Horseback Riding with Smoky Mountain Riding Stables

Add more to your Smoky Mountain rafting adventure with a package deal. Rafting in the Smokies is more than just whitewater rafting. Besides the thrill of heading down the river in our rafts, you can also enjoy our Zipline Course, High Elements Ropes Challenge Course, or other activities on the Family Adventure Island. You can also experience both whitewater rafting and horseback riding with our “Paddle and Saddle” combo!

Our friends at Smoky Mountain Riding Stables in Gatlinburg, TN, will take you inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for an experience you will not forget. You don’t need to be an accomplished equestrian to ride their horses. In fact, you can saddle up without ever riding a horse before! Smoky Mountain Riding Stables has 40 head of trained and established mountain trail horses that will guide you through the beautiful trails of the Park. If your kids are five-years-old or older, they are welcome to come and ride (one child per horse).

If taking in a full day of scenic Smoky Mountain views is your type of adventure, then book a rafting and horseback riding combo package today. You can choose from the whitewater trip or the family float.

Synchronizing Fireflies

Fireflies by XenmateFireflies (or Lightning Bugs as we call them in some parts of the country) light up our lives!

Did you know that more than 19 kinds of fireflies live here in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park region? And, they are the only species in America that display a synchronized flashing light pattern.

 But you must watch fireflies when you can!  This year, the Elkmont Firefly Viewing event in Great Smoky Mountains National Park will take place from Tuesday, May 31st through Tuesday, June 7th. Go to for advance parking passes and more info about what to bring with you!  Because of the popularity of the synchronous firefly display, access to the Elkmont area is restricted after 5 p.m. in late May and early June to registered campers and those who park at the Sugarlands Visitor Center and ride a special shuttle trolley to Elkmont. Access to the Sugarlands parking lot and to the trolley during this period requires a parking pass, which must be obtained in advance through the website.

These beetles, officially referred to as “Photinu carolinus”, take from 1-2 years to mature, but amazingly their lifespan is only around 21 days. Peak season for the synchronous fireflies in the Park is normally from late May to mid-June.

While they are larvae, the fireflies feed on snails and small insects. During their life, they don’t eat. The light patterns are what they do to attract a firefly mate! Each species has its own flash pattern that helps them recognize each other. While most have a greenish-yellow light – one species flashes bluish. It is usually the males that fly around and do the flashing and the females stay put but respond with a flash. No one is sure why the fireflies flash synchronously. Maybe the boys are in a competition – they want to see who will flash first. Or maybe if they all flash at the same time, they will have a better chance of being noticed.

While the light show is usually the last two weeks of May and the first two weeks of June, the dates may vary from year to year. Scientists say it may depend on temperature and soil moisture.  A few insects start flashing, then more join in as the season progresses. The show may be harder to see on misty, moist evenings – and cool temperatures can also shut down the show.

 If you are lucky enough to attend, please remember:

  • Cover your flashlight with red or blue cellophane
  • Use your flashlight only when walking to your viewing spot
  • Point your flashlight at the ground
  • Turn off your flashlight when you find your viewing spot

You can also help protect the fireflies and their habitat:

  • Do not catch the fireflies
  • Stay on the trail at all times
  • Pack out all of your garbage

If you aren’t able to get access to Elkmont, there have been reports of being able to view fireflies in areas around the park, however, those areas do not have as adequate parking.

Gifts for the Outdoor Rafting Enthusiast

If you’re planning on taking a family scenic float trip or a whitewater rafting trip with Rafting in the Smokies on the Pigeon Forge River in Tennessee, here are some items you might want to add to your inventory:

