Looking for a memorable escape? Set in North Carolina and Tennessee, the Great Smoky Mountains beckon with a blend of natural wonders, rich heritage, and breathtaking views. Witness the mesmerizing light show of synchronous fireflies, traverse America’s longest sky bridge, sample mountain moonshine, and embark on a segment of the famed Appalachian Trail. Explore our guide for unique things to do in The Smokies and craft an unforgettable mountain retreat!
Unique Things to Do in the Great Smoky Mountains
Drive the Scenic ‘Road to Nowhere’
Often referred to as a “portal to yesteryears,” this six-mile scenic mountain highway unveils the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This six-mile winding road weaves through the National Forest, with multiple scenic stops along the way to pull off and take in the view of Fontana Lake. As you journey through, witness the interplay of sunlight with mist, giving the area its familiar name, “The Land of Blue Smoke.”
Witness a Synchronous Firefly Display
A spectacle like no other, imagine a natural light show where tens of thousands of fireflies illuminate the night, synchronized to nature’s rhythm. Near Gatlinburg, this breathtaking display has been a secret treasure for generations. Don’t miss the lottery —be part of this ethereal dance! Once the passes are on sale, you can purchase them from Recreation.gov.
Ride the Roaring Rapids of the Pigeon River
Imagine riding the waves of the Pigeon River, framed by dense forests, as you tackle its exhilarating Class II-III rapids. Each rapid promises new excitement under a sprawling green canopy. This whitewater rafting adventure comes with an expert guide, lifejackets, and shuttle service for your safety and convenience when you add this adventure to your stay at Under Canvas. It’s more than just rafting—it’s teamwork, bonding, and a unique way to soak up the beauty of the surrounding area.
Dive into Water Park Fun at Wild Bear Falls
Enjoy the thrills and splashes of a 60,000 square feet, mountain-themed, heated indoor water park for families of all ages. This indoor water park boasts a state-of-the-art retractable roof and heated water for complete indoor water park comfort during every season. Float along the lazy river, glide down a giant water slide, or adventure through the interactive treehouse. And the best part? No hotel stay is required—just grab a day pass online and dive in!
Sip History at The Holler Distillery
Transport yourself to a time when moonshine was the region’s gold among the first settlers. At The Holler in Gatlinburg, the scent of fermenting grains sets the ambiance as bluegrass melodies serenade you during your tasting journey. Guests will have the chance to do moonshine tasting to try their signature flavors and learn all about the moonshine-making process and the rich history of this uniquely strong drink. The distillery also regularly hosts live music from local musicians and even touring bands.
Take a Stroll in The Sky at SkyBridge
Stretching 1,800 feet above Gatlinburg at the top of Crockett Mountain sits the SkyBridge, America’s longest pedestrian bridge—and your ticket to unmatched views of The Smokies. From the heart of downtown, the SkyLift whisks you up to this sky-high marvel, with the mountain-top SkyDeck offering panoramic views. Open from dawn to dusk, grab your online ticket for a fun, unique stroll in the clouds!
Trek Part of the Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian Trail, also known as the AT, winds a staggering 2,190 miles from Georgia to Maine. The heart of this iconic trail beats strongly in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, boasting 71 miles of awe-inspiring scenic points. Here, nestled within the Tennessee section, the trail scales heights unmatched elsewhere, reaching elevations well above 6,000 feet. At its peak, the trail crowns Clingmans Dome, the highest point on the entire Appalachian Trail, with an elevation of 6,625 feet. For those looking to get a sample of this legendary trail, begin at Newfound Gap and embark on a 7.5-mile trek to Clingmans Dome, returning via the scenic paved trail. If you’re short on time, you can drive to Clingmans Dome and walk the steep 0.5-mile paved path to the lookout tower for one of the best views in The Smokies and set foot on the AT.
Where to Stay in the Great Smoky Mountains
Experience a one-of-a-kind retreat in the heart of The Smokies without compromising on luxury. Just a short drive from Gatlinburg and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Under Canvas Great Smoky Mountains welcomes you to 182 acres of lush wilderness. Find rest and rejuvenation in your private safari-style tent with plush bedding and a wood-burning stove. Start your day with guided yoga, listen to live acoustic music melodies, and toast gooey marshmallows over nightly campfires, all part of camp programming included for guests. Each morning, as you savor fresh coffee and a hearty breakfast, prepare to welcome the day’s adventure. At Under Canvas, comfort meets nature, crafting memories that will last a lifetime.