All Posts

Things to Know About Whitewater Rafting in Gatlinburg

Things to Know About Whitewater Rafting in Gatlinburg


If you want to take your next vacation to the next level, consider whitewater rafting in Gatlinburg. Most whitewater rafting trips in Gatlinburg journey down the picturesque French Broad River. You will enjoy the thrill and beauty of this river that flows through a deep gorge on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains near the North Carolina/Tennessee border.

 If you’re looking for more things to do in Gatlinburg, the area has numerous white water rafting options. There are numerous whitewater rafting companies and outfitters to choose from. Guests can opt for a family-friendly stroll down the river or a wilder ride to remember. There is truly something for everyone. Here are some of the best companies that offer whitewater rafting options in the Smokies.

Nantahala Outdoor Center 

The Nantahala Outdoor Center has a widespread reputation as one of the best outdoor adventure groups in the Appalachian Mountains. They have been leading white water rafting trips and outdoor adventures since 1972.

Not only does the NOC have a white-water outpost near Gatlinburg, but their newest LEED-certified flagship retail store is right in the heart of downtown Gatlinburg. For outdoor adventure sports enthusiasts or those seeking more than the raft, NOC also offers a premier paddling school and tubing in Gatlinburg.

Rapid Expeditions

Rapid Expeditions proudly offers every guest an unforgettable whitewater experience where guides take the time to stop and explain natural scenery and waterways as well as letting guests take a dip if they so choose. Rapid Expeditions offers guided trips on the Upper and Lower sections of the Pigeon River, and prides itself on being a family-friendly outfitter. 

Rip Roaring Adventures

Rip Roaring offers two different levels of whitewater adventure. You have the option of going to the Upper Big Pigeon River for a wilder adventure or taking the Lower Big Pigeon for a less difficult trip. Perfect for a family friendly excursion

Big Creek Expeditions

With some of the best professional guides around, Big Creek Expeditions guarantees lots of laughs and maybe a splash at the end. The tour features Upper and Lower River trips with options for relaxing and more adrenaline-packed trips. They also offer adventure packages with raft/camp combinations as well as raft/zip line adventures.

Smoky Mountains Outdoor

Guided whitewater and kayak trips on the upper and lower Big Pigeon River and, private kayaking lessons for individuals at all skill levels. Smoky Mountains Outdoor has been operating for fifteen years and lives by the motto: “We set the bar for service, safety, and FUN!” Smoky Mountains Outdoors also leads inflatable kayak trips, and hike and paddle adventures. So there is truly something for everyone.

Smoky Mountains Whitewater Rafting Tips

There are some important things to know about whitewater rafting in Gatlinburg, Tennessee when planning your trip. These tips will help you plan a memorable adventure and be ready for a lot of splashes and thrills. 

Research Multiple Whitewater Rafting Companies

There are many local whitewater rafting companies to choose from when planning your whitewater rafting trip in Gatlinburg. It’s important to research several company websites so you know what to expect while white water rafting in the Gatlinburg area before you book. Each company offers different trips with varying age/weight requirements, costs, etc. 

Wear Appropriate Clothing

During warm months a bathing suit, t-shirt, or cover-up is recommended. During cooler months consider layering up with synthetics or polypropylene materials to keep you warmer. You will always want to wear some type of water shoes or shoes that stay adhered to your feet while white water rafting to ensure foot safety.

Can I Still Go Whitewater Rafting if it Rains?

The answer is “Yes!” Most whitewater rafting companies in the Gatlinburg area run, rain or shine, making it a great rainy-day plan. Whitewater rafting will only pause if there are severe storms or extreme river flooding. In these cases, only they will resume as soon as it’s safe to return to the river. 

When is the Best Time to Go Whitewater Rafting?

Luckily, the season for whitewater rafting is long, with most companies running some kind of trip from March through October. However, one of the best times to go whitewater rafting is summertime.  Not only will daily temperatures allow you to enjoy extended water play in and outside the raft (where permitted), but this is the time of year when you will have the most variety in trip types and times as numerous companies are running trips daily throughout the season.

Whether you are looking for a family-friendly stroll down the river or a wilder ride to remember, these whitewater rafting companies offer an opportunity to experience the wonder and thrill of the Smokies from a different vantage point. After experiencing excitement and adventure, why not retire to one of the many cabins in Gatlinburg and relish the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains? Whether you’re looking for a peaceful retreat or a thrilling outdoor adventure, Gatlinburg has it all.