D.C.  
  • United: Chicago 
  • Allegiant: Orlando and Tampa (schedule changes seasonally) 

Rental car options: 

  • Onsite: Alamo, AVIS, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, Thrifty 

Getting from Chattanooga Airport to Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 

  • Car rental service  

Pros: 

  • Direct domestic flights to specific US cities like Chicago, Dallas, and Washington  
  • Feasible driving hours to the Townsend area 

Cons: 

  • Limited flight route destinations  
  • Few airline services are available  

This is the best airport for Great Smoky Mountains National Park … 

  • If you have enough time to travel  
  • If you want to take a road trip around Tennessee 

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)

Road in the middle of buildings surrounded by trees under the blue sky near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport was formerly known as Atlanta Municipal Airport and is a major hub airport in Atlanta, Georgia. It offers several nonstop air services to over 150 domestic cities and 70 international key destinations like Africa, Asia, Europe, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.  

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta offers plenty of ground transportation services from car rentals and Sky Train, to Share-Ride Shuttles, limousines, taxis, and rideshare services.  

From the airport, you can also access the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority or MARTA which operates as the city’s local public bus and train transport.  AMTRAK and Greyhound also have several routes from the airport.  

The Smoky Mountain’s Cherokee entrance is the nearest park entrance from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta. To reach the park, get to I-85 N, then take I-985 N. Drive to US-23 N, Highway 441, and US-23 N to US-441 N in Swain County 

Location:

  • Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport is an international airport located 7 miles south of the Downtown Atlanta district.  

Distance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 

  • Distance to Gatlinburg: 206 miles 
  • Distance to Townsend: 244 miles 
  • Distance to Cherokee: 172 miles 

Travel time to Great Smoky Mountains National Park

  • Travel time to Gatlinburg: 4 hours and 10 minutes 
  • Travel time to Townsend: 3 hours and 50 minutes 
  • Travel time to Cherokee: 3 hours and 5 minutes 

What airlines fly out of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport? Which airports connect to there? 

  • Multiple domestic and international airlines fly here.  

Rental car options: 

  • Onsite: Advantage, Airport Rent a Car, Alamo, AVIS, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, Payless, Sixt, Thrifty  

Getting from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 

  • Car rentals  

Pros: 

  • There are plenty of both domestic and international  flights available  
  • More airline services offered  
  • Cheaper flight options are available 
  • Get miles for frequent flyer programs for your airlines  

Cons: 

  • Longer driving hours to the park   

This is the best airport for Great Smoky Mountains National Park … 

  • If you have lots of time to travel 
  • If you are visiting Atlanta, Georgia, and nearby areas 

Nashville International Airport (BNA)

Trees surround long bridges across the river, and besides are buildings in the middle of the daytime in Nashville Tennessee

Located in Nashville’s southeast section, Nashville International Airport is serviced by 21 major airlines flying to other states and selected international cities like Melbourne, Cancun, and London.  

You’ll have plenty of flight options and airline services to choose from at this airport. This also means you can get cheaper flight rates and earn miles on your airline’s frequent flyer program.  

The airport has ample ground transportation services like Ride Apps, Taxis, limousines, shuttles, and buses. Several onsite car rentals also operate at the Rental Car Facility. The nearest Great Smoky Mountain entrance you can get to is the Townsend entrance, which is about three hours.  

From Terminal Drive and Donelson Pike, you can follow I-40 E until you reach TN-33 S in Alcoa. Drive to E Lamar Alexander Parkway going to Townsend Entrance Road.  

Location:

Nashville International Airport is in the southern area of Nashville. 

Distance Nashville to Smoky Mountains National Park: 

  • Distance from Nashville – Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg: 214 miles 
  • Distance from Townsend entrance of Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Nashville: 193 miles 
  • Distance to Cherokee: 249 miles 

Travel time Nashville to Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 

  • Travel time to Gatlinburg: 3 hours and 45 minutes 
  • Travel time to Townsend: 3 hours and 5 minutes 
  • Travel time to Cherokee: 4 hours and 35 minutes 

What airlines fly out of Nashville International Airport? Which airports connect to there? 

