Re: best area to stay for day hikes
The Great Smokey Mountains encompass both east Tennessee and west North Carolina. The link above has information plus a downloadable trail map. When you arrive I recommend purchasing a trail map from a National Park service center. Driving on route 441 from Pigeon Forge there is a center on the right hand side of the road, Gatlinburg Welcome Center - National Park Information Center, shortly after passing the Natioanl Park entrance sign. (See the online map.) These maps are inexpensive, well done, and are water proof.
And in looking at the online map, yes a number of trails are very near the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area. Note that Pigeon Forge is a small town. Touristy yes, but done in a Swiss Alps style that actually looks very nice.
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