There is nothing better than taking your family out for a picnic in the Great Smoky Mountains on a warm spring or summer day. The scenery is never short of breathtaking, and there are so many places you can go to. Heck, some folks here pack their basket, grab a blanket, and then pull over when they find a spot they like. While this might sound like a good idea, there are advantages to visiting one of the many designated picnic spots. These typically include having picnic tables and no traffic passing right beside you. Some of the picnic areas in the park have grills and restrooms. Others are more primitive and offer only tables and trash receptacles.

Here are three of our favorite places to take the family, your loved one, or even just yourself for a picnic.

The Chimney Tops Picnic Area

Chimney Tops Picnic Area opens in early March and closes at the end of November.  Here you will find 68 picnic spots including several with tables that look out over the river. The picnic area sits at the trailhead for the Chimney Tops Trail. Eat first to charge your batteries before making the hike or hike first and work up, and appetite, either way, the trail will give you a good workout and offers some incredible views along the way. This is one of the most popular picnic areas in the park.

Cades Cove Picnic Area

You can take your family for a picnic here all year round (nothing like a picnic in the snow). This area offers 81 picnic spots and tends to be very busy when the weather is nice. The Cades Cove Loop covers 11 miles and is one of the most popular places for tourists in the park. Many of the picnic tables set along Laurel Creek and all tables have barbecue grills for your use. (barbecuing in the snow sounds like fun). There are several historic buildings along the loop for you to explore, and the Cades Cove campground is just down the road where you can buy everything you need for your picnic if you don’t feel like packing your own lunch.

Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area

Like the Cades Cove picnic area, Metcalf Bottoms is open year-round and offers 122 picnic sites, making it the second largest picnic area in the park. Each site has been leveled and has a charcoal grill for your convenience. There is also a large pavilion on-site with space for up to 70 people, restrooms, a place to fill your water bottles, and you have direct access to the Metcalf Bottoms trailhead. Once you’ve finished your meal, why not take the 1.2-mile hike to the log cabin at the other end of the trail. Built-in 1882 this cabin saw life as a school and church for over 50 years and still contains the desks and chalkboard used by Little Greenbriar School students decades ago.

These are our picks for top three picnic spots on the Peaceful Side of the Smokies; there are dozens more. We suggest you check them all out over time, you never know, you might find others you like better and develop your own top three list of favorites!