  • Several domestic and international flights are available at this airport.  

Rental car options: 

  • Onsite (Rental Car Facility):  Advantage, Alamo, AVIS, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, Payless, Sixt, Thrifty 

Getting from Nashville International Airport to Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 

  • Car rental  

Pros: 

  • Plenty of domestic and international flights are available  
  • Ample rental car service companies 
  • Options for cheaper flights  
  • Ground transportation services from the airport 
  • Visit Nashville and nearby local sights  

Cons: 

  • Long driving hours to the park  

This is the best airport for Great Smoky Mountains National Park … 

  • If you have lots of travel time  
  • If you plan to see sights in Nashville and cities nearby  

Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE)

Roads in the middle of the city surrounded by buildings and trees in the middle of the day in Columbia, South Carolina

Columbia Metropolitan Airport is Columbia’s main commercial airport and also serves South Carolina’s Midlands region.  Airlines that fly to and from this airport include American Airlines, Delta, and United. Daily flights to and from Columbia Metropolitan include Charlotte, Dallas-Fort Worth, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Atlanta, New York, and occasionally to Miami.  

For transport services to get you around the area, you can get a taxi cab, rideshare, limousine, or sedan services. COMET is a countywide public transport service with over thirty fixed routes that also lets you access different areas nearby.  

The Cherokee Entrance is the nearest park entrance. Estimated driving hours from the airport to the entrance is more or less four hours. To get there, drive from SC-602 Wattling Road and US-1 N/Augusta Road going to I-26 W. Continue driving until you reach I-40 W to US-19 S/Dellwood Road. From there, you can take exit 103 from US-74 W and head towards US-19 S. Continue driving until you get to BIA Road 697 in Cherokee.  

Location:

  • This airport is located in West Columbia, just five miles southwest of the Columbia area in Lexington County. 

Distance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 

  • Distance to Gatlinburg: 232 miles 
  • Distance to Townsend: 264 miles 
  • Distance to Cherokee: 214 miles 

Travel time to Great Smoky Mountains National Park

  • Travel time to Gatlinburg: 4 hours and 10 minutes 
  • Travel time to Townsend: 4 hours and 50 minutes 
  • Travel time to Cherokee: 3 hours and 40 minutes 

What airlines fly out of Columbia Metropolitan Airport? Which airports connect to there? 

  • American Airlines: Charlotte, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. (Reagan), Miami (Seasonal Nonstop Destinations) 
  • Delta: Atlanta, New York (LaGuardia) 
  • United: Chicago, Washington, D.C. (Dulles) 

Rental car options: 

  • Onsite: Alamo, AVIS, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, Thrifty 

Getting from Columbia Metropolitan Airport to Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 

  • Car rental service  

Pros: 

  • Budget flights offered by airline companies available at the airport 
  • Enough car rental companies available here  

Cons: 

  • Limited flights  
  • Limited airline options   
  • Longer driving hour to the park’s entrance 

This is the best airport for Great Smoky Mountains National Park … 

  • If you have more travel time  
  • If you want to see local sights in Lexington County 

Blue Grass Airport (LEX)

Roads in the middle of the city surrounded by buildings and trees in the daytime in Lexington, Kentucky, near Blue Grass Airport

Blue Grass Airport is located in Lafayette County, six miles west of Lexington. This airport serves the areas of central and eastern locations of Kentucky. You can fly non-stop to over 16 destinations across the country on Allegiant, American Airlines, Delta, United, and Avelo.  

You can check out Lexington and other places in Lafayette with different transport services accessible at the airport like shuttle, taxi and limousine services, ride app services, and hotel courtesy vans.  

You’ll find car rental companies at the airport’s rental car facility located right next to the terminal.  It will take you about three and a half hours to Smoky Mountains’ Townsend entrance.  

From Blue Grass, get on KY-4 S from Terminal Drive and Versailles Road. Drive towards I-75 S to US-129 S/Alcoa Highway in Knoxville. From there, take exit 386B from I-40 W, then continue to US-129 S to E Lamar Alexander Parkway in Blount County.  

