It’s no secret that the Smoky Mountains are a breathtaking place to visit. With the area’s natural beauty, wildlife, and hiking trails, it is a prime vacation destination for families who love the great outdoors. However, there is more to the Smokies than just mountains – there is an abundance of thrilling (and relaxing!) outdoor activities that you and your family will enjoy. When planning your next getaway to Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, or Townsend, keep these activities and attractions in mind:
- Zip Lining
Get an adrenaline rush and an amazing view of the Smokies at the same time by going zip lining! Suspended hundreds of feet in the air, you’ll soar above the treetops and feel like you’re flying. In addition to miles of zip lines, some attractions have ropes courses and swinging bridges to keep the adrenaline pumping. Looking for multiple (and discounted) activities, including zip lining, within the Smokies? Check out the Total Adventure Pass from Smoky Mountain River Rat Whitewater Rafting.
- Cades Cove
Cades Cove, located in Townsend, Tennessee, is the most visited area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Not only is it beautiful, but it’s also a hub for a variety of outdoorsy activities that are fun for the whole family. Start by learning about the rich history of the early settlers of the area by visiting cabins and other structures built in the 1800s. Then, be sure to take a hike on one of the many scenic trails found just off of the 11-mile, one-way driving loop. Finally, always keep your eyes open, as there are many chances to spot and enjoy wildlife and beautiful waterfalls. Equestrians won’t be left out, as Cades Cove also has its own riding stables, which offer guided trail rides, carriage rides, and hayrides. For the most scenic approach to the loop, consider riding a bicycle or walking the trail (helmets must be worn if biking). From early May until late September each year, the loop road is closed to all motor vehicle traffic on Wednesday and Saturday mornings until 10:00 a.m. Bicycles may be rented (during the summer and fall) at the campground store (located near Cades Cove Campground) for a reasonable price. For information call (865) 448-9034 or visit Cades Cove’s bike rental page.
A vacation to the Smoky Mountains wouldn’t be complete without a hike or two. Along with the beautiful hikes in Cades Cove, there are several simple, family-friendly hiking trails in the mountains. The views from the top are always mesmerizing but don’t forget to enjoy the streams, creeks, and wildlife on the way there. Check out Kephart Prong Trail, Porters Creek, Andrew’s Bald, and Charlie’s Bunion if you’re looking for a moderate, kid-friendly trail. For more information, as well as a variety of other hikes, visit this HikingintheSmokys.com.
- Tuckaleechee Caverns
Take a break from a hot or rainy day by going “spelunking” in one of the country’s oldest caverns — Tuckaleechee Caverns! This underground adventure is as fun as it is unique, and your family will love exploring and learning about the secrets of the caverns. Here’s one secret: bring a water bottle with you. There’s a stream of clean, cold water in the caverns that’s safe to drink!
Here’s one you may not have heard of, but once you go, you’ll never forget it. Originated in New Zealand, Zorbing is a unique and exhilarating activity that involves water, a hill, and a massive plastic ball. Basically, you roll and splash down a hill while inside an 11-foot, transparent, “hamster-like” ball. What more could you want? Try zorbing at the Outdoor Gravity Park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
Last but not least, complete your vacation with a tubing trip down the Little River. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing or exciting (or both) tubing trip, River Rat has exactly what you need. Float down the river, jump off the rocks at the rock jump, and go for a swim in the family-friendly, lower section of the river. If it’s adventure you’re looking for, head to the upper section of the river for a thrilling ride down the rapids. To get the perfect mix of rafting and tubing — and make the most out of your vacation — you can also take advantage of the Raft and Tube Adventure package with River Rat Whitewater.
Heading to the mountains is a unique getaway for families. It’s the best of both worlds – a relaxing vacation for parents and an exciting adventure for children. With so many activities, you can truly customize your vacation to be as fast-paced or as slow-paced as you want it. Either way, there’s never a shortage of things to do and see. A trip to the Smokies will be one you will never forget.