Things to Do in the Smoky Mountains: 10 Unique Ideas for An Amazing Vacation

With its rolling peaks disappearing into misty blue ridges, the spellbinding Great Smoky Mountains National Park invites you into its verdant wilderness. This UNESCO World Heritage site harbors ancient mountains, thundering waterfalls, and over 800 miles of hiking trails ripe for adventure.

Follow along as we unveil some of the best things to do in Smoky Mountains.

Whether you’re seeking an easy nature walk or a challenging trek to rugged vistas, the Smokies deliver epic hikes. Listen to the leaves crunch underfoot, inhale the pine-scented air, and let the adventure unfold.

Drive along winding mountain roads under the vibrant fall foliage canopy. And for wildlife enthusiasts, search for elk, white-tailed deer and over 200 species of birds in the lush valleys.

From the rushing streams of Cades Cove to the heights of Clingmans Dome, the Smokies offer endless opportunities to connect with nature. And revel in the majestic scenery of this remarkable national park.

Eager to discover more of the top things to do in the Smoky Mountains? Read on!

aerial view of Anakeesta surrounded by trees with mountains in distance during day in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, USA
photo credit: Anakeesta via Facebook


For an unforgettable adventure in the Smoky Mountains, make your way to Anakeesta in Gatlinburg. This unique theme park promises an immersive encounter with nature’s thrills. Soar above the treetops on a zip line tour for breathtaking views of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Navigate the 60-foot sky bridges suspended up to 40 feet in the air and experience the exhilaration of strolling among the trees, surrounded by epic mountain vistas. Cap off your visit by admiring a Smoky Mountain sunset from the tower.

Or taking a leisurely stroll through charming shops and restaurants. Anakeesta seamlessly blends awe-inspiring natural beauty, adrenaline-pumping adventures, and the irresistible charm of the Smoky Mountains.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Stretching 469 miles through the ancient Appalachian Mountains, the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of America’s most scenic drives. This national park snakes along peaks and valleys, connecting Shenandoah National Park’s milky waterfalls to the azure mountain silhouettes of the Smokies.

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As you drive along, vistas open up to reveal endless ridges fading into the horizon, with hawks gliding overhead. In addition to the stunning drive, discover a plethora of things to do in the Great Smoky Mountains.

When you’re ready for a break from nature, stop in one of the charming mountain towns along the route, full of local shops, restaurants, and Appalachian culture. It’s an immersive experience, offering a blend of awe-inspiring landscapes and a wealth of activities to enjoy.

A girl in a black shirt on a coaster chair riding through an alpine coasterMoonshine Mountain Coaster

Whether you’re riding solo or doubling the fun with a partner, the Moonshine Mountain Coaster is not just a ride. It’s a heart-pounding adventure that’ll have your adrenaline soaring as you zip through the Smokies.

Prepare for a thrill like no other as this coaster sends you hurtling down a winding steel track, treating you to incredible views of the Smoky Mountains rushing by. Feel the rush of wind in your hair as you accelerate up to 30mph down the nearly mile-long track, twisting and turning through the forest.

Lean into the banked curves and rip the wheel tight as you dive into exhilarating downhill plunges strategically designed to give you the ultimate rush. You won’t want to miss it!

Clingmans Dome

Elevate your Smoky Mountains experience at Clingmans Dome, standing tall at 6,643 feet, making it the pinnacle of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Navigate the 7-mile scenic drive along Clingmans Dome Road, where the trailhead awaits for a brisk half-mile hike to the summit.

Upon reaching the zenith, ascend the observation tower for an unrivaled 360-degree panorama, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding peaks seemingly extending endlessly. On clear days, the visibility stretches over a hundred miles, providing a captivating spectacle.

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Ranked among the top things to do in Smoky Mountains National Park, the invigorating hike up Clingmans Dome guarantees an encounter with the mesmerizing scenery over the Smokies. Be prepared, however, for larger crowds during the summer and fall foliage seasons, when the spectacular views attract thousands of visitors.

Aerial view of Ober Gatlinburg on a snowy sunny day in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, USA
photo credit: Ober Gatlinburg

Ober Mountain Aerial Tramway

Get ready for a thrilling adventure and hop aboard the Ober Mountain: Gatlinburg Tram! This extraordinary cable car will lift your spirits as high as it lifts you over 3,000 feet up the side of Ober Mountain. Treating you to panoramic vistas of the surrounding peaks and valleys.

Once you’ve conquered the heights, step onto expansive observation decks that practically beg for your best selfie. The tramway operates year-round, meaning you can witness the Smokies dressed in their fall foliage finest or decked out in pristine snow-capped glory.

So, if you’re on the lookout for outdoor Smoky Mountains activities that are not only breathtaking but also a whole lot of fun. Make sure a ride up the Ober Mountain Aerial Tramway is at the tippy-top of your to-do list!

