When you’re planning a day trip or vacation near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, you might want to participate in the excitement of Smoky Mountain white water rafting. Few activities get your adrenaline and heart pumping like rafting on the rapids. Best of all, you don’t need any experience. Let’s dive into what it’s like to go white water rafting in this Tennessee region and the best rafting outfitters with which to book your experience.
White Water Rafting in the Smoky Mountains and Gatlinburg, TN
The Pigeon River, which is often referred to as the Big Pigeon, is a dam-controlled river with scheduled water releases. It flows northwest from western North Carolina into eastern Tennessee. Because of that, it passes in between Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the northern side of Cherokee National Forest.
The rapids on the Big Pigeon range from Class-I to Class-IV, so you can choose between mild and wild white water rafting adventures. If you aren’t sure which rafting tour will best suit you, professionals at one of the companies below can help you decide.
Where to Get the Best Smoky Mountain White Water Rafting Experience
Since white water rafting on the Tennessee Pigeon River is so popular, seeing the abundant results for “white water rafting near Gatlinburg TN” may make you feel overwhelmed. Numerous outfitters can make sure that you’re geared up and ready to jump in. To narrow down your options, though, here are the best white water rafting companies.
Rafting in the Smokies
At Rafting in the Smokies, a professional river guide will accompany you on the rafting trip. You’ll also receive all of the safety equipment that you need, including a life jacket and helmet. There are two main options for rafting on the Pigeon River:
- Upper Pigeon River Trips feature big splashes and bumpy waves for about 5.5 miles, which takes about 1.5 hours.
- Lower Pigeon River Trips are calmer and more relaxing with gentle waves for about 6 miles, which takes about two hours.
In addition, Rafting in the Smokies offers a range of other activities. You can take on the ropes challenge course, zip line canopy or rock climbing wall. Across a 150-foot suspension bridge, it offers a free Family Adventure Island with a playground, barbecue grills and nature trail. On top of that, Ripley’s Aquarium and horseback riding packages are available.
Smoky Mountain Outdoors
Since 1993, Smoky Mountain Outdoors has maintained a high standard for fun, yet safe, white water rafting. In fact, it was awarded the TripAdvisor Hall of Fame designation for achieving the Certificate of Excellence from 2015 to 2019. It has several options for enjoying the Pigeon River rapids:
- Upper River Rafting takes you on a 6.5-mile ride down the river on big drops and big waves. Lasting about two hours, this trip is longer than any other Gatlinburg TN white water rafting outfitter’s Upper Pigeon trip.
- Extreme Upper River Rafting features a smaller raft, which means that you feel the waves and drops even more. It’s ideal for thrill-seekers who want a dynamic experience, so you must be able to swim.
- Lower River Rafting is more of a scenic floating trip that takes you on a 5.5-mile ride that lasts about 1.5 hours. This trip is ideal for all ages.
- The Pigeon River Combo Package allows you to experience both parts of the river. After rafting the Upper Pigeon, you stop for lunch at the Lost Guide Grill. Then, you raft the Lower Pigeon.
- Inflatable Kayaking on the Lower Pigeon River is great for novice and experienced kayakers. The ride is about 1.5 hours.
Nantahala Outdoor Center
With a private rafting outpost on the Big Pigeon, Nantahala Outdoor Center was the site of the World Cup Freestyle Kayaking Championships in 2013. It offers a few white water rafting options:
- Upper Pigeon River Rafting features a 5-mile trip on big waves and takes about 2.5 hours. Most suitable for ages 8 and older, this trip is of moderate intensity.
- Lower Pigeon River Rafting features a 4-mile trip on gentle waves and takes about three hours. This low-intensity trip is suitable for families with young children.
- The Upper Pigeon River Rafting Discount Trip is the same as the normal Upper Pigeon trip. Since it’s the last trip of the day, though, you get a discount.
Nantahala Outdoor Center also offers the Walk in the Woods Waterfall Excursion. It’s of intermediate intensity and lasts about 2.5 hours. There’s even a combo package for a full day of hiking and rafting.
Big Bear Whitewater Rafting
As another popular rafting outfitter, locally owned Big Bear Whitewater Rafting offers rafting journeys from March through September. All of the trips are fully guided, and you receive a safety talk and preparation beforehand. The staff will assist you with the gear as well. Here are the three options:
- The Upper Pigeon River trip takes you 5 miles down the river in about two hours.
- The Lower Pigeon River trip takes you 5.5 miles down the river in about 2.5 hours.
- The Inflatable Kayak trip lets you move at your own pace in your own watercraft, but you still travel with a guide.
Rafting Outdoor Adventures
Since 2002, Rafting Outdoor Adventures has been giving families, couples, and groups exhilarating experiences. Its fully guided Upper and Lower Pigeon River tours last for about two hours. However, you get twice the fun on the Upper Pigeon River Double Run, which lasts for four hours.
If you want to do more than Gatlinburg TN white water rafting, you can book the Rafting and Ziplining Combo. It includes an Upper Pigeon River trip and a waterfall zip line tour at Foxfire Mountain Adventure Park.
Wildwater has been helping families, couples and groups make great memories since 1971. The Wildwater Pigeon location offers a range of rafting packages:
- Upper Pigeon Rafting traverses a bumpy 5-mile section of the rapids, which takes about two hours.
- Lower Pigeon Rafting traverses the calmer 5-mile section of the rapids, which takes about 2.5 hours.
- The Raft and Zip Package includes rafting on the Upper Pigeon and either the Pigeon River or Waterfall Gorge Canopy zip line tour. With the waterfall zip option, you get lunch at Wildwater Pigeon River Dog House too.
- The Raft and Jeep Package includes Upper Pigeon rafting and a Jeep tour of the river. You’ll also have lunch at Wildwater Pigeon River Dog House.
Furthermore, you can book the zip line tours separately. The Pigeon River tour includes six zip lines, and the Waterfall Gorge Canopy tour includes 13 zip lines.
Best Place to Stay for Smoky Mountain White Water Rafting Near Gatlinburg TN
After a day of Smoky Mountain white water rafting, Christopher Place can be your refuge for rest near Gatlinburg TN. Our luxury bed-and-breakfast has rooms with jetted Jacuzzi tubs and mountain views to help you relax.