Things to Do in the Smoky Mountains for Teens and Young Adults

things to do in the smoky mountains - vista of the great smoky mountains

Hello, adventurous souls! Are you planning a trip and wondering what to do in the Smoky Mountains? Well, you’ve come to the right place! This incredible region offers an array of exciting activities and spectacular sights that make it a perfect destination for teens and young adults. From thrilling outdoor adventures to exploring quaint local towns, the Smokies have it all. Read on for our top ten recommendations for making the most of your trip, including some unique, off-the-beaten-path suggestions that you won’t find in your typical guidebook. Let’s dive in!

1. Experience the Thrill of Whitewater Rafting

things to do in the smoky mountains white water rafting

Ride the Rapids

If you’re wondering what to do in the Smoky Mountains, look no further than the thrilling rush of whitewater rafting! The Pigeon River offers heart-pounding Class III and IV rapids that are perfect for adrenaline seekers. There are numerous outfitters in the area, like Smoky Mountain Outdoors, that provide all the equipment and instruction you need, no matter if you’re a beginner or a pro.

Take it Easy

Don’t worry if you’re not up for the full-on whitewater experience, there are also gentler float trips available. These are perfect for enjoying the river’s beauty at a more leisurely pace. For more information on rafting in the Smoky Mountains, check out VisitMySmokies.com.

2. Embrace the Wilderness on a Guided Hiking Tour

Become a Trailblazer

Trekking through the Smokies is a must-do. There’s no better way to experience the lush forests, cascading waterfalls, and stunning vistas. A guided tour will ensure you learn about the region’s unique ecology and history, making it one of the top things to do in the Smoky Mountains. Companies like A Walk in the Woods offer tours tailored for all ages and fitness levels.

things to do in the smoky mountains midnight hole

Off the Beaten Path: Midnight Hole

For a more offbeat hiking experience, head to Midnight Hole. This hidden gem is a beautiful, deep pool fed by two waterfalls. It’s located off Big Creek Trail and is an ideal spot for a refreshing swim. Read more about this natural wonder at HikingintheSmokys.com.

3. Take to the Skies with Ziplining

Soaring through the Skies

Ziplining is an exhilarating way to enjoy the Smoky Mountains’ magnificent scenery. Fly through the tree canopy and catch breath-taking views that you can’t get from the ground. Outfits like CLIMB Works offer a variety of tours with professional guides to ensure your safety and fun.

things to do in the smoky mountains ziplining

Hidden Adventure: Legacy Mountain Ziplines

For a ziplining experience away from the tourist crowds, head to Legacy Mountain Ziplines. Their 7-line course offers some of the best views in the Smokies, and it’s less well-known than other ziplining locations. Find out more at LegacyMountainZiplines.com.

4. Visit the Quaint Town of Gatlinburg

The Charms of Gatlinburg

When figuring out what to do in the Smoky Mountains, don’t forget to explore the charming town of Gatlinburg. Here you can experience local arts and crafts, indulge in delicious cuisine, and explore a variety of attractions like the Gatlinburg Space Needle and the Hollywood Star Cars Museum. Check out Gatlinburg.com for more information.

things to do in the smoky mountains - gatlinburg at night

Hidden Gem: Gatlinburg’s Mysterious Mansion

For those seeking something a bit unusual, check out Gatlinburg’s Mysterious Mansion. This privately-owned haunted house offers an immersive, frightfully fun experience that’ll leave you screaming with laughter. More about this spine-chilling adventure can be found at GatlinburgsMysteriousMansion.com.

5. Explore the World Beneath the Mountains

Cave Exploration

The Sm

oky Mountains aren’t just about what’s above ground. They offer some of the most unique cave experiences in the country. Tuckaleechee Caverns, for example, is a fascinating site to explore with its spectacular formations and underground waterfall.

Hidden Wonder: Forbidden Caverns

Forbidden Caverns is another cave system in the Smokies that’s less frequented but equally stunning. The caverns’ intricate formations and fascinating history make this a unique addition to your list of things to do in the Smoky Mountains. Visit ForbiddenCavern.com for more.

