#64 of 71 Gatlinburg Things To Do

Rafting in the Smokies

Rafting in the Smokies - A Thrilling Way to Witness the Mountains
Staff Score:
5.0 / 5
The Bottom Line:

Rafting in the Smokies offers two distinct options to customers: you can raft the bumpy upper section of the Big Pigeon River or the much calmer lower section. Each trip comes complete with all safety gear plus a guide who knows the river like the back of their hand. 

- The SmokyMountains.com Local Expert Team

When you’re in the Smokies, the adventures are endless. From mountain biking to hiking, there are endless possibilities. But one of the most beloved ways to see the full scope of the wilderness has always been rafting down the Big Pigeon River. Rafting in the Smokies has been helping their customers discover the wonder since 1978. Their decades of experience gives them the upper hand when to outfit the countless travelers who have graced their doors over the years.

This business has been so influential in these parts of town that they named the rapids back when the Smoky Mountains tourism industry was really just getting started. But while times may have evolved, the underlying premise of the business hasn’t. Affordable, safe, and fun, this company is staffed with the whitewater experts who can really get you going.

Rafting in the Smokies offers two versions of rafting for their customers, depending on the types of rapids you want to take on. Some want maximum adrenaline while others would prefer something a little softer. Both options come with a trained guide as well as the helmets and life jackets that are required for every excursion.

The certified and trained guides are really at the heart of this operation. When guests know they’re in capable hands, they’re free to enjoy the Smokies rather than feel the anxiety of the unknown. These athletes are wizards of the water, and they’re more than ready to share their love of the area with you.

Whitewater Fun
When you’re in the upper part of the Pigeon River, you’ll run across 12 Class III rapids and 3 Class IV rapids. You don’t need any experience to tackle the most thrilling parts of the river (with names like After Shave and Too Late), but you will need to bring a full set of lungs as you’re swept up in the excitement of every hair-raising turn. The upper Pigeon takes about 1.5 hours to complete 5.5 miles and was definitely made for the thrill-seekers!

Smoother Waters
If you’re not convinced that whitewater rafting is for you, you may want to take on the lower section of the river with much smoother waters. At Class I and Class II, this much more casual ride is 6-miles and fairly relaxed the whole way. Lasting about two hours and suitable for everyone ages 3 and up, the inclusive Family Float is a great way to get your feet wet.

These rivers are surrounded by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, as well as the Martha Sundquist State Forest and famous Appalachian Trail. As you raft down the river, you’ll see some of the most dramatic countrysides in the nation (though we won’t blame you if you’re more focused on the next rapid). You may just be inspired to come back and take on a more challenging part of the Smokies the next time you’re in town.

Insider Tips: 
– The raft for upper section of the river seats up to 6 people while the lower section raft seats up to 7.
– The personal flotation devices can be expanded up to 56″.
– If you’re hoping to schedule more activities, you can add on rock climbing, ziplining, or the ropes course.
– To tackle the upper section of the river, you need to be at least 8 years old. For the lower section, all passengers need to be at least 3.
– The rafting season runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but you can call ahead for spring and winter availability.