BEST Smoky Mountain White Water Rafting Near Gatlinburg
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6 Outstanding Smoky Mountain White Water Rafting Gatlinburg Area Outfitters

Looking for “white water rafting near me” in the Smoky Mountains? White water rafting Gatlinburg outfitters are ready to help you plan your white water rafting Tennessee Smokies adventure!

When you’re planning a day trip or vacation near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, you might want to participate in the excitement of white water rafting in the Smoky Mountains.

Few activities get your adrenaline racing 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 Smoky Mountain white water rafting outfitters with which to book your experience.

best Smoky Mountain white water rafting near Gatlinbug TN

Experience Smoky Mountains White Water Rafting in 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 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 rapids, so you can choose between mild and wild white water rafting adventures.

If you aren’t sure which white water rafting tour near Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and the Smoky Mountains will best suit you, professionals at one of the companies below can help you decide.

Where to Find the Best White Water Rafting Gatlinburg Area 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 Gatlinburg white water rafting companies.

BEST Smoky Mountain White Water Rafting Near Gatlinburg

Rafting in the Smokies

813 East Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738

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 a nature trail.

On top of that, Ripley’s Aquarium and horseback riding packages are available from this Gatlinburg white water rafting outfitter.

My family had a blast, Dale was a great guide and very knowledgeable. It was just amazing and super fun. We would go back and do it again. The view was awesome, the water was cool yet pleasant and the whole crew was great.

I highly recommend doing this and if you get a chance to get Dale as your guide it will be worth it and safe. Have FUN!!!!!

Nisa M, Google Review

Smoky Mountain Outdoors (SMO) Rafting

3299 Hartford Road, Hartford, TN 37753

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.

Super exciting. Great. Adventure. Highlight of our vacation. Family and I would have got right back on for another tour if there was any availability. Sometimes the water was calm. Sometimes it was class 3 and 4 rapids.

Would vacation to Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, just to do this again. It was awesome. Family loved it. Recommend booking this tour.

If you need to eat, head back up the road a little to where the restaurants are, then look for all the food trucks parked on the side of the road serving all the other tour companies.

Vance B., Google Review
BEST Smoky Mountain White Water Rafting Near Gatlinburg

Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC Gatlinburg)

1138 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738

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.

We took a church group to the Nantahala Outdoor Center and had a great time! We had many of our seniors and several of our kids go on the trip. Everyone had a great time and is looking forward to going again!

The guides were great and took wonderful care of us. The do a great job of preparing you for the trip and they give you everything you need!

Heath H., Google Review

Big Bear Whitewater Rafting

3165 Big Creek Rd., Hartford, TN 37753

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 Smoky Mountain white water rafting options available from Big Bear Whitewater Rafting in Tennessee:

  • 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 allows you to move at your own pace in your own watercraft, but you still travel with a guide.

What a great first white water rafting experience! I would highly recommend! All the guides were friendly, funny and knowledgeable. They did a great job of going over safety tips and all the equipment was clean… We packed a picnic for after our float and they have a space outside with picnic tables.

Ellen R., Google Review
BEST Smoky Mountain White Water Rafting Near Gatlinburg

Raft Outdoor Adventures

3635 Trail Hollow Rd, Hartford, TN 37753

Since 2002, Raft 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 white water rafting in Tennessee, 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.

Loved this experience! My group was not particularly challenged by the river (we are in our mid 20s with paddle board experience) – but we loved getting to ride together and we all jumped out and swam in a calm section of the river.

The staff is friendly, knowledgeable, and professional! There are beautiful facilities with showers so you can clean up afterwards. We packed a lunch and ate at the picnic tables on site. Would definitely recommend this experience for families with younger kids!

Augusta R., Google Review

Wildwater Pigeon

3555 Hartford Rd., Hartford, TN 37753

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.

We went rafting with Wildwater Rating and Zipline Canopy Tours while vacationing in Gatlinburg. Our family was large so we were broken into two boats.

Wildwater looked to be a smaller company than some of the others in the area, but that’s what I typically look for in a rafting company as I do not want employees that have been rushed through training on a mass conveyor system.

I would definitely recommend WIldwater! The staff is friendly and fun, but also know exactly how to react when a crisis arises!

Anita K., Google Review
BEST Smoky Mountain White Water Rafting Near Gatlinburg

More Smoky Mountain Adventures to Get Your Adrenaline Racing

Looking for more Smoky Mountain adventures to get your adrenaline racing? There are so many great things to do in the Smoky Mountains if you love adventure – biking, hiking, horseback riding – just to name a few!

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