Nothing says fun like a day on the river. And nothing says a day on the river like paddling down cascading rapids on the Pigeon River near Gatlinburg. We took the short 30-minute drive to meet up with our outfitter host, Smoky Mountain Outdoors, and put our paddles to work in bringing you a complete guide on planning your whitewater rafting adventure in Gatlinburg. Spoiler alert: you may get wet!
Smoky Mountain Outdoors
Family owned and operated since 1993, Smoky Mountain Outdoors has some of the best trips down the Pigeon River for ages 3+ years or older. Guests can set the pace of their rafting journey by choosing between tours along the lower, upper and extreme river areas, or settle for the best of both waters in a combo whitewater outing.
At 6.5 miles, the upper river run is the longest route and a favorite amongst visitors, with plenty of big drops and plunging through Class III and Class IV rapids to keep you on your toes. Smoky Mountain Outdoors operates from early spring till Labor Day, allowing guests the option of planning their venture around peak visitor seasons.
Whatever the season you visit, you are guaranteed to have a good time being guided on the water by one of their friendly, expertly-trained rafting instructors. While safety is always top priority, the folks at Smoky Mountain Outdoors make it easy for rafters to relax and enjoy their day out on the river. After your adventure, there's nothing you'll want more than a seat under the Smoky Mountain Outdoor’s covered pavilion and a Lost Guide Eatery lunch.
Discover details on Smoky Mountain Outdoors seasonal schedule on their website here.
Rafting in the Smokies
A pioneer outfitter, Rafting in the Smokies has been paddling through Smoky Mountain waters since 1978. They pride themselves on their well-trained guides, who safely and expertly guide guests on countless rip-roaring adventures every season.
At 5.5 miles in length, the journey is full of Class III & IV rapids, sure to be fun and exciting. Their route along the Upper Pigeon River is perfect for those more on the adventurous side. However, if you want to take the scenic route, the outfitter also offers Family Float Rafting for the groups that want to take it easy on the water.
After a day of rafting, enjoy some of the free onsite amenities including a nature trail, beautiful picnic area equipped with barbecue grills, as well as a kid-friendly playground.
Nantahala Outdoor Center
As part of the nation’s largest outdoor recreation company, the staff at Nantahala Outdoor Center know a thing or two about getting outside. With outposts near half a dozen rivers in the Southeastern United States, their Gatlinburg location takes rafters along their choice of the Upper or Lower Pigeon River. Guests as young as 3+ years or older can have fun on gentler waters, while more experienced rafters can step up the excitement with runs that boast Class IV rapids.
Open for the summer season during the months of May through September, the guided rafting service takes visitors through approximately 5 miles of rushing cascades which traverse through beautiful Great Smoky Mountain scenery.
Nantahala Outdoor Center also offers additional outdoor recreational activities and specialty group prices.
Know Before You Go
Call Ahead. It’s always a good idea to call these outfitters a day before your scheduled outing to learn about expected water flow conditions. Droughts, dam-controlled water discharges and other factors can ultimately affect river flow and your rafting experience.
What to Bring. The recommended rafting attire consists of waterproof or quick-drying clothing items and close-toed shoes. Protective sunscreen and a change of clothing are also advised.
There’s no better way to experience some of the most scenic parts of the Smokies than from a raft – so enjoy the ride with any of these three whitewater rafting outfitters! See you on the river!