  • Eyewear Retainer—It’s an attachment to your glasses to keep them from getting lost in the rapids. If you plan on taking sunglasses with you, you should grab one of these in our store. Typical eyewear retainers either have chains, cords, or straps. If you are concerned about your lenses popping out due to the force of the water, you can also get prescription goggles with UVA/UVB protection or bring an extra pair. Eye glass retainers are recommended on both the Class I-II whitewater rapid excursions as well as Class III-IV whitewater rafting trips.
  • Paddle Jacket—Wear clothes you don’t mind getting wet. A paddle jacket is great because it seals out water and wind and you can put it over your regular clothes. Make sure the paddle jacket you buy is good for the weather/season you expect to raft in. Some jackets do not breathe as well as others, making them good for early spring/late fall. We do have wetsuits that are available to rent, plus nylon jackets and pants, which are free of charge. We provide splash gear in the spring and fall.
  • Wet bag—So honestly, wet bags are designed for cloth diapers. However, they’re also great for storing wet clothes until you can dry/wash them, making them quite useful to our visitors! Planet Wise makes some great wet bags that are PVC/lead-free and lined with a waterproof material. They are anti-microbial and made in the USA. Of course, you can get wet bags elsewhere, but usually they cost more and are smaller than the large wet bags sold by Planet Wise, which can easily store your entire family’s wet wardrobe.If you’re skipping out on rafting and enjoying the zipline course or our ropes challenge course at Family Adventure Island, remember that you can also bring the kids to play at the water’s edge. Besides being useful for rafters (and diapering), wet bags are also great for swimsuits.

Whitewater Rafting for Scouts

Finding a way to earn a whitewater rafting badge for your Scout Troop has never been easier. Rafting in the Smokies offers an exclusive merit badge to all Boy/Girl Scouts who raft on either the Upper Pigeon (ages 8+ or 70+ lbs) or Lower Pigeon River trips. Whitewater rafting is a great opportunity for your Troop to work together and demonstrate a variety of skills, including safety, techniques, and knowledge.

After your whitewater experience, we encourage your Troop to also try the High Elements Ropes Challenge Course. They can cheer on their friends as they confront fears and perform feats of fitness. As all participants remain harnessed, it’s a safe way to test their limits.

Interested in getting your Scout Troop signed up? Call us at 800-PRO-RAFT. Make sure you book 15 days in advance and under your Troop name, so we can ensure that you have enough badges.

Activities for Little Kids at Rafting in the Smokies

So you’ve got a younger child who can’t do the Upper Pigeon River whitewater rafting trip. It’s no big deal at Rafting in the Smokies! There are plenty of activities here for the whole family.

  • Scenic Family Float Trip—Perfect for ages three and up, you can take your whole family on a fun and engaging excursion on the Lower Pigeon Forge River—a softer section of the river. You will still need to wear life jackets and PFDs (that’s Personal Flotation Devices).
  • Ropes Challenge Course—If your child loves a challenge, they will really enjoy our high elements ropes course! Kids five and over will be harnessed and attached to an overhead cable with ropes/carabiners for their safety. They can enjoy rope bridges, loops, monkey rings, balance beams, and more. Each level on the course becomes increasingly difficult.
  • Zipline Canopy Tour—Does your child love speed? The self-braking zipline course here has six lines and crosses two skybridges for over 2,400 feet of fun! They just need to be age five or over. For a small additional fee, you can also get a professional photo taken of your child on their zipline adventure.

We also have a playground on the Family Adventure Island, a nature trail for those who love to walk/hike and experience the outdoors, a picnic area, and spots to play at the river’s edge.

No matter what you decide to do while you are at Rafting in the Smokies, we’re happy to host you and your family. Call us at 1-800-PRO-RAFT or send us a message via our contact form. We’re happy to answer any questions and give you recommendations on what your kids might enjoy the most.

Review your experience with Rafting in the Smokies

TripAdvisor certificate of excellence and summary reviews.

Read Reviews of Rafting In The Smokies by travelers just like you!

When it comes to planning a Smoky Mountain vacation lots of folks use TripAdvisor, Google+, Yelp, and other review sites as resources to read comments about other visitor’s vacations to the Gatlinburg area, and then use those reviews to help plan their own trip.  We sure do appreciate all the positive and constructive comments provided by our past guests and are thrilled to share them with our guides and office staff.

