8 Outdoor Activities You Can Do With Your Kids At The Smoky Mountains

The Smoky Mountains, spanning across both Tennessee and North Carolina, serve as more than an escape for hikers or lone explorers. This destination warmly beckons families to come and discover its magic.

Its unique landscape blends nature’s calm and untamed facets, providing activities meant to inspire children’s curiosity and quench the thirst for adventure in adults. Ideally situated between the bustling towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, the area caters to various hobbies and proficiency levels.

From tranquil riverside meals to heart-stopping ziplines, the Smoky Mountains promise to imprint unforgettable family moments. It’s not merely a site to see; it’s a vast playground waiting for exploration, earning it a top spot on family vacation lists.

1. Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies

Nestled in the heart of Gatlinburg, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is a window to the wonders of the underwater world. This renowned aquarium welcomes visitors with a colorful array of marine life from various parts of our planet.

As you wander through its corridors, you’ll come across the Shark Lagoon, where these magnificent predators glide gracefully around you. The Penguin Playhouse offers a delightful experience, as visitors can interact with these playful creatures up close.

The Touch a Ray Bay, a shallow lagoon, invites guests to feel the gentle flap of stingrays under supervised guidance.

Not only does the aquarium provide an educational dive into marine biology, but it’s also a testament to the diversity of life beneath the waves. Beyond this aquatic marvel, there are many other things to do in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge waiting to enrich your travel experience.

2. Hiking Trails for All Levels

The Smoky Mountains beckon families with an array of hiking trails tailored for every experience level. Nestled within Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, these trails range from serene strolls to invigorating treks.

The Cades Cove Loop is perfect for those who prefer a gentle walk, while Laurel Falls promises a bit more challenge for the adventurous.

As families embark on these journeys, children often find themselves captivated. The chance to spot diverse wildlife or listen to the music of streams adds excitement. And there’s nothing quite like the joy that comes from stumbling upon a hidden waterfall.

Moreover, the Abrams Falls Trail and Clingmans Dome are other renowned trails worth exploring.

3. Horseback Riding Adventures

Horseback riding in the Smokies is a wonderful experience for novice and seasoned equestrians. This activity plunges families into the region’s lush beauty, letting them feel the gentle rhythm of a horse’s gait.

Several reputable stables around the Smokies welcome families and provide guided tours tailored to different skill levels. These tours prioritize safety, ensuring that even beginners feel at ease.

As children ride alongside their parents, they develop a connection with the majestic creatures beneath them and cultivate an appreciation for the natural world.

Among the popular spots for horseback riding are Cades Cove Riding Stables, Smoky Mountain Riding Stables, and Sugarlands Riding Stables.

4. Engage in Water Fun at Little Pigeon River

Nestled amidst the picturesque backdrop of the Smoky Mountains, the Little Pigeon River invites families with its inviting waters. It’s an ideal spot for those interested in water-based fun.

Children and adults can delight in the simple joy of tubing, allowing the river’s gentle currents to guide them downstream. Anglers, both novice and experienced, can try their hand at fishing, with trout being a common catch.

If a calm day is more your speed, consider settling down with a packed meal for a riverside picnic. The serene environment and the soft gurgle of flowing water make it a perfect family outing location.

5. Zipline through the Forest Canopy

The Smoky Mountains are not just about serene landscapes and tranquil trails. For those craving a touch of excitement, ziplining offers a thrilling perspective. Imagine soaring above lush green forests, feeling the wind rush past, and witnessing nature’s splendor from high above.

Local businesses in the region specialize in curating these exhilarating experiences, especially for families. They prioritize safety, ensuring that even young adventurers enjoy this journey securely. So, embrace this high-flying adventure during your next visit to the Smokies.

6. Auto-Touring for Panoramic Views

Auto-touring in the Smoky Mountains is a delightful way to witness the region’s grandeur without breaking a sweat. As you drive, the changing landscapes offer an ever-evolving tableau of nature’s splendor.

Meandering roads weave through dense forests, revealing breathtaking panoramas of valleys and peaks. The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, a popular choice among families, is a testament to this beauty.

Along this route, the cascading waterfalls emerge as nature’s masterpieces, each with its own unique character and charm. Ancient trees stand tall, telling tales of time with their stature. Families can frequently stop, capturing moments or just soaking in the serene atmosphere.

7. Engage in Seasonal Snow Sports

The chill of winter breathes a different life into the Smokies. A blanket of snow covers the expanse, turning the region into an arena for snow sports enthusiasts. At the heart of this winter wonder is Ober Gatlinburg, a hub where families converge to embrace the thrill of skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing.

If these activities sound unfamiliar or daunting, fear not. Ober Gatlinburg welcomes both seasoned athletes and curious beginners. They have a team of seasoned instructors eager to teach newcomers the ropes.

So, if you’ve never felt the rush of gliding down snowy slopes or the joy of tubing, this is your chance. Dive into these winter activities with your family and create memories warming your heart for years.

8. Explore the Smoky Mountains Alpine Coaster

The Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster, located in the heart of the majestic Smoky Mountains, promises an adrenaline-pumping experience for visitors of all ages. Unlike traditional roller coasters, this unique attraction uses the force of gravity to propel its carts down the slopes.

As riders twist through the scenic mountain landscape, they control the speed, making it a personalized adventure. As the coaster slides down the mountain, participants are treated to spectacular panoramic views, making it a visual treat as much as a thrilling ride.

Its design ensures safety while offering heart-stopping moments that coaster enthusiasts crave.


The Smoky Mountains invite families into a world of both tranquility and excitement. Whether it’s the peacefulness of wandering nature trails or the pulse-raising experience of ziplining through treetops, there’s something for everyone.

These mountains, steeped in natural beauty and diverse activities, guarantee cherished memories for all family members. As such, the Smoky Mountains beckon you to dive into an unforgettable journey with your loved ones.