6. Experience the Unique Wildlife Safari

Roaming with the Wild

What to do in the Smoky Mountains if you’re a wildlife enthusiast? Take a drive through the Smoky Mountain Deer Farm! This unique wildlife safari offers a rare chance to get up close and personal with animals like deer, zebras, camels, and kangaroos. You can even feed and pet some of the animals, making this an unforgettable experience.

Hidden Attraction: Parrot Mountain and Gardens

For a less mainstream wildlife encounter, visit Parrot Mountain and Gardens. This unique place offers a chance to interact with hundreds of beautiful tropical birds in a stunning garden setting. Find more about this hidden gem at ParrotMountainandGardens.com.

7. Get a Thrill at Dollywood

Riding the Rollercoasters

Visiting Dollywood is a must when figuring out what to do in the Smoky Mountains. This renowned theme park combines thrilling rides, stellar live entertainment, and local culture and crafts. Don’t miss the opportunity to taste the famous southern cuisine here!

Hidden Experience: Dollywood’s Splash Country

For a less crowded yet equally exciting experience, check out Dollywood’s Splash Country. This adjacent water park offers a fun-filled escape from the heat with a variety of water slides, a wave pool, and a lazy river. Check out Dollywood.com for more information.

8. Take a Scenic Drive through Cades Cove

Immersing in Nature

Cades Cove offers one of the most scenic drives in the country. This 11-mile loop road offers stunning views of the valley, historic buildings, and abundant wildlife. It’s a must-do in the Smoky Mountains for any nature lover.

things to do in the smoky mountains - cades cove

Off the Beaten Path: Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

For a less crowded scenic drive, take the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. This 5.5-mile loop offers beautiful streams, old-growth forests, and historic log cabins. You can learn more at MyPigeonForge.com.

9. Horseback Riding in the Great Smoky Mountains

Saddle Up

Horseback riding is a wonderful way to experience the Smoky Mountains’ natural beauty. Several stables in the area, like Sugarlands Riding Stables, offer guided trail rides suitable for all ages and skill levels. It’s an experience you won’t forget!

Uncommon Adventure: Big Rock Dude Ranch at Ponderosa

For a unique twist on horseback riding, visit Big Rock Dude Ranch at Ponderosa. Apart from regular trail rides, they also offer ATV rides, fishing, and a petting zoo. More about this place can be found at HorsebackRidingintheSmokies.com.

10. Visit the Titanic Museum

A Journey Through Time

The Titanic Museum is a unique attraction that offers an interactive, immersive tour that transports you back to the Titanic’s ill-fated maiden

voyage. You’ll walk through replica corridors, see artefacts, and even touch a real iceberg.

Less Known Gem: Alcatraz East Crime Museum

If you’re into history and crime stories, visit the Alcatraz East Crime Museum. This lesser-known museum takes you on a journey through American crime history with interactive exhibits and artefacts. Check it out at AlcatrazEast.com.

11. Experience the Splendor of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Diving into Nature’s Majesty

When considering what to do in the Smoky Mountains, a visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park tops the list. As the most visited national park in America, it offers something for everyone. It’s a hiker’s paradise, with over 800 miles of trails ranging from easy to challenging. Don’t forget to check out the park’s most popular destinations, like Clingmans Dome and Cades Cove. Visit NPS.gov for more information.

Hidden Trails: Abrams Falls and Porters Creek Trail

If you’re interested in exploring less crowded trails, consider Abrams Falls and Porters Creek Trail. They offer equally beautiful views and tranquility away from the usual tourist traffic. Learn more about these trails at HikingintheSmokys.com.

12. Witness the Spectacle of the Synchronous Fireflies

A Light Show in the Wild

One of the Smoky Mountains’ most extraordinary spectacles is the annual display of the synchronous fireflies. Every year, usually in late May or early June, these fireflies light up the night in unison, creating a stunning natural light show that’s unique to this region.

things to do in the smoky mountains - synchronous fireflies

Synchronous Fireflies Lottery

Due to the event’s popularity, access to the viewing area at Elkmont is limited to shuttle service operating from the Sugarlands Visitor Center. Because of this, the park holds a lottery for parking passes. For a chance to witness this extraordinary event, you need to enter the Synchronous Fireflies Lottery. Find more about this unique event and the lottery system at Recreation.gov.

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