TripAdvisor figures rankings based upon the number of reviews submitted and the review rating.

THANK YOU!!  to everyone who has posted on TripAdvisor and moved us up in the rankings to #2!  Visitors like you have made us the great company we are today.

Submitting a Review

If you’ve enjoyed your experience with Rafting In the Smokies in the past, we’d love to have you post your review. If you haven’t, do come join us on the Pigeon River next time you’re in the area.  We strive to provide exemplary customer service and a wonderful experience for each and every guest. If there is any reason why you’d rate us less than five stars, we want to know! Before departing from Rafting in the Smokies, please discuss any issues you might have with the supervisor on staff. We pride ourselves on having every guest leave us satisfied!

For your convenience, we have included three of the most trusted travel review sites: TripAdvisor, Google+, and Yelp. To submit your own review, click on one of the button below!  We appreciate you!!


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Perfect Picnic Spots

Rafting in the Smokies Family Adventure Island is the perfect place to have a fun picnic. Bordering the banks of the beautiful Pigeon River, sit in the shade under the canopy of native trees and plants.

No worries here – Family Adventure Island is complete with picnic tables and grills. Remember when you were a kid? Make some memories here. A swimming beach is perfect for the little ones. Get in and splash around or if you’re a sun-bunny bring a book and a lounge chair and relax to the soothing sounds of the Big Pigeon River rushing by. Want to enjoy a little nature walk? Get ready to spot some of our feathered friends or catch some lightning bugs in a jar! The possibilities are endless – we just know they all come wrapped up in fun.

Everyone knows that picnic food somehow just tastes better – it must be the setting! Family Adventure Island is a picture-perfect site for an entire day of fun. The perfect picnic definitely involves good company, so bring your family and friends. Come out and play! Soak up the sun and get ready to chow down with those you love – we promise this is going to be an experience you won’t soon forget.

Other Picnic Spots We Love

  • Close by is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s Cosby Campground. Complete with rushing creek, picnic pavilion, nature hikes and more, this location is said to be one of the best-kept secrets in the Smokies. Primitive camping is available and you just might hear some mountain music from the Amphitheater. From Rafting in the Smokies, travel on 1-40 West to the 443 Exit (Foothills Parkway). Follow to the end. Turn left and travel approximately two miles to the Campground. Turn right and enjoy!

  • Another great nearby location is the Big Creek section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Big Creek offers you a trip to one of the more primitive and quieter sections of the Smokies. There is a small established campground and picnic area on the site of an old logging camp. To reach Big Creek, take I-40 Waterville Exit (451) and cross the bridge over the Pigeon River. At the end of the bridge, turn left and proceed one mile to the Carolina Power and Water Plant. The power plant sits at the confluence of Big Creek and the Pigeon River. Continue following the road past the power plant another 1.3 miles to the Park boundary and an intersection with the old NC 284 road. The road into Big Creek continues straight through the intersection. The Campground and picnic area is located about 1 mile beyond the ranger station.

  • Stroll through the remnants of the Howell Tree Nursery at the Knoxville Botanical Garden and sit in the Adirondack chairs under the Cedars of Lebanon watching the sun set over the Smoky Mountain ridges in the distance.

  • Metcalf Bottoms is a beautiful and peaceful place with picnic tables along the banks of The Little River. This area is within 2 miles of Wears Valley.

  • Laurel Falls Trail is a partially paved path with a 75-foot waterfall crossing the trail at the 1.3-mile mark. Eat your picnic amongst the native rhododendrons, mountain laurel, silverbell, poplar, hemlocks and old growth oaks. The parking area for the trail is at Fighting Creek Gap.

  • Cades Cove, the most visited part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, offers numerous picnic spots along the 12-mile loop. Pioneer structures dot this cove and tell the history of its early inhabitants. Wildlife is abundant.

Enjoy Wildflowers Among the Wild Waters

Wildflowers by Ron JonesSpringtime at Rafting in the Smokies is an awesome experience.

