One of the best ways to experience the Great Smoky Mountain’s beauty is outside, under the stars, sitting around a campfire and swapping stories that will be retold for years to come. Add a babbling river or creek and short access to hiking trails, and you have the recipe for an outdoor adventure in the Smoky Mountains that will leave you wanting to come back again as soon as possible. Below are some of my favorite rafting activities and camping spots in the Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville areas.
1. Big Creek Expeditions Whitewater Rafting
Big Creek Expeditions offers trips on two sections of the Pigeon River. Trips on this section launch at the TN/NC state line, with surrounding views of the mountains and the historic hydroelectric powerhouse that feeds water into the river. Within minutes of launching from the put-in, guests will find themselves paddling into their first Class III rapid of the day; the aptly named Powerhouse Rapid. An experienced, professional guide will navigate your group down the 5.5 miles of river where you will experience a total of 10 Class III rapids and 3 Class IV rapids. With rapid names like Lost Guide, Double-Reactionary, and Snapdragon, guests can expect plenty of excitement on this trip. There will still be time between the rapids to take in the views, soak up some sun and have a swim before finishing the trip back at our outpost.
- Minimum Age: 8 Years Old
- Average Cost: $33/Person + Taxes/Fees
- Experience Level: No Experience Necessary
2. Big Creek Expeditions Scenic Float
The Scenic Float is perfect for guests wanting to spend time on the water but not quite ready for the action of the Whitewater Rafting trip. As the river curves it’s way through the gorge, it calms down a bit and offers 5.5 miles of introductory Class I-II rapids. Guaranteed to help you take a break from the rush of life and slow down to relax while soaking up the sun. A fantastic way to spend the day with you and your group, especially young children or those timid about the Whitewater Rafting trip. Opportunities to see wildlife and various flora indigenous to the Smoky Mountains. Take a swim in the river to cool down from the summer heat, sit back, relax and let Big Creek Expeditions show you the best Tennessee rafting trip in the Great Smoky Mountains.
Learn more at Big Creek Expeditions or by calling 877-642-7238
1. Foxfire Riverside Campground
At Fox Fire Riverside Campground, you’ll have your complete Smoky Mountains adventure available right at the campgrounds. Only 1/4 mile from the Hartford I-40 Exit 447 on 17 private acres bordering the Big Pigeon River. Nestled in the quiet foothills of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, this campground is a hidden gem. Picture yourself rafting on the Pigeon River and ending your day around a campfire under the stars swapping stories of your adventure.
Big Creek Expeditions’ outpost is located on at Foxfire Riverside Campground. Foxfire offers primitive tent sites, full RV hookups, and cabin rentals. Bundle a rafting trip with a camping trip and save big!
2. Big Creek, Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Creeks in the Smokies are bountiful, but as it’s name suggests, Big Creek is much wider and has a more consistent flow (even during summer) than many of the other creeks you’ll find in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Located roughly 10-15 minutes from the Big Creek Expeditions’ rafting outpost, camping here will allow guests access to waterfalls, swimming holes, and hiking trails. Some of our favorites include Midnight Hole and Mouse Creek Falls. The campground at Big Creek is open from April 19-October 25 with primitive tent sites and restroom facilities. Spend a night (or several) under the stars away from the hustle and bustle in one of the most pristine sections of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
3. Cosby, Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Cosby is an out-of-the-way area of the national park that is a favorite among locals and long-time Smokies visitors. Facilities include a campground that is almost never full and a picnic area that’s spacious and never too crowded. Ample opportunities to see wildflowers during spring, summer and fall, but the main draw for most people to the Cosby area is hiking. Hen Wallow Falls is a popular day hike, located just 2.1 miles from the Cosby Picnic Area and the 1.4 mile walk to Sutton Ridge Overlook offers spectacular views.
Pre-reserve camping sites by clicking here : https://www.recreation.gov/
Please leave your firewood at home! Over 40 species of hardwood trees in the Great Smoky Mountain could be devastated by wood boring insects from Asia and Europe. Only certified, heat-treated firewood may be brought into the park. As always, dead and down wood may still be collected inside the park for campers. For more information, visit