Are you looking for an off-the-beaten-path adventure in the heart of nature? Look no further than the Great Smokies! Nestled amid the breathtaking Appalachian Mountains, this destination offers an unparalleled outdoor experience that will take your breath away.

With over 160 million Americans participating in outdoor activities each year, outdoor recreation is more popular than ever in the United States. Luckily, the Great Smokies caters to this increasing demand with its abundant outdoor activities, including scenic drives, hiking, white-water rafting, snow-tubing, and zip-lining. 

One of the must-see spots in the Great Smokies is Cades Cove. This scenic area draws over two million visitors annually owing to its historic buildings, jaw-dropping mountain vistas, and abundant wildlife.

Image Source

Whether you are an enthusiastic hiker or a casual nature lover, there is something for everyone in the Smokies. So let us explore these thrilling outdoor activities in detail.

  1. Scenic Drives 

There is something magical about a scenic drive through the Great Smoky Mountains. Clean mountain air, gentle breezes, and endless views of lush greenery and rolling hills create an atmosphere of pure serenity. And when it comes to scenic driving in the Smokies, there is no better choice than the Cades Cove Loop Road.

Driving along the 11-mile one-way Cades Cove Loop Road provides a scenic route through a valley encircled by stunning mountain vistas.

This route is a popular visitor destination with more than 2 million visitors annually. Along the way, you will pass historic buildings, old churches, and beautiful fields teeming with wildlife. Walking through the loop, you can see black bears, deer, coyotes, and other animals.

One breathtaking experience on the drive is watching the sunrise or sunset over the mountains. The dramatic shadows cast by the mountains and the changing sky colors create a stunning visual display you won’t soon forget. 

  1. Ziplining

Ziplining in the Great Smokies is an exhilarating outdoor activity that will bring an adrenaline rush to your veins. The thrill of zipping over the lush forests and sparkling streams below is unforgettable.

You can take in the breathtaking scenery of the Great Smokies in an unforgettable way. The fresh mountain breeze and the symphony of nature’s sounds will surround you, making you feel truly alive.

There are different types of ziplining experiences in the Great Smokies, such as traditional ziplines, canopy tours, and aerial adventure parks, each providing a distinct adventure. Ziplines of varying lengths and speeds are available, making it a great activity for seasoned adventurers and beginners.

  1. Ober Gatlinburg and the Ariel Tramway

Ober Gatlinburg and the Ariel Tramway are iconic attractions in the Smokies. As you ride the tramway up the mountain, you will see the lush greenery of the forest floor to the rugged peaks of the Smokies. On the mountaintop, Ober Gatlinburg offers numerous exciting attractions and activities to entertain you for hours.

Skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing are popular options in winter. Meanwhile, visitors can ice skate, ride the downhill slide during summer, or take another scenic cable car ride. 

  1. Hiking

The Great Smokies offer a wide range of hiking trails, comprising more than 850 miles, suitable for hikers of all skill levels to discover and enjoy. 

You can take a leisurely stroll along a babbling brook, cross a thrilling swing bridge, or challenge yourself to climb a mountain. Whatever you choose, you will be surrounded by the park’s stunning natural beauty every step of the way.

The park’s hiking trails come in varying difficulty levels ranging from gentle nature walks to rugged mountain treks. Some are just a quick half-mile jaunt, while others can take several days to complete. 

  1. White Water Rafting

Whitewater rafting is a thrilling activity for outdoor adventurers wishing to experience the adrenaline rush of navigating through various rapids surrounded by the Great Smokies.

Whitewater rafting in the Great Smokies is made possible by the nearby Pigeon River, which offers several rapids with varying difficulty levels. The Pigeon River is known for its exciting Class III and IV rapids, which offer a challenging experience for experienced rafters. However, milder Class I and II rapids suit beginners and families with children.

To ensure an enjoyable yet safe experience on the river, multiple white-water rafting companies also offer guided tours and equipment rentals to park visitors.

  1. Tubing

Tubing is a fun and relaxing outdoor activity, ideal for all ages and attracting visitors worldwide. It involves rafting down a river or stream on an inflatable raft while admiring the beautiful scenery. It provides a chance to step back from the busy routine life and break the scorching summer heat.

Deep Creek and Little River are two popular tubing spots in the park. Their gentle currents and calm waters make them ideal for tubing.

While drifting along the crystal-clear waters, you will be surrounded by the stunning scenery of the Smokies, from towering trees to rocky cliffs and everything in between.

  1. Wildlife Viewing

Observing wildlife is among the most awe-inspiring experiences in the Great Smokies. It helps you connect with nature and lets you see incredible creatures up close.

In the Smokies, you will experience the thrill of spotting a majestic elk grazing in a meadow or catching a glimpse of a black bear.

Remember, when you are in the presence of wild animals, respect their space and maintain a safe distance. Also, follow the rules and regulations of the park and never approach or attempt to feed them.

  1. Fishing

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park boasts an abundance of freshwater resources with over 2,000 miles of running rivers and streams. This provides fishing enthusiasts with a variety of fish, including salmon, catfish, and perch, along with abundant fishing opportunities ranging from river fishing to boat fishing on Lake Fontana. 

Additionally, the majestic mountains surrounding the streams and rivers and the peaceful sound of gently flowing water add to the fishing experience.


The Great Smokies is a premium destination offering various outdoor activities for all ages and interests. The options range from adrenaline-pumping activities like whitewater rafting to a more laid-back adventure like a leisurely scenic mountain drive.

Remember to bring your camera because the Great Smokies are full of natural beauty, including stunning mountain vistas and sparkling streams.

So, pack up your bags and visit the Great Smokies today! With so much to explore and experience, you will surely create unforgettable memories that will last a lifetime.