#17 of 84 Gatlinburg Things To Do

Smoky Mountain Outdoors Whitewater Rafting

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Smoky Mountain Outdoors: Thrilling Adventures on the Pigeon River
Staff Score:
5.0 / 5
The Bottom Line:

Experience the best of Mother Nature and a burst of adrenaline while touring the beautiful Pigeon River on a raft or inflatable kayak. Smoky Mountain Outdoors allows you to embrace the excitement of whitewater rafting while remaining safe and secure.

- The SmokyMountains.com Local Expert Team

You’ve witnessed the Pigeon River from bridges, nature trails, or with a fishing reel, but you’ll have a much better feel for this natural wonder once you’ve explored it on a whitewater raft or inflatable kayak. This river can be a bit treacherous for newbies, however, so it behooves you to travel alongside a guide from Smoky Mountain Outdoors.

Personable, yet authoritative, your guide will ensure that your whitewater group works together to successfully traverse several thrilling rapids. Guides are intimately familiar with the river, along with the types of reactions it elicits from adventurers. If you feel a burst of last-minute nerves, you can count on your guide for reassurance.

Smoky Mountain Outdoors runs an efficient operation. You won’t waste your day waiting around for the bus or sitting through endless briefings. The guides offer all of the information you need to stay safe, but in a concise and straightforward manner.

The last thing you need during your whitewater trip is to be lumped in with the wrong crew, or placed on a route ill-suited to your ability level. Thankfully, Smoky Mountain Outdoors allows you to choose a trip that is perfectly suited to your unique needs. Packages are designed for young beginners, adult rafting enthusiasts, and everybody in between. No matter your experience level, you can expect to learn something new during your whitewater adventure on the Pigeon River. Along the way, you’ll be amazed by the natural beauty and serenity of the Smoky Mountain region.

A few of our favorites include the following:

Upper River Rafting
Ideal for inexperienced or moderately experienced rafters seeking big thrills, the standard Upper Pigeon River trip explores several dozen rapids, including a few Class IV thrills. No worries — your guide will keep you safe as you maneuver around rocks and through major waves.

Extreme Upper River Rafting
On the hunt for something a bit more intense? You’re the perfect candidate for the Smoky Mountain Outdoors Extreme Upper River Rafting package. This trip features a smaller raft, which accommodates up to three adventurers and the requisite guide. Previous rafting experience is recommended for this trip, and the ability to swim is an absolute essential.

Lower River Rafting
This family-friendly trip focuses on magnificent views and mild thrills. Rafters age three and above are allowed, so feel free to bring the entire family. Expect a slower pace and a lot of water fights with younger rafters.

Inflatable Kayaking
Explore the Lower Pigeon River via an inflatable kayak. This unique approach allows you to take the lead, tackling the natural thrills of the Pigeon River as you see fit — but with guidance and paddling tips from a knowledgeable escort. Whether you’re an experienced kayaker or a complete newbie, you’ll enjoy playing in the rapids and learning new techniques.

Insider Tips: 

  • With tickets covering everything from equipment and van rides to expert guidance, it’s easy to see why trips with Smoky Mountain Outdoors can be pricey. Thankfully, there are ways to save, especially if you intend to take part in other outdoor adventures. Smoky Mountain Outdoors has teamed up with CLIMB Works to offer significant discounts via whitewater rafting and zip line packages. Invest in a discount package, and you can experience the best of the Smoky Mountains from the river and from the sky.
  • Once you book your ticket, pack carefully to ensure a safe and satisfying adventure. An absolutely essential: a pair of secure shoes. Rafting is not allowed in bare feet or flip flops. Other apparel requirements include shorts and either a swimsuit or t-shirt. Be sure to bring a towel so you can dry off after your trip — you are guaranteed to get wet! A dry pair of shoes and set of clothing will also make your post-trip experience more enjoyable.
  • Although Smoky Mountain Outdoors Whitewater Rafting has a booking office in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, do NOT go to these on the day of your rafting trip! Instead, make sure to follow the directions to the rafting outpost at 3299 Hartford Road in Hartford, TN about 45 minutes from downtown Gatlinburg.