In a small and unassuming building right on the strip in Gatlinburg, you will find a town institution. Duck past the throngs of crowds at the Pancake Pantry and the Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen and into The Village shops. Right on the corner is the store that has stood for decades as the one stop shop for hiking gear in the Smokies. I’m talking of course, about the Day Hiker. At first glance, this store is easy to miss. It blends in with the dozens of specialty stores and boutiques that surround it. But what they have inside is very different from everywhere else around. You might think that in the Smoky Mountains that there would be a ton of gear stores. Surprisingly, this has not really ever been the case. For many years, the day hiker was the only store around specializing in hiking gear. Others have come and gone over the years with minimal success. The big guy on the block now is the Nantahala Outdoor Center, or NOC, that is located in Gatlinburg just outside of the National Park boundary. However, this one seems to continue to stay around while others pack up and leave.
As I said a moment ago, this store is not large. This is no super center. If you are thinking of a local outfitter like REI, Bass Pro Shop, or others, you will be disappointed. The two-level shop is takes up less space than the shoe section at some of these stores. That being said, they do have a little bit of everything.
If you need it for a hike in the Smokies, you can find it here. They have footwear, backpacks, socks, hiking sticks and trekking poles, water purifiers, guidebooks, clothing, and a ton of stuff in between. They have used nearly every square foot of this place to offer merchandise you might need on your next hike.
As you walk around, it is impossible to get lost in the small space. The old boards under your feet creek as you walk around to find the item that you need. The staff here is small. Usually only one person is working at any one time. But, the nice thing about this place is that they are very knowledgable about the area since they have owned and run this place for many years and they know their gear. REI does a good job of having sales staff that know their stuff. Many other places don’t. But these guys not only know their gear, but they know what gear is appropriate for the Smokies. I have always found them to be very helpful and even simply stopped to talk to them about different trails even when I wasn’t buying anything.
They have some novelty items to be sure. It wouldn’t be Gatlinburg without basic souvenirs. They have Smokies picture frames and more t-shirts than anything else in the store. This is one of the weaknesses of this place in my opinion. They have t-shirts with many different designs which is cool, but they almost exclusively cotton, so you would never want to wear them on a trail. That’s kind of a bummer. In fact, when you climb the small, spiral staircase to the second floor, that is about all you are going to find up there. There are t-shirts everywhere. I’d be willing to bet that these are the best sellers, so that is why they get so much real estate, but I would like to see this space better utilized with real gear.
Other than that, the second floor contains several backpacks and few novelty items. They can order things for you if it is not in stock, but that is a little inconvenient for many if you are here on a short visit.
Overall, I would say that this place has most of your basic needs for a hike in the Smokies. The best part of the store is the knowledge of the staff and the ability to hook you up with the right stuff for your hike. I don’t think I would necessarily go here to outfit myself entirely, but they have all the basics. I would still likely stick to a specialty retailer to have most of what I need before I leave home. Might I suggest using our affiliate links on the Smoky Mountains Radio website? But it is a great store and can get you what you need to be prepared when you venture out into the mountains. I have bought a pair of trail shoes here when one of my soles unexpectedly separated from the shoes I brought and a new pair of trekking poles when one of mine broke….and yes, i’ve even bought a t-shirt on a couple of occasions.