Sturdy oak trunks seem to tower endlessly upward, and their leafy branches merge to create an emerald ceiling above you. Your ears perk up to the abrupt rattling stutter of a woodpecker before the sound is lost to the serene shushing of leaves in a gentle breeze. The beauty of nature has the power to bring us back to our senses and allows us to feel like ourselves again. It’s no wonder we turn to nature-abundant places like the Great Smoky Mountains to ground us back in the present moment. When you’re feeling off-balance, set aside some time to immerse yourself in these interactive Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge outdoor activities.
Pigeon Forge Outdoor Activities on the Mountain Trails
Outside time can look like many different things, from hiking to rafting, fishing, and more. Yet, of all the Pigeon Forge outdoor activities, you’ll cover the most ground when you team up with a trail-loving vehicle. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park contains hundreds of miles of trails and vehicle-friendly roads, from which you can see old-growth forests, wildlife in action, beautiful creeks and rivers, and historic structures. Combine your time in nature with the thrill of drifting through curves on a four-wheeler or the safety and convenience of a Jeep with all-wheel drive.
Swerve your way along the trails and splash your wheels across the creeks on an exciting off-roading adventure with Bluff Mountain ATV Rides. Their 1 to 1.5-hour guided tours roam across 6,000 acres of land near Bluff Mountain, where rugged terrain gives way to magnificent views of the mountain landscape. Choose a 450 ATV, Rhino/Wolverine UTV, Viking UTV, or Teryx as your trusty mechanical steed. Experienced and beginner drivers are welcome, but all UTV drivers must be at least 18 years old and ATV drivers must be at least 14 or 15 years old. Beginners will feel quite safe on the Family Introductory Ride, which features mild to moderate terrain and plenty of photo opportunities. Experienced drivers will love the rough terrain of the Mountain Trail Adventure Ride and the extreme challenge of the Ridge Run and Custom Trail Ride options.
If the adrenaline of off-roading is not your cup of tea, opt for a gentler ride in a larger vehicle. Wranglers & Razors is the best place in the Smokies to rent a 4-door Jeep, slingshot, or UTV. Their Jeeps are perfect for handling both the rough trails and the bustle of downtown, featuring oversized tires and a 2.5-inch suspension lift. The RZR 1000 UTV seats four or six people and is legal to drive on the streets. Last but not least, the 2-seat Polaris Slingshot will have you cruising around town in style in the open air and sunshine.
Once you have a sweet ride picked out, take her out to scenic driving routes like the Cades Cove Loop or Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. Cades Cove is a rich valley full of wildlife like white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, groundhogs, and black bears. You’re also likely to see historic buildings dating back to the early 1800s, such as churches, grist mills, and barns. Expect to take two to four hours to cover the entire 11-mile loop at an unhurried pace. On the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, you’ll see more historic buildings, including Noah “Bud” Ogle’s mountain farmstead and wood flume plumbing system. Make sure to stop for photos at the Roaring Fork mountain stream and take a hike to Rainbow Falls and Grotto Falls.
Gatlinburg Outdoor Activities with the Best Views
It’s easy to replenish your stock of daily minutes spent in nature. Simply walk out your front door! Yet, instead of taking the mere role of an observer, what if you actively engaged with it? What if your outside exposure time not only allowed you to catch some rays of sunlight and fresh air but also gave you something to do with your hands, something to taste and savor, or someone with whom to share the experience? These outdoor parks provide a setting immersed in nature for all kinds of Gatlinburg outdoor activities, from thrill rides to munching on snacks to enjoying a romantic view with a special person.
Between five unique zones, Gatlinburg SkyLift Park is by far one of the best ways to view the beautiful Smoky Mountain ridgeline and the shimmering nighttime lights of downtown Gatlinburg. Link up with the SkyLift right from downtown, and it’ll take you up to the top of Mount Crockett. From there, take a stroll along the 700-foot SkyBridge, the longest pedestrian cable bridge on this continent, or the SkyTrail, which features educational signage and viewing platforms. Finally, retreat to the SkyCenter for a bite of pizza, nachos, polish dogs, and more delicious grub, and finish off your drinks by the firepits at the amphitheater-style seating of the SkyDeck.
Anakeesta is a multi-faceted mountaintop park in downtown Gatlinburg, where the outdoors coincide with unique theme park rides, shopping, and dining. Take a scenic ride on the Chondola, a 4- to 6-person gondola that lifts you 600 feet up Anakeesta Mountain. Once at the peak, step foot into Firefly Village, where you can enjoy fine dining at Cliff Top or sit down for a drink at Tap House over stunning views of the mountains. Walk off that food baby, and check out the candles and women’s apparel at Catching Fireflies or the Appalachian kitchenware at The Mercantile. Or, hop on over to the Adventure Post for a dual ziplining course across 2,600 feet of lines. Finally, when the sun starts to set, catch the vibrant skyward colors and silhouetted mountain peaks from the top of Anavista Observation Tower or from a rocking chair in the experiential sensory garden.
Impressive Natural Caverns Near Gatlinburg
The mouth of a mysterious cave opens wide to grant you access to an alien terrain of cold stone and secret trails of water. The musk of rich moss, icy humidity, and pristine minerality plunges into your nostrils and fills your lungs with a cold refreshment. Though it feels similar to the indoors, the world below the ground exudes a sensory atmosphere no less profuse than the above-ground outdoors. Not only are the caverns near Gatlinburg an impressive sight to behold, but they are also rich in natural and cultural history.
Who would have thought that the roots could be as glorious as the branches? Float down from your aerial vantage point of a horizon filled with smoky peaks, and sink deep into the earth to see an alternate side of the Great Smoky Mountains. First used by Native Americans as shelter during a hunt and later used by illegal moonshiners in the early 1900s, the mysterious Forbidden Caverns in Sevierville have some fascinating stories to tell. As you follow in the footsteps of this land’s forebears, you’ll see cave formations like stalagmites and stalactites, natural chimneys, and grottos under colorful lighting and stereophonic sound. A tour takes just under an hour and includes educational content from an expert guide.
The Tuckaleechee Caverns in Townsend are 20 to 30 million years old and home to an impressive 210-foot underground double waterfall. On a 1.25-mile tour of the caverns, you’ll see the magnificent Silver Falls and experience the breadth of the Big Room, a football stadium-sized space in the rock. What’s even more fascinating about the Tuckaleechee Caverns is that they house the most sensitive seismic station in the world. Learn how these caverns pick up on the sound vibrations from curious sources across the globe, from North Korea’s nuclear testing to the crash of coastal ocean waves.
Feast your eyes on gentle Appalachian scenery from the highest vantage point in downtown Gatlinburg, and feast your appetite, too, with a beer in one hand and a gourmet burger in the other. Maybe you prefer the wildness of wind in your face and mud at your feet as you navigate a curving four-wheeling trail in the deepest part of the woods. On the other hand, perhaps the cool darkness and gaping walls of the caverns near Gatlinburg, echoing like a natural underground cathedral, are what call to you most strongly.
No matter your preference, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are full of interactive outdoor activities that engage your senses in unique ways. By the time you’re ready to return home from the beautiful Smokies, you’ll be feeling refreshed and much more aligned with yourself!
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