Location:

  • This airport is located just six miles west of the downtown Lexington area.  

Distance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 

  • Distance to Gatlinburg: 218 
  • Distance to Townsend: 210 miles 
  • Distance to Cherokee: 252 miles 

Travel time to Great Smoky Mountains National Park

  • Travel time to Gatlinburg: 3 hours and 55 minutes 
  • Travel time to Townsend: 3 hours and 30 minutes 
  • Travel time to Cherokee: 4 hours and 50 minutes 

What airlines fly out of Blue Grass Airport? Which airports connect to there? 

  • Allegiant: Destin, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Myrtle Beach, Orlando, Punta Gorda, St. Pete/Clearwater 
  • American Airlines: Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia,  
  • Delta: Washington, D.C., Detroit, Atlanta 
  • United: Chicago 
  • Avelo: Orlando, Tampa 

Rental car options: 

  • Onsite: Alamo, AVIS, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National 

Getting from Blue Grass Airport to Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 

  • Car rentals  

Pros: 

  • Direct nonstop flights via major domestic airlines 
  • Choices of different car rental services  
  • Chance to see sights in the Lexington County area   
  • Competitive flight rates  

Cons: 

  • Few flight destinations  
  • Limited airline options  
  • Longer driving hours to get to the park  

This is the best airport for Great Smoky Mountains National Park … 

  • If you have more hours to travel  
  • If you’re also visiting Lexington County 

FAQs About Airport Near Smoky Mountains National Park 

What is the closest major city to Great Smoky Mountains?  

The closest major city on the North Carolina side is Waynesville while the city near the park on the Tennessee side is Townsend.

What Major Airport is Closest to Gatlinburg TN? 

The closest major airport to Gatlinburg TN is the McGhee-Tyson Airport. Just 40 miles from Gatlinburg, it’s the closest airport to Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

What are the major airports near Gatlinburg, TN? 

Charlotte Douglas International Airport is a major airport near Gatlinburg, TN you can fly to.  

Another major airport close to Gatlinburg Tennessee is Nashville International Airport, along with Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

What Airport is Closest to Smoky Mountains? 

The closest airport to Smoky Mountains is McGee-Tyson Airport located in Alcoa, Tennessee, south of Knoxville. 


Map of Airports Near Smoky Mountains National Park


Travel Insurancefor Great Smoky Mountains National Park 

A final thought.  When you’re flying to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN, consider getting travel insurance too. Make sure it includes trip cancellation, in case you need to cancel your flight before your travel, so that you can get a refund.    

A great insurance option is Travelex.  It has coverage for all you’ll need. You can swap this link for  either choose the best travel insurance plan for your trip here or get a quote right now:

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Have a great trip to Great Smoky Mountains!  I hope this guide to the closest airport to Great Smoky Mountains National Park has helped you decide on your flight to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

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The Best Airports Near Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Which of the airports near Smoky Mountains Tennessee did you choose?  I’d love to know.  Join my private Facebook group National Parks Collectors and comment and let me know (you can also pick up extra planning tips, share your photos and stories with other national park lovers and more).  

Now you know all the Great Smoky Mountains airport options, Pin It to your Great Smoky Mountains National Park board for easy reference!  

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About the Author 

James Ian Yosemite

James Ian is a national park, camping and hiking expert.

He has dedicated his life to travel, visiting more than 80 countries, all 7 continents and most of the national parks in the United States. With over 35 years experience in the travel industry, James has worked on cruise ships, at resorts and hotels, and as a travel planner who’s helped hundreds of people plan successful trips to US national parks. 

Based on his experience visiting our national parks multiple times, in-depth research and expertise as a travel planner, James has published detailed itineraries for most of the major national parks in the US. These itineraries, as well as in-depth park guides, comprehensive camping and hiking gear reviews and buying guides, and helpful packing lists and gift guides will help you have your own incredible trip to US national parks without stress and hassle.

As a national park expert, James has contributed to many publications, including USA Today, Time Business News, Savoteur, Best Trip, and Wired.

Read more…


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