Gatlinburg is a treasure trove of outdoor activities and adventures worth discovering. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker looking to conquer the mountain trails or searching for the ultimate rush, an outdoor enthusiast looking to soak in the beauty of nature, every outdoor adventure, Gatlinburg has everything in and around. Therefore, it is often referred to as the ‘Gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains.’ And with so much of Tennessee’s natural beauty on its doorstep, it’s easy to see why.
The breathtaking mountain views, lush forests, winding rivers, rolling hills, mesmerizing valleys, and endless trails can make any adventure seeker’s heart skip a beat. The sounds of the cascading waterfalls, the fragrant smell of wildflowers, and the fresh air are also something to behold. Now imagine living in the center of it all. Sounds too good to be true?
With that said, let’s take a look at some of the exciting outdoor adventures in Gatlinburg.
Stay at the Edge of Adventure In Gatlinburg
Gatlinburg offers the best accommodations surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains, perfect for families looking for quality time together, a group of friends seeking comfortable accommodation, or a couple on a romantic getaway. Ditch the traditional hotel stay and book one of the finest cabins in Tennessee, equipped with modern amenities and plenty of luxuries.
From one-bedroom cabins to luxurious six and nine-bedroom cabins with enough room for large groups, the variety of cabins is sure to meet every traveler’s needs.
Once you’ve booked your accommodation, you can start planning your itinerary. Here’s a list of the top six outdoor activities to enjoy in Gatlinburg worth exploring:
- Visit the Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Enjoy the pristine beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains and explore nearly 800 miles of trails, streams, and foliage and over 90 historic sites. It is the perfect place to enjoy a day of sightseeing, hiking, and wildlife spotting.
Take a scenic drive along the Newfound Gap Road and stop at the various overlooks for spectacular views of the surrounding peaks. Take in the breathtaking views at Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the park. Ride a horse along the Cades Cove Loop, look for elk and other wildlife, or take a stroll along the Little River Trail.
For a unique experience, visit the synchronous fireflies which light up the park from mid-May to mid-June near Elkmont Campground. Numerous campgrounds are available throughout the park, which allows visitors to camp overnight and explore more of what the park offers. Experience the serenity of solitude while basking in picturesque views of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
- Take a Scenic Walk on the Gatlinburg SkyBridge
The Gatlinburg SkyBridge is the longest and most spectacular pedestrian suspension bridge in North America, stretching around 680 feet across a valley of lush trees and foliage and 140 feet above the forest floor. The scenic walk provides visitors panoramic views of the Great Smoky Mountains and downtown Gatlinburg.
The bridge also has glass panels to give you an even better view of the valley below and is around 5 feet wide, so visitors can feel comfortable walking across it. It usually takes about 15 minutes to walk across the bridge and enjoy its beauty. Bring your camera or phone ready, as you’ll want to capture this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
- Ride the Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway
A 2.1-mile cable car ride that takes you from downtown Gatlinburg to the summit of Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort, the Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway is a must-do for any visitor to Gatlinburg. Its route winds through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and provides breathtaking views of the surrounding area. The tram can carry up to 120 passengers, and the ride takes around 10 minutes.
When you reach the summit, explore all the resort offers, including skiing, snowboarding, an alpine slide, wildlife encounters, and a scenic chairlift. You don’t want to miss the incredible views from the top of the mountain.
- Climb up to the Top of the Gatlinburg Space Needle
The Gatlinburg Space Needle is a 407-foot observation tower that offers unparalleled views of the Smokies and the surrounding area. There are two ways to reach the top: take an elevator up to the observation deck or climb up a spiral staircase that winds around the tower. Either way, you can expect a 360-degree view of the city and its surroundings and incredible photo opportunities from the top.
In addition to the incredible views, you can also explore the interactive exhibits, enjoy the arcade games at the tower’s base, and grab a bite to eat or do some souvenir shopping. It’ll be a great way to spend the day, regardless of age.
- Take a Ghost Tour
Discover the spooky side of Gatlinburg by joining a ghost tour. You’ll learn the stories behind some of the city’s most famous hauntings and explore the area with a knowledgeable guide. The tours usually take place in and around some of the oldest parts of town, such as cemeteries, ancient churches, and other historic sites.
There are no humans dressed up like ghosts or gimmicks – instead, it’s a walking tour that combines local history and folklore, so it’s educational and entertaining. Get an eerie feeling as you wander around the dark alleyways and deserted buildings. Also, bring your camera and some comfortable shoes; you never know what photo opportunities you might encounter.
- Go White Water Rafting on the Little Pigeon River
What better way to pump up the adrenaline than going white water rafting? The Little Pigeon River, around 8 miles from Gatlinburg, offers an exciting and safe experience, with various rapids ranging from mild to wild. You’ll see some of the most beautiful scenery in the Smoky Mountains as you make your way down the river.
The upper section of the Pigeon River is a 5.5-mile stretch of class III and IV rapids. Plenty of large waves, miniature hydraulics, and even a few tiny drops will keep your heart pounding.
The lower section is slightly calmer, with class II and III rapids. It is an excellent option for families or those looking for a more relaxed experience.
Make sure to have an experienced guide with you when venturing down the Pigeon River.
Gatlinburg is every adventure lover’s dream destination. Whether you seek a peaceful retreat or an outdoor adventure, this city offers everything. Book your stay at one of the many cabins available in Gatlinburg for a more adventurous experience. Visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and take a hike, or mountain biking, or enjoy white water rafting on the Little Pigeon River.
Walk on the Gatlinburg SkyBridge to get a bird’s eye view of the city, or ride the Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway to experience the breathtaking mountainside views. Or, if you want to enjoy a 360-degree view of the city, take a trip to the top of the Gatlinburg Space Needle. A ghost tour to discover the city’s haunted history is another great way to explore Gatlinburg.