Smoky Mountain Outdoor Adventures

By: Jackie Eurice-Kenney
Ziplining in the Smoky Mountains

Some of the outdoor activities in the Smokies are a thrill a minute. Get the blood pumping and adrenaline flowing by undertaking daring heights, tremendous speeds and rapid waters. The scenery of the blue-hazed mountains and flowing rivers only add to the appeal of these adventures. There is so much fun to be had in this area, so get outside and play! The natural landscape offers many visitors the opportunity to partake in their favorite activities and sports. Others may discover a completely new passion while soaring, coasting, or paddling through some of the most beautiful locations on earth. Are you brave enough to try some of these activities?

In the rivers that wind around the mountains, adventurers are taking on the rapids. For a heart-racing experience, take a white water-rafting trip down the river with a knowledgeable guide and protective gear. You’ll be soaking wet on the raft as your team navigates the rapids and paddles through the water. Varying levels of difficulty are available depending on the class of rapids you ride. For instance, even kids as young as 3 can go on the scenic Class I or II adventures in the Lower Pigeon River, where paddlers will get to enjoy a slower pace. It’s a great introduction to whitewater rafting that takes paddlers past cliffs and lush forests. Class III and IV rapids will challenge teens, adults, and even kids over 70 pounds with the natural obstacles of the Upper Pigeon River, where tours typically progress along approximately 6 miles of frothy, rushing water. This is truly one of the most popular destinations for whitewater rafting in the nation. To try whitewater rafting in the Smokies, book a tour with any one of the companies in the region including: Smoky Mountain Outdoors Rafting, Big Creek Expeditions, Rafting in the Smokies, River Rat Great Smoky Mountains or Rafting Outdoor Adventures. While visiting this region, rafting is an experience that should not be missed!

Venture into the mountains for more fast rides and thrilling adventures. For instance, try zip-lining over trees and climbing along ropes courses throughout the Smokies. There are numerous locations where you can try one or both of these activities of varying difficulty (check for coupons!) Test your agility while crossing bridges made of ropes and suspended planks before zip-lining to the next challenge along the course. Varying courses have different difficulty levels so challenging climbs can be tackled by first-timers and “frequent flyers” alike. Even those with a fear of heights may find these challenges to be an enjoyable and safe way to conquer their phobia. You’ll also get great aerial views of the Smoky Mountains!

A mountain coaster is another fun activity to try in the mountains. It is sort of like a non-motorized go-kart on rails! After a leisurely climb in your cart to the top of the mountain, coast around bends and curves on a scenic journey to the bottom. Ride in a cart you control at either Rocky Top Mountain Coaster, The Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster, The Coaster at Goats on the Roof or The Rowdy Bear Mountain Coaster in Pigeon Forge. The easy-to-operate brake is in your hands so you can actually go as fast as you like (up to about 25 mph) or, if you prefer, take a slower ride down the mountain. Let gravity do the work on this personal roller coaster ride. There is no better place to try a mountain coaster than in the Smokies, so jump on for an exhilarating (or relaxing) trip down the mountain.

For motorized fun, rent an ATV and take a thrilling ride through the wilderness with Bluff Mountain Adventures. On a 1- or 2-hour tour, you’ll traverse streams and jagged terrain while exploring the mountains.

Another motorized activity that families may prefer can be found at outdoor racetracks. At The Track, which has two locations in Pigeon Forge, not only will your heart be racing, but the rest of your body will be as well. Take your pick of a few different racetracks including their most popular, the Wild Woody—a wooden track that is 3-and-a-half stories tall. The rookie karts and track are perfect for young drivers who want to take out their own car, and even 4-year-olds can drive Kiddie karts here.

SpeedZone Fun Park offers the exciting and curvy Tennessee Twister and the high-speed Coaster Track with a downhill chute. The Kid’s Track is perfect for young drivers who want to take out their own car. Meanwhile, Xtreme Racing prides itself on having super-fast Xtreme Karts. Try racing around the 3,500-ft. “Xtreme Track” or their elevated course that provide varying racing experiences—from fast with a lot of turns to elevated with smooth-tracked loops.

For a variety of different racing cars and tracks, visit the NASCAR SpeedPark. At this racing venue, the favorite track for wannabe professional drivers is the Smoky Mountain Speedway where racers drive a smaller replica of a real Sprint Cup car. However, rookies should probably try out The Qualifier or ride as a passenger on the Family 500 tracks. They’re more suitable for smaller drivers and a great first race experience.

Perhaps you would like to make a full day out of adventures that are renowned in the Smoky Mountains. If that’s the case, there are a few areas that offer many of these activities and even some unique ones in the same place. Begin in the morning with an ATV ride and conclude your day zip-lining or horseback riding. Or maybe you would prefer to take a rafting tour before negotiating your way around a ropes course. At places such as Legacy Mountain, Jayell Ranch, and Dubby’s Adventure Park at Five Oaks, the outdoor fun never stops. A full day of exciting activity is there for the taking—but you’ll probably need a few days to do it all!

Outdoor fun and adventure await you in the Great Smoky Mountains!