Things to Do near the Smoky Mountains

Top 15 Adventures in the Tennessee Smokies

From mountain tops to rushing rivers, there’s tons of adventures to get your adrenaline pumping and provide fun for the whole family.


From mountain tops to rushing rivers, there’s tons of adventures to get your adrenaline pumping and provide fun for the whole family.

A trip to the Tennessee Smokies is the perfect chance to experience adventure. A visit to this region is sure to be jam-packed with exciting things to do because thrilling and unforgettable experiences wait around every corner. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie looking for a place to go wild or a family wanting to spice up your visit and give your kids a great time, the Tennessee Smokies have something for everyone.

Here are the Top 15 Adventures that Visitors to the Smokies Must Try

1) Sky Lifts, Chairlifts & Aerial Tramways

Take in the most incredible views and beautiful mountain vistas from a bird’s eye perspective. Local sky lifts, chairlifts and aerial tramways allow visitors to soar high above the ground. This is the best way to see the unique landscape that draws millions of visitors each year.

2) Interactive Indoor Attractions

Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville don’t just have your normal, run-of-the-mill museums. These attractions are more like indoor amusement parks. See science experiments gone awry or learn more about the tragic sinking of the Titanic. Come face-to-face with our nation’s greatest criminals, exploring the history of crime in America or learn about some of the Smokies’ most significant citizens. These are the perfect activities if the weather isn’t agreeing with your outdoor plans.

3) Close Encounters with Wildlife

From local zoos to the wildest animal parks around, locations throughout the Tennessee Smokies allow families an up-close experience with some of the friendly, local animals. Visitors can pet and feed deer, goats, camels, reindeer, sheep, zebras, kangaroos and more! You can also get swept away by some of the most majestic winged creatures you’ve ever seen.

4) Hike the Trails

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has some of the best trails in the nation! Hikers are guaranteed to see amazing sights, awe inspiring vistas, amazing creatures and more! Be sure to plan these exciting excursions ahead of time as trails vary from easy to strenuous.

5) Pitch a Tent under the Stars

While a cabin or rustic chalet sounds cozy, there’s nothing like falling asleep right under the stars. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has a variety of campgrounds for you and your family to spend the night. The backcountry campsites are ideal for backpackers looking to rest after a day of hiking. The frontcountry is a more developed campground that is perfect for families and other large groups. You’ll love spending an overnight adventure in the natural wilderness.

6) Ride Horseback through the Mountains

Enjoy miles of trails on the back of your own faithful steed. See the sights without the worry of getting lost as most trail horses know the paths better than the hikers. Many stables tailor this adventure to the rider’s experience level. There’s even opportunities for kids and first-time riders.

7) Zipline Through the Air

The rush of flying high above the Smokies will be an experience you never forget. This activity continues to gain popularity as it gives visitors the best views and an incredible adrenaline rush all at once. Zip over ravines, streams, trees, wildlife and gorgeous views of the National Park. 

8) Roller Coasters & Thrilling Rides

If you feel a need for speed, the Tennessee Smokies has some of the most unique coasters anywhere around. Mountain coasters zip riders down the slopes and give you an unforgettable rush. Many mountain coasters allow the rider to control the speed. There are also tons of amusement parks and attractions filled with rides for every age.

9) Challenge Yourself on a Ropes Course

The whole family will enjoy a day in the treetops with challenging obstacles, nets, suspended bridges, Tarzan jumps and immeasurable fun. Life in the air never looked so good!

10) Take a Wild Ride in an ATV

Guests can embark on a rugged and exciting safari tour through the wilderness inside an open-air, all-terrain vehicle.

11) Make Splash while Whitewater Rafting

Featuring miles of heart-stopping rapids and family-friendly waters, it’s easy to see why the Pigeon River is one of the most popular whitewater rivers around. The Upper Pigeon features miles of class III and IV rapids that are perfect for an extreme rush. The Lower Pigeon, with gentle class I and II rapids, is great for ages three and up. Both the Upper and Lower sections are accompanied by gorgeous, unforgettable scenery. 

Click here to read more about whitewater rafting in the Tennessee Smokies.

12) Float along the Scenic Streams

The Little River offers a number of exciting mountain rapids along. The lower section, ideal for ages two and up, is great for a slower-paced, family-friendly float. Cruise along the relaxing rapids as you take in the scenic views. To kick it up a notch, go for an adventurous float on the upper section. Get your adrenaline pumping along these rapids, optimal for ages six and up.

13) Year-Round Fun at Ober Gatlinburg

The fun doesn’t stop once the temperatures drop. Visit Ober Gatlinburg for some supreme East Tennessee skiing. During winter months, the resort offers guests the chance to glide down a snowy slope on skis, a snowboard or a tube. Of course once the temperatures rise and the snow melts, there are still plenty of fun activities. Ober Gatlinburg offers some of the best family activities around like rides, mini-golf, ice skating and more!

14) Extreme Mountain Biking

There’s nothing like taking a bike ride through the mountains. But a bike ride in the Tennessee Smokies is an experience like no other. Rent a bike or bring your own and take to the trails. You will find incredible wood tracks that give advanced bikers a thrilling adventure. Bikers will find themselves cruising along bridges and taking on incredible rollers, berms and more!

15) Explore the Depths in Local Caves & Caverns

A visit to the Smokies wouldn’t be complete without a spelunking adventure. Tennessee contains more caves and caverns than anyplace else in the United States. These remarkable places are attractions your whole family will love, full of wonder and excitement.

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