The Best Outdoor Activities in the Gatlinburg Area

Gatlinburg’s diverse climate and landscape offers visitors a variety of activities to enjoy. While there are numerous things to do indoors, Gatlinburg’s menu of outdoor activities offers exciting excursions and adventures suitable for adults, teens, and children.

Ziplining in the Smoky Mountains

Aerial Tramway

Take to the skies for a scenic overview of the city along with panoramic views of the expansive Smoky Mountains stretching to the horizon. The ride from downtown to the Ober Gatlinburg ski resort is a 2.1-mile aerial adventure providing a birds-eye view of the surrounding landscape from start to finish. See more on the Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway.

Ober Gatlinburg

If cool activities sound like fun, at Ober Gatlinburg, the high-in-the-sky ski resort plus amusement park has plenty of chilling activities available year-round. Pick your favorite such as seasonal skiing, enjoying the Alpine Slide during the summer, selecting from10 scenic trails to traverse, gliding around the indoor ice skating rink, and snow-tubing. For more fun, take a ride on the Ski Mountain Coaster, visit the food court, watch the kids play the outdoor games, and shop. See more on Ober Gatlinburg Ice Skating.

Hiking Trails

Hiking along over 800 miles of scenic trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park gets hikers up close and personal with the environment. From easy treks to trails for seasoned hikers, explore and experience the park’s streams, cascading waterfalls, towering forests, delicate wildflowers, and assorted wildlife. For more detail on getting out into this wonderful ecosystem, see also our guide to Gatlinburg hiking trails.

Horseback Riding

For those who prefer a leisurely ride on horseback through the scenic foothills, there are several riding stables near Gatlinburg providing guided trail rides for all ages. Choose from single hour adventures to multi-hour excursions. Daytime rides, sunset rides, and unforgettable moonlight rides let riders amble along lush-lined trails with scenic vistas and wildlife. See our guide to Horseback Riding.

Scenic Drives

Observe and enjoy the scenery of the national park from the comfort of your vehicle with a drive along one of several memorable roadways. These include the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Cades Cove loop, Rich Mountain Road, and Little River Road. Along the way are plenty of overlooks to stop for taking pictures. Outside the park, the Foothills Parkway is an open highway with the only distraction being sweeping panoramic vistas of the Smokies. See our definitive Guide to Scenic Drives.

Whitewater Rafting

Cool off during the summer with a whitewater rafting ride down the Upper Pigeon River or Lower Pigeon River. Choose from either a calmer rafting ride on Class 1-2 rapids to enjoy the fresh air, scenery, and swimming or experience a thrilling and fast-paced roller-coaster ride on Class 3-4 rapids. A rafting experience can take up to 2 hours. See our guide to Rafting the rivers.

Snow Tubing

From Thanksgiving to Easter, take an exhilarating ride down the snow-covered hill at Ober Gatlinburg. Tickets for snow tubing provide 90 minutes of fun. Once you reach the bottom of the hill, the Magic Carpet escalator goes back to the top, so you can ride and slide again. No experience is required for snow tubing, but one requirement is children ages 3 to 5 must ride tandem with an adult.

River Tubing

River tubing is a great way for everyone to cool off, relax, and have fun while floating down the Little River or the Little Pigeon River. Choose from one of the local outfitters to get you started on this refreshing excursion suitable for all ages. See our guide to Tubing the rivers.


Fishing enthusiasts have plenty of opportunities to drop a line in the more than 900 miles of waterways brimming with trout. Fishing is allowed at designated streams and rivers inside the national park and at Gatlinburg fishing locations. Permits are required and certain restrictions regarding lures and bait are in place. We have plenty of information for you in our Fishing pages.


Soar through the air with the greatest of ease with a zipline adventure in the Smoky Mountains. Visitors whisk through the treetops at speeds up to 50 mph while suspended 400 feet above the ground on steel lines. Ziplining is available for all ages with single of tandem rides. Some restrictions do apply.

TIP: Many of the activities mentioned here are eligible for a Free Ticket  from our Trip Cash book of coupons to the best local attractions that comes with every cabin booked. See more in our Gatlinburg Coupons or our Pigeon Forge Coupons pages, and check out the Trip Cash Web Story for some eye candy on the giveaways.

For more activities in the Smoky Mountains, see what’s going on with Gatlinburg attractions and Pigeon Forge attractions.

For more things to do in the area, any time of year, check out our guides to Things to Do In the Smoky Mountains, Smoky Mountains Activities and the all-important Things to Do In Gatlinburg With Kids. Also see our own listings of annual festivals in the area in our Gatlinburg Events guide.

Check our Gatlinburg cabins, Pigeon Forge cabins and our Wears Valley cabins for your best place to stay in the Smokies.

And remember that romance in the Smoky Mountains is made perfect with one of our Gatlinburg honeymoon cabins.

About Tony Perez

I'm a people person, and I enjoy the atmosphere that working with Cabins Of The Smoky Mountains entails, interacting with different types of people and trying to relate to each one uniquely. From Michigan originally, I've been coming to the Smoky Mountains since I was a child, with family in Wears Valley. Summer fun for me is exploring the Cades Cove area, swimming in the creeks, and hiking Mount LeConte and many other trails. I love the Smoky Mountains.