Smoky Mountains, TN - Sevierville, Pigeon Forge & Gatlinburg - Vacation Travel Guide

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Smoky Mountains Area Features

Outdoor Adventures

The mountains and rivers in this blue-hazed nature lover’s paradise beckon those who wish to find outdoor adventure. 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. Regardless of when you visit the Great Smoky Mountains, we encourage you to be a kid again and go outside and play!

Adventure seekers will have a blast zip-lining and climbing through obstacles high above the treetops. There are numerous locations throughout the Smokies where you can try your agility on the rope courses of varying difficulty (check your What-to-Do guide for coupons!) or on zip-lines that propel you from dizzying heights to the next platform. Some locations combine the two activities: Participants might cross 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 had 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!

The mountains aren’t the only natural feature that entices people to the region to engage in outdoor activities. The rivers attract fishermen who love to cast a line in the waters where opportunities to snag a hefty fish are plentiful. Locals recommend fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where the sport is permitted from a little after sunrise to just before sunset. This park is home to one of the United States’ last natural trout habitats. Anglers in this region predominately aim for rainbow, brook and brown trout in the rivers, but smallmouth bass is a coveted fish to catch as well.

Fisherman’s Tips: Look around to see what bugs are plentiful and match your bait’s look and movement to the type of insects that are currently hatching. By mimicking typical meals enjoyed by the fish, you may stand a better chance of catching them. In addition, try fishing in whirlpools where the fish also like to catch their prey.

For a thrilling expedition, take a whitewater-rafting trip down the river on an inflatable raft. Experienced guides and your protective gear will keep you safe (but probably not dry) as your rafting 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, and the highly trained guides will work to ensure you have a blast. They even provide transportation to the launch site so that you can conserve your energy for the rapids. To try whitewater rafting in the Smokies, book a tour with any one of the companies in the region including Smoky Mountain Outdoors, 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!

Another exciting and must-do activity is a Mountain Coaster. It’s 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. Take this unique ride in a cart you control at either The Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster in Pigeon Forge, The Coaster at Goats on the Roof (also in Pigeon Forge) or The Rowdy Bear Mountain Coaster in Gatlinburg. 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. Few places in the United States offer rides like this, so jump on for an exhilarating (or relaxing) trip down the mountain.

Outdoor racing tracks are fun for the whole family! 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. 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—so speedy that before driving these, riders must first qualify on the Pro Karts. Try racing around their 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.

And though it’s traditionally considered a gentlemen’s sport, golf can be quite adventurous as well—especially if you consider the demeanor of your golfing buddies or the wild animals. The hills and rivers naturally create a few scenic and challenging courses where players can take advantage of the great outdoors. The popular Sevierville Golf Club has two 18-hole courses to choose from and is perfect for amateurs and pros alike. The club’s Highlands Course offers narrow fairways along sloping terrain that constantly pushes golfers to master their swing. Meanwhile, the club’s River Course is a bit more difficult to negotiate with a few holes placed on islands in the Little Pigeon River. The pars for these courses are 70 and 72 respectively, and they can be played throughout most of the year. East of Gatlinburg and on the border of the national park is the Bent Creek Golf Course. This course was designed by Gary Player—the winner of three Masters Championships—and is frequently regarded as one of the best places to swing a club in the South. With its greens spread between the hills and the valley, Bent Creek presents a scenic, yet demanding game. Finally, the hilly terrain of the Gatlinburg Golf Course showcases the beauty of the Smoky Mountains while taking in a great game. Located at the foot of the mountains, the greens are lined with the lush forest. They’re open year-round so you may be able to book a tee-time in January if the weather cooperates. There are other golf courses in the region, but the ones listed above are among the most recommended and they are also close to other attractions in the region. You don’t need to travel far to tee-off on a great course!

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 Foxfire Mountain Adventure Park, Legacy Mountain, Jayell Ranch, and Dubby’s Adventure Park at Five Oaks, the outdoor fun never stops. A full day of exciting activity awaits—but you’ll probably need a few days to do it all!

Have a great adventure outside while vacationing in the Great Smoky Mountains!

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