Eight Thrilling Activities in the Smokies for the Adventurous Family

The Great Smoky Mountains, often referred to simply as “the Smokies,” are the ideal destination for family fun. While some families find solace in relaxing by the pool or enjoying leisurely strolls, others crave the thrill of heart-pounding experiences and adrenaline-fueled activities. For the latter, the Smokies are a treasure trove of excitement, offering everything from high-speed mountain coasters to challenging hiking trails. The charming towns of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg serve as perfect gateways to this thrilling wonderland, where families can bond over shared adventures and create lifelong memories.

In this article, we’ll guide you through eight exhilarating activities in the Smokies that will satisfy your family’s appetite for adventure.

Whitewater Rafting on the Pigeon River

The Smokies also boast some of the best whitewater rafting experiences in the region, with the Pigeon River leading the charge. This river caters to both beginner and seasoned rafters, offering two distinct sections for varying levels of adventure. The Upper Pigeon River, known for its Class III-IV rapids, promises an adrenaline-pumping ride through rough waters. On the other hand, the Lower Pigeon River’s gentler Class I-II rapids make it ideal for families with younger children or those seeking a more laid-back rafting adventure. Guided by experienced instructors who ensure both excitement and safety, families can navigate the river’s twists and turns while soaking in the majestic scenery of the Smokies.

Ride the Rowdy Bear’s Avalanche Snow Coaster

No visit to the Smokies is complete without experiencing the Avalanche Snow Coaster at Rowdy Bear’s Smoky Mountain Snowpark. Marketed as the best mountain coaster Pigeon Forge offers, the Avalanche Snow Coaster guarantees a thrilling ride with its dual-rail system that provides a smooth yet rapid descent. Unlike other mountain coasters, the Avalanche Snow Coaster’s innovative design ensures total control while offering breathtaking views of the Smokies. With safety features that make it suitable for families and children, this coaster will satisfy any adventurous spirit.

Zipline Through the Canopy

Zipping through the forest canopy of the Smokies is an adventure that will leave your family breathless. Several zipline courses crisscross the Smokies, offering lines that span over 4,000 feet and reach heights of up to 400 feet above the ground. Whether you’re a ziplining novice or an experienced thrill-seeker, you’ll find courses that suit your family’s level of bravery. Safety harnesses and experienced guides provide peace of mind while you soar through the treetops, taking in spectacular views of the mountains and valleys below. With the right mix of thrills and natural beauty, ziplining in the Smokies is an unforgettable adventure for the whole family.

Conquer Mount LeConte via Alum Cave Trail

The Smokies are known for their challenging yet rewarding hiking trails, and the Alum Cave Trail leading up to Mount LeConte[SA1]  is no exception. This strenuous 5-mile hike takes families through some of the most iconic landmarks in the Smokies, including Arch Rock and the Alum Cave Bluffs. Reaching the summit of Mount LeConte rewards hikers with panoramic views that are worth every drop of sweat. While the trail may be challenging for younger children, families with older kids will find the hike to be an exhilarating test of endurance and an opportunity to bond over a shared adventure.

Explore the Deep Caves of Tuckaleechee Caverns

Hidden beneath the surface of the Smokies lies a stunning underground world waiting to be explored at the Tuckaleechee Caverns. Known as the “Greatest Site Under the Smokies[SA2] ,” these caverns offer a mesmerizing glimpse into the geological history of the region. Families are taken on guided tours through the caverns, where they can marvel at fascinating rock formations.

Highlights of the tour include the Big Room, an enormous cave chamber stretching over 400 feet long, and Silver Falls, a breathtaking underground waterfall cascading 210 feet down the cavern walls. Tuckaleechee Caverns offers a unique adventure that allows families to experience a different side of the Smokies, providing an unforgettable journey beneath the mountains.

Horseback Riding in Cades Cove

Cades Cove, a historic valley known for its stunning landscapes and abundant wildlife, provides the perfect backdrop for families who love horseback riding. With trails winding through picturesque meadows, bubbling streams, and past historic homesteads, horseback riding in Cades Cove is a serene yet thrilling adventure.

The guided trail rides cater to riders of all skill levels and ages, making it a suitable activity for the entire family. Experienced guides share fascinating stories about the history and wildlife of the cove while ensuring that all riders are comfortable and safe. As you traverse the trails, you may spot deer grazing in the meadows or even catch a glimpse of a black bear roaming in the distance.

Smoky Mountains High-Altitude Helicopter Ride

For families who want to elevate their Smoky Mountain adventure, a helicopter ride offers a bird’s-eye view of the stunning landscape. High-altitude helicopter tours provide a unique perspective, soaring above the mountain peaks, valleys, and rivers that define the Smokies.

These scenic flights are guided by experienced pilots who provide informative commentary, helping families understand the region’s geography and history. The thrill of flying and the unparalleled views make this a memorable experience for families who want to see the Smokies from a whole new angle.

Fly Fishing in the Pristine Mountain Streams

Fly fishing in the Smokies offers a relaxing yet adventurous family activity amidst the region’s serene streams and rivers. The Smokies are home to an abundance of trout and other fish species, making them an ideal destination for anglers of all levels.

Fly fishing allows families to connect with nature while sharing the excitement of catching a fish in the pristine mountain waters. It’s an activity that encourages patience, skill, and a deep appreciation for the Smokies’ natural beauty.


The Great Smoky Mountains offer endless opportunities for adventure, making them a paradise for families seeking thrilling experiences. Whether you’re exploring the depths of Tuckaleechee Caverns or flying high above the peaks in a helicopter, there’s something to captivate every adventurous spirit. In this article, we’ve highlighted just a few of the many activities that will leave your family with memories to cherish. So, embrace the excitement, discover the wonders of the Smokies, and create an unforgettable adventure for your family in this breathtaking destination.

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