Get ready to experience your own wildflower “pilgrimage” on our magical Adventure Island!

The area in and surrounding the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is known for its variety of wildflowers. In fact, more than 1,500 plants can be found here. Did you know that the Park is known as the “Wildflower National Park?”

Thanks in part to the abundance of rainfall in the area and nutrients left from the leaves of last fall, the forest floor is very moist. Before the trees leaf out, the warming sun streams through and awakens the earth and voila! out pop the wildflowers!!!

In late March and early April, the flower show begins and the island is dotted with pops of colors from a variety of spring blooms. Wild phlox, Trillium, Lady Slippers, Columbine, Jack-in-the-pulpit, and Bluets are just a few of the rare species you may find.

And while you’re enjoying the flora, you can’t help but be serenaded by the songs of our feathered friends. Blue Jay, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Red-bellied Woodpecker and Ruffled Grouse make their nests here. You may also see a Screech-Owl, Whip-poor-will or Chipping Sparrow. Listen! That rustling in the leaves may be a flock of Wild Turkey!!!

Trees and shrubs are abloom, too. The mountains are awash with the blooms of Flowering Dogwood, Redbud, Tuliptree, and Silverbell. And Spicebush and Dog-hobble make their home near the forest floor. This area is well known for blooming Mountain Laurel and Rhododendron.

Remember – Adventure Island and Rafting in the Smokies is bordered by the Big Pigeon River, so bring a picnic lunch and enjoy a day long adventure!!! The rushing waters are very soothing – you might just take a nap!

And be sure to bring your cameras, you’ll likely get a great picture of some of our forest friends on this natural preserve called Adventure Island.

The Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage is an annual five-day event in Great Smoky Mountains National Park consisting of a variety of wildflower, fauna, and natural history walks, motorcades, photographic tours, art classes, and indoor seminars. Most programs are outdoors in Great Smoky Mountains National Park while indoor offerings are held in various venues throughout Gatlinburg, TN. Register at

Nearby Knoxville celebrates with their Dogwood Arts Festival which features a vibrant mix of blooming gardens and trails, culinary and visual arts, crafts, theater, dance, music, film, and literary arts. Log onto for more information.

Autumn Adventures in Sevier County, Great Smoky Mountains

Come See the Leaves Change

The Colors are Coming!

Colorful Adventures of Autumn

There’s a world of adventure for you in the Smokies and this October is jammed full of them.  Not only can you still enjoy a Pigeon River rafting experience, but also all of Sevier County is on board with celebrating the harvest season with beautiful fall displays, traditional arts and crafts, festivals, and celebrations galore!

Our October Special Events Lineup Includes:

Pigeon Forge Rotary Club Craft Fair at Patriot Park celebrating craftspeople from around the country and supporting local charitable organizations.  Admission by donation!

Fall Celebration and Sidewalk Sale at 3 Bears General Store in Pigeon Forge.  Be sure to take your camera and get some great family photos with all their autumn decorations… absolutely beautiful!

1-November 4:
Oktoberfest at Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort in Gatlinburg.  This is an annual celebration of Bavarian culture with great food, entertainment, and shopping.

3-November 3:
Dollywood’s Southern Gospel & Harvest Celebration in Pigeon Forge.  Dollywood offers 100’s of free gospel concerts, traditional southern cookin’ and crafts throughout the entire park for an entire month.

Fright Night’s at Ripley’s Haunted Adventure in Gatlinburg.  Special showing just for the month included with your admission.

Save $15 on Rafting with Rafting in the Smokies

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9, 11, 13: We’re RaftingZipping, and Roping!

Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair at the Gatlinburg Convention Center.  Held each year and featuring some of the best talents in the US.  Entertainment, food and early holiday shopping!

Foothills Fall Festival in Maryville, just outside of Townsend, hosts 3 days of entertainment including Gary Allan, Train, Thompson Square and more!

3rd Annual Hazzard Run – The General Lee is coming to downtown Gatlinburg!  Actually, lots of General Lee’s are traveling from Nashville to Gatlinburg.  Car show and live entertainment!

