Outdoorsman's Guide


800 miles of trails.

The mountains and valleys are laced with 800 miles of hiking trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Hiking in the Smokies offers everything from a leisurely walk among the wildflowers to a backcountry climb up a rocky outcropping, so there are trails for hikers of every fitness and skill level. To learn more about hiking trails, read our Hiking and Waterfalls Guide.


Get the net.

From the Little Pigeon River running right through Gatlinburg to the swift streams of the backcountry, there are plenty of places to drop a line or cast a fly. The Smokies have hundreds of miles of streams teeming with trout, including beautiful brook trout, which have been successfully returned to their natural habitat. Fishing is permitted year 'round in the Park, and there are several full service fishing outfitters in downtown Gatlinburg. Some favorite spots include Greenbrier, Little River and Abrams Creek. Or hire a guide and head to a little-known spot in the backcountry. Or, just grab your fishing pole and head downtown.


Pitch it or park it.

Bring your RV or camper and you can stay near town at a local campground in Gatlinburg, each comes equipped with electricity, water, cable TV, hot showers and pools. They are within walking or driving distance to great fishing and hiking in the Smokies. Or head up into Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Cades Cove or Elkmont, where you can pitch a tent and rough it for a few days in the wilderness. Some campgrounds accept reservations, but most are first come, first served. Whether you're looking for fun family outdoor activities or serious hiking, your backcountry or frontcountry escape begins in Gatlinburg. The National Park Service has great information to help you plan. If you're a frontcountry camper, start here. If you're a serious backcountry adventurer, take a look here.

Whitewater Rafting and Ziplining

Wild rides by air and by water.

There are miles of Class III and IV rapids on the Big Pigeon River and other regoinal rivers, and several outfitters are ready to help you plan anything from a nice float trip to wildwater adventure. With names like "Too Late," "Vegamatic," "Razor Blade," "After Shave," and "Lost Guide," you know the rapids are rockin' in the Smokies. In addition to water adventures, we’ve got aerial ones, too. If you've been waiting to try ziplining or are ready to go again, outfitters can hook you up to some of the wildest rides in the Smokies. Fly under the forest roof and over streams and valleys by the seat of your pants at 50 miles an hour.

Winter Sports

Ski and skate the Smokies.

Tennessee's one and only ski resort, Ober Gatlinburg, has eight slopes, from bunny hills for beginners to fast runs for serious skiers. Snowboarders, bring it on. There is a 10- lane snow tubing park in wintertime and an alpine slide anytime. There's also an indoor ice-skating rink. Even if you don't ski or skate, the view is awesome from the Ober Gatlinburg restaurant.


Ride Cades Cove.

Bring your bike or rent one at Cades Cove and head out for a great ride on the 11 mile Loop Road. Dismount and explore the historic buildings. See whitetailed deer or experience a black bear sighting. If you plan for a Wednesday or Sunday morning ride, you'll share the road with pedestrians and cyclists only, because the Loop is closed to motor traffic until 10:00am.


Bring your binoculars.

More than 200 species of birds have been spotted in the Smokies, and at least half that many are known to breed. Whether you take a wooded walk on an easy trail or head out for some serious backcountry hiking in the Smokies, listen and keep your eyes open for everything from songbirds to screech owls in the trees and valleys. There are wild bird habitats at every elevation, and many birds make the Smokies a stop on their yearly migrations.

Horseback Riding

Saddle up.

Head to Smoky Mountain Stables or Sugarlands Riding Stables and mount up for a guided, backcountry excursion. Bring the kids, and ride out to see wild turkeys, a herd of wild deer or even black bear climbing a tree. There are miles and miles of trails open to riding in the Park. Own your own horses? There are five drive-in horse camps, too.

Up Next: Walking Around Gatlinburg

One of the best things about Gatlinburg is its walkability.

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