Mountain Rides: Up and Down in the Smokies

Of the many things to do in the Smoky Mountains, some of the most fun are the various rides up and down the mountain: the lifts and gondolas up, the coasters and slides down, and the ziplines in between. Here’s a guide to all the mountain rides in the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area.

Image courtesy of Gatlinburg Sky Lift

Going up the mountain

When driving up the winding road is not what you want, and when breaking a sweat is out of the question, you need a lift to get up that hill. If it’s the Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort you’re heading to you can simply take one of the largest Aerial Tramways in the country, heading up to base lodge from downtown Gatlinburg, with shops either end if you need extra gear or souvenirs.

Once up at the year-round resort, you can go further with the scenic chair lift, which is a great way in summer to get above it all and enjoy a cool breeze with a stunning view. The observation deck at Ober Gatlinburg offers telescopes too, so you can study all the little things below.

The Gatlinburg Sky Lift is a long-time visitor favorite to soar above the town and see the amazing terrain all around. It’s a sense of place to see how nestled into the mountains Gatlinburg is. And now at the top you can hang out at the SkyLift Park, with food, live music, stunning views and for the adventurous, the nation’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge!

How about a Chondola ride up to the Anakeesta playground on the mountain? Take either an open-air or an enclosed cable-car up the mountain to enter the Anakeesta world high above Gatlinburg, where you and the kids can play in the tree-house village and rope bridge, or shop and eat and explore the many entertainments and marvels of the place. And see below for some of the fun ways to come down the mountain.

Before we leave this uphill slog, we should take a look at Hillbilly Golf in Gatlinburg, which offers a unique setting on the slope of a hill, and a funicular tram to take you up the 300-feet incline to get started. You play your way down through the two 18-hole courses filled with eccentric mountain attractions. Great fun.

Coming down the mountain

Most of the lifts mentioned will take you back down the mountain, but there are some other fun ways to do it too. If you want to sit back and let gravity take over, mountain coasters are a fun addition to the area on recent years, and we’ve listed all of them for you in our guide to Coaster Rides in the Smoky Mountains.

Ober Gatlinburg and Anakeesta both have coasters to give you some downhill action. But it doesn’t stop there. Ober Gatlinburg also offers a year-round adventure for you if you would rather slide down the slope on a tube. In winter, Snow Tubing is one of Gatlinburg’s favorite things to do, and now in summer, Ober has a new ride for downhill tubing on a special surface, so the slide continues all year.

Rowdy Bear Mountain Adventure Park in Gatlinburg has both an alpine coaster and the country’s first Mountain Glider, which is like hang gliding through the treetops suspended from a rail. And its new operation in Pigeon Forge – Rowdy Bear Ridge – offers not only another mountain glider but also year-round Mountain Tubing, on this new tubing surface that has opened up this great new option for us to have fun.

Prefer snow for your tubing? Pigeon Forge Snow has you covered with the first indoor snow facility in the country. The air temperature is moderate, but that’s real snow they’re making, and you can play in it. Even better, you can can go snow tubing down the slope – so now it’s year-round indoor snow tubing!

Finally, if you’re up for breaking a sweat, and you want to try your hand at mountain biking – in an area where no bikes are allowed on hiking trails – then take a look at our guide to Mountain Biking in the Smokies to find where to rent bicycles (or tune up your own), and where to ride them.

Hanging in between the hills

If you’re up for some mountain activity with unparalleled views, and soaring above and between the treetops, then Ziplining is want you want. It’s safe and exhilarating, guaranteed to make a lasting memory. There are several places that offer ziplines, including some of those already mentioned above. We have the Ultimate Guide to Smoky Mountain Ziplines to give you a way to explore all the options.


So, wherever you choose to go to get up the mountain and down the mountain or across the mountain, we have the cabin for you to stay in – check our Gatlinburg cabin rentals, our Pigeon Forge cabins, and our Wears Valley cabins out on the quiet side of the Smoky Mountains.

And remember that each cabin offers our Trip Cash book of Gatlinburg coupons and Pigeon Forge coupons – it’s worth over $700! – with free tickets to some of the best attractions and mountain rides in the area.

And if you’re still looking for more fun ways to explore in your stay in the Smokies, check out our guide to Things to Do in the Smoky Mountains as well as our Smoky Mountains activities pages, and especially our guide to Things to Do in Gatlinburg With Kids. And keep up with current festivals and happenings with our Gatlinburg Events guide.


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.