16, 18, 20: We’re Rafting, Zipping, and Roping!

Camp Coleman Truckload & Tent Sale at Pigeon River Crossings (formerly Belz).  Great deals on camping, hiking, and outdoor gear.

23, 25, 27: We’re RaftingZipping, and Roping!

New Winery!  Ribbon Cutting at Eagle Springs Winery in Kodak TN at 4 p.m. at 119 W. Dumplin Valley Rd. Kodak, TN 37764.

Pigeon Forge Safe Halloween Celebration at the Pigeon Forge Community Center.  Begins at 6 p.m. with indoor Trick-or-Treat, not so Haunted House, games and costume contest.  Everyone welcome!

Ray Stevens in Concert at Country Tonite Theater in Pigeon Forge. Call (865) 453-2003 or visit for more information.

27, 30: We’re RaftingZipping, and Roping!

31: Happy Halloween!!  Halloween Carnival at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies from noon-5 p.m.  So much fun!  Costume contests, music, entertainment, fun & games.  Have a bite to eat afterward and then Trick-or-Treat the Gatlinburg strip with local businesses.

Smoky Mountains Bicycle Trails & Route Maps

Biking in the Smokies

In addition to being a fan of whitewater rafting, are you also a biking enthusiast? Just about everyone wants to experience the joy of breathing in fresh air, exercising without even knowing it, and trying to catch a glimpse of some exotic wildlife that can’t be found in your backyard.  Nothing enhances that experience like a family biking adventure in the peaceful, lush views of the Great Smoky Mountains area!

Here are two of the most popular bicycle trails in the Townsend area of the Smokies to get you started on a family cycling journey:

Townsend Bicycle Trail: This paved trail, approximately 4.5 miles in length, is located in Townsend Tennessee, also known as the “Peaceful Side of the Smokies.” It has only a few short, easy hills and is great for cyclists of all levels including older children. It runs parallel to Hwy. US 321 in Townsend, with a portion running along the Little River. This bike trail offers access to restaurants and shops along the way.

Biking in the Smokies in Townsend TN

Bike the Smokies!

Part of the same trail is the historical biking trail called “Shadows of the Past.”  It is approximately nine miles on a well-paved trail with short hills.  During your ride, be sure to stop by the Townsend Visitors Center and take a break in the rocking chairs on the porch or browse in the shop!  Your purchases directly benefit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  View The Townsend Loop and Townsend Bike Trail Route & Directions Guides.

Townsend Bike Rentals:
A.J.’s Restaurant:  865.448.6059
Apple Tree Acres:  865.448.0699

Cades Cove Loop Road:  The most well-known biking trail is the Cades Cove Loop, approximately 11 miles, with new pavement.  Starting at Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park it provides cyclists fantastic opportunities to see wildlife while touring 19th-century cabins, churches, a gristmill, mountain streams, and panoramic vistas. It’s not unusual to see wild turkey, deer, and a black bear or two!  Memorial Day through Labor Day, the Loop is closed to cars on Wednesday and Saturday mornings until 10 a.m. giving bicyclists and hikers unrestricted run of the trail.  View the Cades Cove Loop Road Bicycle Route.

Bicycles can be rented at the Cades Cove Bike Shop from April through October.  Helmets are $1 for anyone over age 12 and free for those under.  Need a baby seat?  They have those too!  You can call 865.448.9034

State laws for both Tennessee and North Carolina require that children age 16 and under wear a helmet. It’s strongly recommended that all riders wear helmets, use rear view mirrors, and ride properly fitted and well-maintained bicycles.

Additional Biking Trails include the Clover Hill Caper, Louisville Lap, Ellejoy Jaunt, and Little River Run.  Read about the sights and sounds to be found along all these trails at on Townsend Bike Routes.

Before or after your biking excursion, we hope you’ll join us on the Pigeon River for whitewater rafting, our zipline course, and ropes challenge!