Gatlinburg vacations offers a multitude of things to do, but no family vacation would be complete without a rafting trip down a river. White water rafting offers hours of adventure and gorgeous mountain scenery that the whole family can enjoy.
The closest river to Gatlinburg is the Pigeon River, located a short 30 minute drive in Hartford, TN. The Pigeon River is divided into two parts- the Upper and Lower Pigeon River. The Upper Pigeon is a 6 1/2 mile exhilarating ride down 60 class I-IV rapids guaranteed to thrill and soak you. Along the way, you’ll enjoy the beautiful views of the Great Smoky Mountains and the Cherokee National Forest. The rafting trip normally takes between 1 1/2 to 2 hours, depending on the rafting company.
The Lower Pigeon River is better suited for people who prefer a gentle, more laid back ride down relaxing waves. Families with small children weighing less than 70 lbs. will be able to enjoy floating down the 5 miles of Class I and II rapids, with one Class III rapid at the end. Along the way, jump in and cool off while the kids swim and splash around in the cool mountain water.
The Pigeon River is controlled by a dam and has scheduled water release Tuesday-Thursday and Saturday from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Rafting is available Spring and Fall but requires calling ahead for trip times and availability.
White water rafting doesn’t require any experience. An experienced certified guide accompanies each raft during trips on both the Upper and Lower Pigeon River to make sure everyone remains safe while having fun. All rafters who want to ride down the Upper Pigeon River must be at least 8 years of age or weigh at least 70 lbs. Rafters on the Lower Pigeon must be at least 3 years old and be accompanied by an adult.
Planning a Trip
When planning a rafting trip reservations are required. The cancellation policy for most of the rafting companies vary depending on when the trip is canceled and the size of the group. Its is advisable to cancel 48 hours in advance for groups of 9 or less and week to 10 days in advance for groups over 10 to avoid penalties and receive a full refund. On the day of your trip, make sure to arrive at the least 30-45 minutes in advance, to fill out required paperwork and go through a short safety briefing before going out on the river.
Not sure what to wear? During summer months a t-shirt, shorts, and bathing suit along with tennis shoes, deck shoes will be light and comfortable when wet. Flip Flops or any shoes without a strap are not suitable footwear and shouldn’t be worn. Jewelry and valuables also should not be worn while rafting to prevent them from getting lost. The guides will take pictures for you to capture your trip, so no need to worry about your camera. During the Spring and Fall, dress in layers of nylon or synthetic fibers like wool to stay warm.
Not sure where to start? Here’s a good list of rafting businesses in Gatlinburg, TN.