Gatlinburg in Tennessee is truly an outdoor adventure oasis for any traveller. Widely known as the gateway of the Great Smoky Mountains, the national park-adjacent tourist town is outfitted with just about everything an outdoor adventurer would need for a good getaway.

    Take your pick of the many hotels for your basecamp, fuel up at one of the area’s many delicious dining options, and head out into the great outdoors. From rope courses to whitewater rafting, zip-lining to hiking, there’s no shortage of choice, regardless of your skills and interests. Check out our pick of the best outdoor adventures in Gatlinburg.


    Whitewater rafting in the Smokies

    Make your reservation for on-the-water fun in Gatlinburg

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    The Smokies lets you get close to nature through the adrenaline-pumping sights, sounds and smells of whitewater rafting. The rafting tour provider takes thrillseekers out on guided and scheduled trips on the Pigeon River, where you'll be faced with 12 Class III and 3 Class IV rapids along a 5.5-mile route.

    For families who want something at a slower speed, Rafting in the Smokies offers float-only trips for ages 3 and up. In either case, the scenery surrounding you is absolutely stunning. Note that rafting on the Pigeon River is only available between Memorial Day and Labor Day (late May to early September).

    Location: 813 East Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738, USA

    Phone: +1 800-776-7238


    Gatlin's Rugged Ropes Adventure Course

    Take to the skies and test your agility

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    • Families

    Gatlin’s Rugged Ropes Adventure Course sits right in downtown Gatlinburg, amid the many other family-friendly activities like mini-golf, go-karting and arcades. For those who want an adventure without heading out of the city, this is the place to be.

    The ropes course takes you 3 floors into the air, where you’ll face nearly 40 different aerial challenges. You can cross shaky bridges, walk across ropes and test both your balance and your courage in other ways. You’ll be perfectly safe throughout your adventure, thanks to safety harnesses fixed to an overhead track.

    Location: 716 Parkway Unit 219, Gatlinburg, TN 33738, USA

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 11 pm

    Phone: +1 865-436-2326


    Nantahala Outdoor Center

    Outfit your family with everything needed for an adventure in the Smokies

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    • Shoppers

    The Nantahala Outdoor Center, located right at the Gatlinburg entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is the place to go for planning and enacting your Smokies adventures. The centre offers kayaking classes, guided whitewater rafting trips and floating trips, a 25-ft-tall climbing wall and guided waterfall hikes for discovering the area’s flora and fauna.

    There’s something for everyone in the family to do at the  Nantahala Outdoor Center. And that’s on top of visiting its onsite North Face Summit Shop, where you can buy all the necessary gear for your outdoor adventures.

    Location: 1138 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738, USA

    Open: Monday–Thursday from 10 am to 8 pm, Friday–Saturday from 10 am to 9 pm, Sunday from 10 am to 7 pm

    Phone: +1 865-277-8209


    Fishing with Smoky Mountain Angler

    Try your hand at fly fishing in the Smokies

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    • Single

    The Smoky Mountain Angler is the officially authorised fishing guide service for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Visit the experienced and enthusiastic team and head out with them to the eastern Tennessee waters, where you’ll learn how to catch wild mountain trout.

    Already know a thing or 2 about fishing, or want to give it a go on your own first? They can still help with outfitting you with all the right gear, as well as letting you know the best gear for catching local and seasonal fish.

    Location: 469 Brookside Village Way, Gatlinburg, TN 37738, USA

    Open: Monday–Saturday from 8 am to 5 pm, Sunday from 10.30 am to 4 pm

    Phone: +1 865-436-8746


    Hiking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

    Experience the ridges and valleys of one of America’s most popular parks

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    Hiking is one of the most popular activities in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, regardless of the season. There are miles of trails suitable for all skill levels, with standouts include Rainbow Falls and Alum Cave Bluffs. Just be careful – black bears are plentiful in the park, so carrying bear spray is advised.

    The Great Smoky Mountains National Park stretches across the Tennessee and North Carolina border, with most visitors choosing Gatlinburg as their entry point. It's one of the USA’s most popular national parks, thanks to its extensive range of outdoor adventures. 

    Location: 115 Park Headquarters Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738, USA

    Phone: +1 865-436-1200


    CLIMB Works Ziplines

    Zip through the treetops to see Gatlinburg in a whole new way

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    • Families
    • Group

    CLIMB Works Ziplines offers views of Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. There are 2 zip lining experiences, one offering side-by-side zip lining with continual 360-degree views while the other is a 3-hour-long aerial experience. 

    In other words, this is not your average 2-minute zip lining experience that you might find in other destinations in Gatlinburg. Instead, CLIMB Works Ziplines offers an immersive, all-afternoon activity that's great for families and thrillseekers.

    Location: 155 Branam Hollow Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738, USA

    Open: Monday–Saturday from 7 am to 6 pm (closed on Sundays)

    Phone: +1 865-325-8116


    Cycling through Greenbrier

    Weave your way past wildflowers, creeks, and rivers

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    The Greenbrier section of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a favourite spot for cyclists. The roads are well-paved and safe, but the crowds are a little less than what you might find in other sections of the park. The area is carpeted with wildflowers in spring, but you can enjoy views of creeks and rivers year-round.

    A picnic area makes a handy stopping point for a packed lunch. If you’re interested in learning more about the park’s history and that of the people who once lived inside its limits, there are several cemeteries along Greenbrier Road.

    Location: Gatlinburg, TN 37738, USA


    Gatlinburg SkyLift Park

    Experience some of the best views in the Smokies

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    • Couples
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    The Gatlinburg SkyLift Park offers a chairlift-style ride soaring up 1,800 ft into the air. From there, you can disembark and check out the views from an open-air pavilion. You can even cross a suspension bridge, which opened in 2019 as North America's longest pedestrian suspension bridge.

    For a truly heart-stopping experience, head out to the middle of the suspension bridge, where the world is in plain view beneath your feet as the bridge turns to glass.

    Location: 765 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738, USA

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 9 pm

    Phone: +1 865-436-4307


    Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster

    Take a ride through the woods on this unique roller coaster

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    • Families
    • Group

    Zip, dip and roll your way through the trees on the Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster. This unique outdoor ride offers thrills for the entire family. Similar to vintage rollercoasters, a pulley system takes your cart up to the top of a hill and makes a steep drop, sending you whizzing around turns and corners at startling speeds. 

    The best part? While the densely wooded coaster area will make you feel far from the downtown Gatlinburg crowds, you’re just steps away from all the action.

    Location: 306 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738, USA

    Open: Monday–Thursday from 11 am to 7 pm, Friday–Saturday from 10 am to 10 pm, Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +1 865-430-5577


    Rowdy Bear Mountain Adventure Park

    Enjoy 2 ways to play in 1 conveniently located spot

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    • Families

    The Rowdy Bear Mountain Adventure Park is right in downtown Gatlinburg, offering 2 fun outdoor activities for those seeking quick thrills. The adventure park’s alpine coaster runs regardless of the weather, with a speed of 35 mph.

    The adventure park’s mountain glider is the first of its kind – the single-railed, in-air coaster mimics the feel of hang gliding, but in a safe environment. While the mountain glider is a solo experience, 2 people can ride the alpine coaster at once, making it a good fit for thrillseeking couples and families with kids.

    Location: 386 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738, USA

    Open: Friday–Saturday from 10 am to 10 pm, Sunday–Thursday from 10 am to 9 pm

    Phone: +1 865-409-5045

    Holly Riddle | Contributing Writer

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