#27 of 48 Gatlinburg Things To Do

NOC Nantahala Outdoor Center

See all photos (41 Photos)
NOC Gatlinburg: Everything You'll Need to Enjoy the Great Smoky Mountains
Staff Score:
4.5 / 5
The Bottom Line:

The NOC store in Gatlinburg sells more than high-quality equipment and necessities for outdoor enthusiasts. It also offers whitewater rafting adventures on the nearby Pigeon River as well as guided hikes through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

- The SmokyMountains.com Local Expert Team

The NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center) in Gatlinburg is located right at the entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. If you happen to blow out a hiking boot or realize that you’ve forgotten some important piece of camping gear, NOC is ready to help! The convenient location near the National Park means that you don’t have to fight through Gatlinburg’s often maddening traffic to get that necessary piece of outdoor equipment.

With a humongous 18,000-square-foot store, chances are high that you’ll be able to find exactly what you need. NOC Gatlinburg carries many of the top outdoor brands including Columbia, Patagonia, Keen Footwear and Mountain Hardware.

Are you a North Face fan? You’ll be happy to learn that NOC has its own The North Face Summit Shop, which is 1,000 feet of store space dedicated entirely to this brand. The merchandise here can be pricey, but high-quality, well-made outdoor gear typically is. Depending on the season, the type of items you’ll find in this store includes sunglasses, footwear, jackets, swimsuits, snow sports gear and camping necessities.

This store also understands the needs of the casual park visitor to the Great Smokies who might need a piece of equipment for their trip but would prefer not to invest a lot of money into an item they might never use again. So NOC also rents some gear, including backpack/child carriers so you can go hiking with your little one. Interested in checking out Gatlinburg on a bike? No worries. NOC also has bikes for rent.

NOC also sells regional books and hiking guides as well as maps with elevations noted for the trails in the Smokies — essential if you’re attempting any serious hikes in the park.

But, in our eyes, what really sets NOC Gatlinburg apart from its competitors is the “experiences” that it offers guests. For example, little ones will be happy to learn that there is a free swinging rope bridge and “bear” caves they can explore in the store. In addition, there is also a very affordable 25-foot, indoor rock climbing wall attraction. Feeling chilly? Then you’ll appreciate cozying up to the store’s large fireplace.

We have also found that, for the most part, the staff members are very knowledgeable and willing to help customers to find the appropriate gear for their needs. The store also tries to keep visitors informed of any changes going on in the park, such as trail closures, water levels, fishing information, and temperatures at the higher elevations.

NOC also offers guided tours, including hiking, fly fishing and whitewater rafting trips down the Pigeon River. The rafting trips vary in difficulty from easy floats, with class I to II rapids that you can enjoy with children as young as three years of age, to intermediate adventures featuring some exciting class II-IV rapids. These guided trips aren’t just something that the store tacked on to make some extra money. NOC has actually been in the whitewater guiding business since 1972 – they are very knowledgeable about adrenaline activities in the National Park.

This store also has a nice selection of souvenirs, including local arts and crafts, so you can also cross gift giving off of your must-do list while at NOC. Also, fans of the Route 11 brand, which has developed somewhat of a cult following, will be delighted to learn that NOC carries this very popular and delicious potato chip.

Insider Tips: 

  • Looking for a bargain on outdoor gear? The NOC store typically has end of season sales where you can find merchandise marked down by as much as 50 percent.
  • The NOC store is one of the few locations in downtown Gatlinburg that offers free parking. However, if you’d prefer not to drive, NOC is also directly on Gatlinburg’s trolley line.