Smoky Mountains summer activities

If the idea of summer vacation evokes images of adventure and breathtaking scenery, plan a visit to the Smoky Mountains. The combination of amusement parks, outdoor activities, and perfect weather conditions makes the Smoky Mountains an irresistible summer destination. Here are six compelling reasons to pack your bags and experience a Smoky Mountains summer vacation.

Amusement parks in the Smoky Mountains

World-Famous Amusement Parks Are Open

The Smoky Mountains host some of the most renowned amusement parks in the world. These parks offer a unique blend of thrill, fun, and entertainment, suitable for all ages.


Dollywood comes alive in the summer with exciting shows and rides like the Tennessee Tornado and the Wild Eagle. Co-owned by country music legend Dolly Parton, the park offers a mix of crafts, music, and heart-stopping rides… all with a touch of Southern charm. Brace yourselves for the grand unveiling of Big Bear Mountain in the Spring of 2023. Promising a record-breaking experience, this beast of a ride will reign as the longest coaster in the park, making it an exhilarating addition you simply can’t miss.

Dollywood’s Splash Country

Right next door to Dollywood is Dollywood’s Splash Country. This water park provides some refreshing relief from the summer heat. Check out the Bear Mountain Fire Tower and Mountain Waves wave pool for some aquatic fun.

Soaky Mountain Waterpark

Catering to adrenaline junkies and relaxation seekers alike, Soaky Mountain Waterpark has swirling water slides, a rippling wave pool, and a lazy river. Kids enjoy splashing about in the kid-friendly zones, while thrill-seekers test their mettle on the Avalaunch and Soaky Surge. 

water activities in the Smokies

Rivers Can Be Amusement Parks, Too

The Smoky Mountains’ landscape is as thrilling as any amusement park. Its rivers and waterways offer tons of fun, adventure, and relaxation.

Fly Fishing

The Smoky Mountains in the summer are a haven for fly fishing enthusiasts. Its streams are brimming with rainbow, brown, and brook trout. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park houses over 2,900 miles of streams. It is one of the premier fly-fishing destinations in the U.S.

If you are a newcomer, consider hiring an expert or a local guide. Places like Smoky Mountain Angler, the oldest fly shop in Gatlinburg, have guided trips that cater to all skill levels. They also conveniently sell fly fishing gear and equipment.

The Little River is among the most popular spots for fly fishing in the Smoky Mountains. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency states, “The Little River is a beautiful waterway with robust fish populations, making it ideal for both beginners and experienced anglers.”

Remember that a valid fishing license or Tennessee or North Carolina permit is required. Check with the National Park Service for up-to-date information and designated fishing areas.

Waterfall Hikes

The Great Smoky Mountains hold some of the most beautiful waterfalls in America. These cascades offer stunning backdrops for hiking and photography.

Abrams Falls ranks high as one of the most famous in the Smokies. According to the National Park Service, “This five-mile round-trip hike leads to a stunning 20-foot waterfall that pours into a scenic pool.” The trail begins next to the Cades Cove Loop Road.

Laurel Falls is another must-see. This 80-foot-high waterfall is one of the park’s most photographed sites. Reaching it takes you on a 2.6-mile round-trip hike. The trail is moderately difficult but paved. 

Always take appropriate safety precautions when setting off on a waterfall hike. The rocks are slippery, and the currents near the waterfalls are powerful. Wear hiking boots, carry enough water, and never climb on or near waterfalls.

Swimming Holes

When the summer sun is high in the sky, there’s nothing quite like a refreshing swimming hole. Luckily, the Smoky Mountains offer several spots to dip in the cool mountain water.

Tucked away along the Big Creek Trail, Midnight Hole is a serene pool of deep, cool water, flanked by smooth boulders and fed by a cascading waterfall. Its name is a nod to its deep, dark waters that seem to twinkle in the sunlight. Perfect for an invigorating dip on a warm day, or simply for some quiet time. Midnight Hole is an understated beauty. 

Another famous swimming hole is the Townsend Wye, located near Townsend, Tennessee. This junction meets at the Middle and West Prongs of Little River. The swimming area offers deep pools and rock beaches. It is a favorite spot for locals and tourists.

If you are staying near Gatlinburg, check out the Greenbrier swimming hole. Located along the Little Pigeon River, it is a fantastic choice for easy access and fun. Greenbrier offers stunning views of the river set against the backdrop of the Smoky Mountains.

whitewater rafting in the Smokies

Whitewater Rafting Season is Here

Whitewater rafting is a thrilling summer activity. Luckily, the Smoky Mountains offer some of the best rafting experiences in the country.

