Tuesday, August 22, 2023

9 Family-Friendly Outdoor Activities n Gatlinburg

Nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg is an outdoor lover's paradise. This charming mountain town offers plenty of opportunities for families to get outside and enjoy nature together.  

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park sees over 11 million visitors per year, making it the most visited national park in the country. Families make up a large percentage of those visitors. The mild climate, beautiful scenery, and abundance of kid-friendly activities make Gatlinburg an ideal place for a family vacation. 

From zip lining to horseback riding, families can choose from a wide variety of ways to enjoy the great outdoors together in Gatlinburg. Here are ten of the best family-friendly outdoor activities in this mountain town. 


1. Hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park 

No trip to Gatlinburg is complete without exploring some of the trails in the awe-inspiring Great Smoky Mountains National Park trails. With over 800 miles of trails, there are hikes suitable for every age and ability level.  

Some kid-friendly trails include the Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail, a flat and paved 0.8 km loop open year-round that takes only 10 minutes to complete. For older kids, the 3-mile hike up to Grotto Falls rewards you with the chance to walk behind a 25-foot waterfall.  

You can stop by the Sugarlands Visitor Center first for maps and advice on the best family-friendly trails. 

2. A Night-out in Gatlinburg 
After a long day of exploring the Smoky Mountains with the family, parents might be ready to relax and unwind with a cold beer and some live music. The bars in Gatlinburg offer the perfect atmosphere for adults to let loose and enjoy themselves. From locally brewed craft beers to lively music that resonates with the soul of the Smokies, the town's bars offer a chance for grown-ups to have some fun on their own.  

3. Riding the Aerial Tramway 
For beautiful views without the effort of hiking, the Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway whisks visitors high above the city to the top of Ober Mountain. The scenic 10-minute ride soars over the town and offers panoramic views of the Smoky Mountains. At the top, kids will love exploring the Wildlife Encounter Zoo to see bears, wolves, and otters. There is also an indoor ice skating rink, ski slopes, and mountain coaster for year-round family fun. 

4. Tubing on the Pigeon River  
For a relaxing outdoor adventure, tubing down the Pigeon River is fun for the whole family. You will find many guides that provide tubes, life jackets, and shuttle service for a scenic float along calm sections of the river.  

Kids as young as five can tag along with an adult. You can take up to 2-3 hour trips that provide views of the mountains and a chance to spot wildlife along the banks. 

5. Biking the Cades Cove Loop 
Cades Cove is one of the most popular destinations in the Smokies, thanks to its beautiful valley views and abundance of wildlife. The 11-mile Cades Cove loop road is closed to vehicles on Wednesday mornings until 10 am from May through September, making it the perfect time to bike the loop without car traffic. Families can take their time pedaling and stopping to see historic buildings, deer, and other animals in the open fields. Make sure to pack a picnic lunch to enjoy at one of the picnic areas. 

6. Riding Mountain Coasters 
For thrilling fun the whole family can enjoy together, mountain coaster rides at Anakeesta and Ober Mountain are hard to beat. At Anakeesta, the Rail Runner is the first single-rail coaster in the US, with 1,600 feet of downhill twists and turns to reach speeds up to 25 mph. At Ober Mountain, the Alpine Coaster zooms down 2,600 feet of track with dips, turns, and 360° circles for over 3 minutes of family fun. Kids can ride with an adult on both coasters. 

7. Visiting the Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery 
At Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine, kids can learn about the history of moonshine and see how "America's Original Rebel Spirit" is made. This Gatlinburg distillery offers free self-guided tours where families can witness every step of the moonshine-making process.  

Kids will have fun seeing the fermenters bubbling away and the stills turning out batches of white lightning. Adult family members can sample moonshine flavors like peach, blackberry, and salted caramel.  

8. Riding the Chairlifts 
Families can ride the Gatlinburg SkyLift chairlift up to 1800 feet for panoramic views of Gatlinburg and the Smokies. The chairlift rides up Crockett Mountain, where families can walk across the SkyBridge, North America's longest pedestrian suspension bridge. At the top, children would enjoy panoramic views of Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains.  

Families can also ride the chairlift Chondola at Anakeesta. The two options are an open-air 4-person chair or an enclosed 6-person gondola cabin. This takes up to Anakeesta Mountain, where kids will find a playground, maze, and observation tower. Thrill-seekers can race down the dueling rail coaster or soar on the 800-foot zipline above the town. The Cliff Top restaurant and bar offer creative dining, cocktails, and stunning scenery. 

9. Playing at the Gatlinburg Pinball Museum 
The Gatlinburg Pinball Museum houses various rare vintage pinball machines that families can play to their heart's content. Kids will be amazed at these mechanical marvels' lights, sounds, and actions. From classic machines like Attack From Mars to more modern favorites like The Addams Family Gold Edition, there are pinball games spanning decades of pop culture. Parents can relive childhood memories while kids experience these retro games for the first time. 


With the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains as its backdrop, Gatlinburg offers limitless opportunities for families to enjoy the outdoors together. From mild hikes to mountain thrill rides, there are activities suited for every age and interest. Families can bond over mini golf, be amazed at the aquarium, or simply relax while tubing down the river. When it's time for a break, Gatlinburg's kid-friendly restaurants and attractions await.  

With so many ways to enjoy nature and make memories, Gatlinburg is truly an ideal destination for a family outdoor vacation. 


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