7 Summer Things to Do in the Smokies

It’s officially the first day of summer, so we thought we’d help you find some things to do this summer in the Smokies! From the free to the exhilarating, we’ll help you have that perfect summer vacation with these 7 things to do.

1. Going Hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Hiking in the park is one of the most popular things to do when visitors come to our area, and for good reason! The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited park in the United States. It’s also one of the most biologically diverse areas in the world, so taking a hike through one of our trails guarantees a wide variety of plant and animal life. Studies have shown that taking the time to get out an enjoy the nature has several psychological and physiological benefits, including increasing happiness and attentiveness as well as making people more calm!

There’s never a bad time to go hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but each season does offer a little something different to the visitors traversing its trails. Summer brings several aspects to the park that you won’t see any other time in the year.

Summer is the only time of year when you’ll see several different types of summer wildflowers in the park. The GSMNP is famous for its wildflowers, but most visitors think of Spring as the only time you can see them. That definitely isn’t true, as summer is the only time you’ll see blooming mountain laurel, flame azaleas, downy rattlesnake plantain, nodding lady’s tress, and several types of orchids, including the small purple-fringed orchid, yellow-fringed orchid, and the crane-fly orchid. Catawba (or purple) rhododendron blooms at the park’s higher elevations in June, while Rosebay (white) rhododendron blooms throughout the summer at lower elevations.

This time of year is also a great time to get out and do some wildlife viewing. During the summer, animals in the park are especially active. It’s one of the best times to see the salamanders, bears, deer, elk, and even otters that call the park home. There are also several types of birds that call the Smokies home only in the summer! Visitors in June can also catch the annual synchronous firefly mating season, which plays out in the Elkmont area over the course of two weeks.

With over 800 miles of hiking trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you will have a hard time running out of new trails to enjoy!

2. Going Biking on Cades Cove Loop

View of the road leading to Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

With the steep terrain, narrow road surfaces, and heavy automobile traffic along most of the park’s roads, biking in the park can be a little difficult. But, there is an exception at Cades Cove Loop in the summer. During both the summer and fall the famous 11 mile Cades Cove loop is closed to motor vehicle traffic on Wednesday and Saturday mornings until 10:00 am to allow visitors to bike the loop. The campground store at Cades Cove Campground also rents bicycles in the summer and fall as well, just call (865) 448-9034 for more information.

Biking is an awesome way to experience Cades Cove, especially at the height of summer in the morning, when many animals will be out.

3. White Water Rafting

White Water Rafting with Big Bear Expeditions

See a white water rafting trip on the Upper Pigeon River with Big Bear Expeditions first-hand! With plenty of class III and IV rapids, it’s easy to see why this river is one of the top whitewater rafting destinations in the country.

Posted by Pigeon Forge Chamber on Saturday, June 18, 2016

From Memorial Day until Labor Day, the Smokies are awash (see what I did there) with visitors enjoying the unparalleled adventure of a white water rafting tour. Our area is one of the top places in the country to go white water rafting, with the American Outdoor Association (AOA) ranking the Pigeon River as the #3 whitewater rafting destination in the United States.

There are two types of tours you can enjoy on the river: the Upper Pigeon River tour and the Lower Pigeon River Tour. The upper tour features heart-pounding Class III and IV rapids with dam-controlled water flow happening every Tuesday, Wednesday,  Thursday, and Saturday.

The lower tour, on the other hand, is an easy-going float down the river perfect for young children, seniors, or anyone looking to peacefully meander down a mountain river.

You can find a plethora of companies ready to offer you the white water trip of your life in nearby Hartford, TN. All of them offer trips on the lower and upper sections of the river. They take care of the equipment (including transporting it to the river) and transportation to drop-off and pick-up spots. Start planning your whitewater rafting trip today with one of our awesome members!


4. Enjoying Free Outdoor Space

There are plenty of free outdoor spaces that you and your family can enjoy during the summer in Pigeon Forge. Most of these areas are close to shopping and restaurants, but the best thing about them is that your family can enjoy them free of charge!

The Island

The Island is an obvious example of this. With free music at Ole Smoky Moonshine, the dancing fountain, and the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, a ropes course, and tons of shopping and restaurants, you will definitely love a summer day at The Island.

The Old Mill

Another option is the Old Mill district. The Old Mill was built in 1830, and still stands as the only Pigeon Forge building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. You can tour the mill and see how it works, window shop, see a smith forge iron tools, or try free moonshine tastings at Old Forge Distillery. Or, you can just sit back and enjoy some of the sitting areas around the Mill!

The Pigeon Forge Greenway

Another cool outdoor space to check out is the Pigeon Forge Greenway. The Greenway stretches four miles from one end of town to the other, running alongside the river. You can begin your walk at Patriot Park, Jake Thomas Road, or Butler Street at Ashley. The beautiful scenery is complemented by the several park benches, a water fountain, and the wildlife found next to the river. Definitely the perfect place to take a summer walk!

5. Going for a Swim in a River or Lake

When you visit Pigeon Forge you have plenty of options when it comes to enjoying the numerous waterways. The Little Pigeon River runs through the city, offering visitors and locals alike several spots to jump in and enjoy the river. One really good place is actually right across the river from our very own Chamber building, as you can see from the video above. Nearby Douglas Lake in Sevierville also is a perfect spot for summer fun, as you can enjoy boating, swimming, fishing, and really anything having to do with the water at the lake.

6. Tennessee Smokies Baseball

Summer means it’s baseball time in the Smokies with at Tennessee Smokies Baseball stadium in Kodak, TN, just off Exit 407. The Smokies Stadium is a local favorite, with games happening several times a week. The stadium keeps the experience fresh by consistently running awesome contests and competitions for the audience, as well as spicing up periods between innings with fun skits and giveaways. If you haven’t had the chance to make it to a Smokies game, it’s not too late! You have all summer to enjoy this hub of family fun.

7. 27th Annual Patriot Festival

Summertime in the Smokies means it’s time for summer festivals and events! We have plenty of events that happen in the summer, such as the recent Sevier County Relay for Life, which offered tons of vendors, food, and family fun to its participants. We have more upcoming events this summer, including the ever-popular Annual Patriot Festival, happening July 4th, 2016. Now in its 26th year, this year’s festival will feature Grammy award winning singer/songwriter Joe Diffe as well as Knoxville’s own Emily Ann Roberts, the second place finisher from the last season of The Voice. There will be plenty of delicious food and games for the whole family, with activities staring at 12:00 pm. The festival culminates with an amazing fireworks show at 9:30 pm to celebrate the 4th of July!


The fireworks show at the #PatriotFestival in #PigeonForge is underway!! Happy Independence Day 😀

Posted by Pigeon Forge Chamber on Monday, July 4, 2016

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