Rafting in the Smokies

Several rivers offer whitewater rapids in the Smoky Mountains. Companies like Rafting in the Smokies provide an exhilarating whitewater rafting experience. They offer guided rafting trips that cater to adrenaline junkies as well as to families searching for a gentler ride.

ATV riding at Bluff Mountain

ATV Riding Season Is Here

The Smoky Mountains in the summer are perfect for ATV riding. Explore the region’s rugged terrain in the most exciting way.

Bluff Mountain ATV Rides

Bluff Mountain ATV Rides offers guided tours that take you along the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. Experience the natural beauty of the area like never before. The Family Introductory Ride is perfect for beginners or families with children aged 14 and over. This 1-hour ride covers scenic mountain trails at a comfortable pace. The Mountain Trail Adventure Ride is a 1.5-hour ride more suited for thrill seekers. For experienced riders, there’s the Custom Trail Ride that covers more challenging terrains.

All rides follow a lead and drag guide format for safety. All riders receive helmets, goggles, and a safety orientation. Each ATV comes with a roll cage, seatbelts, and automatic transmissions. Be sure to bring your action camera!

Scenic drives in the Smokies

Perfect Weather for Cruising

The summer weather in the Smoky Mountains brings warm and sunny days. The weather is an ideal time for open-air, windowless driving. It’s a fantastic way to take in the beautiful mountain scenery.

Wranglers & Razors

There’s no better way to enjoy the mountains than from the seat of a 4×4, with the wind in your hair and the hum of an engine beneath you. That’s why Wranglers & Razors offers an unbeatable opportunity.

In Sevierville, Tennessee, Wranglers & Razors provides high-quality Jeep Wrangler, Polaris Slingshot, and Razor rentals. They offer 2-door and 4-door Jeep Wranglers and Razors capable of carrying up to 4 passengers.

Create your itinerary, visit the places that you’re most interested in, and spend as much time as you want at each location. Wranglers & Razors is open year-round, but summer provides the perfect weather for cruising.

Wolf Creek Rentals

Wolf Creek Rentals offers a fantastic selection of open-air vehicles for rent, including Polaris Slingshots and Harley Davidson Motorcycles. These vehicles provide a unique and exhilarating way to feel the wind through your hair and the sun on your skin.

Ziplining in Sevierville

The Treetops Are For Sunbathing

Experience the Smoky Mountains in the summer from above. Ziplining through the treetops provides a bird’s-eye view of the lush forest and the mountain landscape.

Wahoo Ziplines

Nestled in Sevierville, Tennessee, Wahoo Ziplines offers an exciting way to soak up the beauty of the Smokies landscape while sailing through the treetops.

Wahoo Ziplines has six signature ziplines spanning over 2 miles. The ziplines range from 900 to 1600 feet in length and reach heights up to 250 feet! Each zipline course provides a unique and thrilling adventure.

What sets Wahoo Ziplines apart is its commitment to safety and customer satisfaction. Their well-trained and friendly guides are with you every step of the way.

The entire ziplining tour takes about 2 hours to complete. So, it’s a perfect activity for a summer morning or afternoon. 

Take advantage of the chance to enjoy these six perks of a Smoky Mountains summer vacation. Enjoy thrilling rides and water park fun at Dollywood, Dollywood Splash Country, and Ober Gatlinburg. Find relaxation by exploring waterfalls on hikes, and taking a refreshing dip in secluded swimming holes. There’s no shortage of entertainment.

The warm weather is perfect for whitewater rafting. Companies like Rafting in the Smokies make it easy for beginners and experts to enjoy this adventure. It’s an exhilarating way to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the Smokies.

The summer season also ushers in the opportunity for exciting ATV rides at Bluff Mountain. In addition, explore the area’s many scenic drives in style with Wranglers & Razors and Wolf Creek Rentals.  

Got a need for speed? Embrace the thrill of ziplining through the treetops with Wahoo Ziplines. The experience offers a unique perspective on the Smoky Mountains’ landscape.

Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or a bit of both, you’ll find it here in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. So, pack your bags for a Smoky Mountains summer vacation. There truly is no better time to experience all this region has to offer.

Content on this page is subject to change. Please contact the locations mentioned to see if promotions, hours, pricing, etc. are still valid.

About Andy Rowe

Andy Rowe is an experienced Writer and Content Designer with a passion for storytelling. He earned his Masters of Business Administration while living abroad in Taiwan and has spent the past 6 years honing his skills in copy writing, social media content, and thought leadership. Andy has a talent for research and the ability to adapt this writing style to different audiences. When he’s not writing, Andy enjoys traveling, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and reading.

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