Fontana Lake

Fontana Lake revealed itself as a hidden treasure, showcasing breathtaking mountain views and pristine emerald green waters. Boasting easily accessible boat rentals at Fontana Marina, visitors could revel in the joy of Smoky Mountain activities such as cruising the lake and indulging in a refreshing swim.

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The nearby dam not only offers picturesque moments but is also the tallest concrete dam east of the Rocky Mountains in the United States. If you enjoy scenic drives, the road west from the dam takes you through Deals Gap, an 11-mile stretch mostly in Tennessee.

It’s famous for having 318 curves and is known as one of the curviest roads in the country. Situated in the southwestern corner of the Park, this area is full of trees and stunning overlooks that you shoudn’t miss!

Close up photo of a llama smiling with other llamas in the background as park of the Smoky Mountains llama Trek in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, USA
photo credit: Scaly Adventures via Facebook

Smoky Mountain Llama Treks

Forget slogging up mountain trails with a heavy backpack. Instead, let adorable llamas do the heavy lifting on a guided hike through the Smoky Mountains with Smoky Mountain Llama Treks, one of the most unique things to do in Smoky Mountains.

Guided by experienced trek leaders, you’ll embark on a hike of a lifetime, with these gentle pack llamas as your fluffy companions. They will happily carry your gear as you leisurely stroll along scenic trails, soaking in breathtaking vistas, discovering wildflowers, and even wading in mountain streams.

Take breaks to unwind in flowered meadows, capture photos of distant peaks, and create enchanting memories. Cap off the invigorating yet rewarding hike by showing some love to your new, fuzzy hiking buddies with pets and treats.

Nantahala National Forest

Looking for an exciting water adventure in the Smoky Mountains? How about embarking on a whitewater rafting trip down the Nantahala River at Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina?

As you navigate the rapids, enjoy the stunning views of the forested slopes around the river. For the full outdoor experience, think about camping at one of the nearby campgrounds after your rafting trip.

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The next time you wonder what to do in the Smoky Mountains, padde down a wild mountain river surrounded by the incredible beauty of Nantahala National Forest. Whether you’re into exciting rafting or exploring the forest, this adventure guarantees a memorable time in nature.

view of alum cave to moun leconte trail
Alum Cave to Mt. LeConte Trail

Gatlinburg Hiking Trails

In Gatlinburg, there’s a variety of fantastic hiking trails for everyone, regardless of skill level. With scenic paths, mountain streams, waterfalls, and awe-inspiring views, hiking stands out as one of the can’t-miss things to do in Great Smoky Mountains.

One easygoing trail is the Gatlinburg Trail, a chill 2-mile walk along the Little Pigeon River, starting from Sugarlands Visitor Center. It’s like a peaceful stroll next to a lively mountain stream—a perfect nature escape.

Other renowned trails waiting to be explored include:

Gatlinburg Shows

Jaw-dropping sights, mind-boggling stunts, and all-around entertainment, oh my! Immerse yourself in the magic of Impossibilities – Magic, Mindreading and Mayhem! and the excitement of the Dolly Parton Stampede Dinner Attraction. It’s truly Smoky Mountain entertainment at its finest!

Impossibilities at the Smoky Mountain Opry is like a magical extravaganza led by magicians Erik Dobell and Chris Collins. Picture this: interactive magic, mind-reading tricks, comedy, and even some audience participation. It’s a show that’ll blow your mind!

At Pigeon Forge, enjoy a four-course feast at Dolly Parton’s Stampede. Meanwhile watching an action-packed show with music, racing horses, pig races, and fun competitions. This high-energy dinner show provides evening entertainment for the whole family!

Blue Ridge Parkway Autumn Linn Cove Viaduct Fall Foliage Mountains in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, USA
Blue Ridge Parkway Autumn Linn Cove Viaduct Fall Foliage Mountains

Embark on Exciting Activities at Smoky Mountains with Tripster

These Great Smoky Mountains activities are just a taste of the many ways you can dive into the magic of the Smokies. But hold on, there’s so much more!

Countless trails are waiting to be explored, waterfalls ready to be discovered, charming mountain towns to wander through. And memories just waiting to be made in this spectacular corner of the country.

So, come and immerse yourself in the never-ending beauty, adventure, and charm that the stunning Smoky Mountains have to offer. Don’t forget to secure your stay in Gatlinburg Hotels. With all the amenities you could wish for, from pools and hot tubs to fitness facilities.

Your visit here is bound to be a vacation you’ll cherish for years to come!

Tell Us, What Other Best Things to Do in Gatlinburg Smoky Mountains Did We Miss?

What other Smoky Mountain Things to Do would you add to our list? Let us know in the comments below!

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Written by Archie Villaflores

Over the years, he has won numerous national contests for news and editorial writing, but he has recently discovered that his true passion...

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