The 3 Best White Water Rafting Outfitters in the Smoky Mountains

Few activities have the heart-pumping and adrenaline-rushing thrill of white water rafting in the Smoky Mountains. It also makes a great diversion on a romantic Smoky Mountain getaway.

That’s because the Pigeon River, rated the third-best river for rafting by the American Outdoor Association, provides all the excitement you could ever imagine.

Often called “The Big Pigeon,” the river originates in North Carolina and heads mostly northward through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and along Interstate 40, before it empties into the French Broad River.  Its flow comes from a controlled dam release all summer long, which helps to monitor its capacity and prevent flooding. It also creates the arguably best rafting in the Southeast. The lower area of the Pigeon provides milder and more family friendly treks, while the upper portion features the higher class rapids for adventure seekers.

Some of the nicknames bestowed on the twelve Class III and three Class IV rapids will give you a good idea of what awaits you: “Lost Guide,” “Vegamatic,” “Too Late.” They may sound a little scary, but you’ll love the feeling of riding over them… and conquering them once you’re done.

Best white water rafting smoky mountains

While you’ll often see rafters and kayakers shooting independently on the Pigeon, your most sensible option is to go with a river rafting company. An experienced guide will lead the way, tell you exactly what to do on-board to ensure everyone’s personal safety and should take care of most worries you might have. Even if you fall out of the raft, the guides and your fellow travelers will know just what to do to get back afloat.

In no time at all, those concerns will likely and instantly disappear as you rush down the river’s rapids and have one fantastic story to tell family and friends back home.

Get our free ebook guide to planning an amazing romantic getaway to the Smoky Mountains. The best activities for couples, views, hikes, waterfalls, events, and much more! Click here to request the guide.

So are you ready to get wet and wild?

Here are some of the best white water rafting companies in the SMoky Mountains that we recommend to our guests and have consistently rated well with travelers:

Natahala Outdoor Center

National Geographic Adventure ranked this Gatlinburg rafter as “one of the best outfitters on earth.” They will take you on either portion of the Big Pigeon river, depending on your level of adventure and comfort. Children as young as three can join a rafting trip, where they can enjoy smaller rapids and the occasional swimming hole.

Smoky Mountain Outdoors

You can have it all with these outfitters.  Take both sections of the Pigeon river, where you shoot the challenging upper then glide down the more laid-back lower, or do them in reverse order. In between, you can enjoy a lunch on the riverbanks at their Lost Guide Grill. They also have a complete schedule of other trips.

Rafting in the Smokies

These family oriented rafters make it clear that you don’t need previous whitewater experience to enjoy one of their guided trips.  They offer the full slate of rafting, from ultra-thrilling deep rapids to gentle family floats.  A 10-acre island sports a beach, nature trail, playground, picnicking and a 150-foot swing bridge to enjoy after your river adventure.

Get our free ebook guide to planning an amazing romantic getaway to the Smoky Mountains. The best activities for couples, views, hikes, waterfalls, events, and much more! Click here to request the guide.

No matter which whitewater rafting tour and company you choose, be sure to come back to Christopher Place Resort, your Smoky Mountains bed and breakfast, to relax in your private hot tub, or take it easy with a drink on the porch or in our library. Request our Smoky Mountain Getaway Guide with more amazing things to do in the area.