Great Smokies: How To Get There

A couple of great airports offer ideal landing spots for a visit to the Great Smoky Mountains.

A view of the Great Smoky Mountains with clouds and fog covering the mountains at sunrise.

Two local mountain airports are convenient gateways for your visit to the Great Smokies. [Credit: Adobe Stock]

Your gateways to the Great Smoky Mountains reflect the wide variety of terrain and activities that the national park and surrounding areas provide. While there's always McGhee Tyson Airport (KTYS) in Knoxville, the Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport (KGKT) gives you good access to the attractions nearby, and the airport near Murphy, Tennessee (KRHP), offers a beautiful spot from which to launch your outdoor adventures.

Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport (KGKT)

Sevierville, Tennessee

The airport is located 2 miles southeast of the town of Sevierville, Tennessee. Runway 10/28 measures 5,506 feet by 75 feet. There are trees off the extended centerline of the runway, so watch the PAPI as you navigate this 3.50-degree glideslope.

The airport has 100LL and jet-A available, as well as tie-down space. According to airport manager Emily Haun, they have "the best view in the country," as they are located right next door to Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

The airport has both RNAV and VOR approaches—so check the NOTAMs carefully for any changes before you file IFR.

Western Carolina Regional Airport (KRHP)

Murphy, North Carolina

Western Carolina Regional Airport is located 2 miles west of Andrews, North Carolina, and 14 miles from the town of Murphy. The airport field elevation is 1,699 feet, and it is surrounded by high terrain—making for a beautiful backdrop but requiring some care when approaching the airport.

The runway, 8/26, measures 5,500 feet by 100 feet. Runway 8 has an RNAV approach and right traffic. Note the two-bar PAPI for the 3.50-degree glideslope; and that on Runway 8, the PAPI is unusable beyond 2 degrees left and 8 degrees right of centerline because of the surrounding terrain.

For approaches to Runway 26, the PAPI does not provide obstacle clearance beyond 2.5 nm from the threshold.

Be mindful of the ditches alongside the runway, and don't be surprised by the dropoff at both ends (remember that high-terrain thing).

For fueling options, the airport offers 100LL, jet-A, and jet-A-1-plus. notes this airport is a cold-temperature-restricted airport, meaning an altitude correction is required when the outside air temperature is at or below minus-8 degrees Celsius (17.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

Pilots are required to correct for the cold temperature and report the corrected altitude to air traffic controllers.

This article was first published in the 2022 Southeast Adventure Guide of FLYING Magazine.

Meg Godlewski has been an aviation journalist for more than 24 years and a CFI for more than 20 years. If she is not flying or teaching aviation, she is writing about it. Meg is a founding member of the Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA AirVenture and excels at the application of simulation technology to flatten the learning curve. Follow Meg on Twitter @2Lewski.

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