Guided whitewater rafting trips on the Pigeon River in the Smokies
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Whitewater Rafting Near Gatlinburg

Mountain springs feed several rushing rivers just minutes from downtown Gatlinburg, making it the perfect area to hit the rapids. Aspiring rafters of all ages and experience levels can find adventure like no other on the river. Get your adrenaline pumping on class III and IV rapids during a guided rafting excursion or if you’ve got the gear, set out on your own. With our helpful information as your guide, the choice is yours! 

Where to Find the Best Rapids

Ready to feel the rush on some rapids? Experience prime whitewater in the Smokies at these well-known rafting spots.

Pigeon River 

Get ready for a thrilling rafting experience and non-stop action on the Upper Pigeon River. This popular whitewater rafting destination near Gatlinburg features class III and IV rapids that are best navigated with a guide. Expect to see breathtaking views of the Smokies, and to get splashed!

For those rafting with little ones or looking for a more mellow rafting adventure, head to the Lower Pigeon River. This 5-mile stretch of the Pigeon River offers class I and II rapids—gentle enough to dive in and take a swim. 

Ocoee River

If you’re an avid whitewater rafter, you may have heard of the middle stretch of the Ocoee River. With five miles of continuous class III and IV whitewater rapids, the middle Ocoee River is considered one of America’s most popular rafting trips. Paddle through a scenic gorge and admire the views of the Cherokee National Forest on a guided trip. 

Did you know the Ocoee River hosted the 1996 Olympics Whitewater competition? Today, rafting enthusiasts can paddle class III and IV rapids on the Olympic slalom course located on the Upper Ocoee River. If you’re looking for a challenge, this is the place to hit the water!

How to Prepare

Before you take to the rapids on your whitewater rafting adventure, make sure to prepare. Pack the appropriate shoes, a change of clothes, and a towel. Bring sunscreen or a hat, and stay hydrated with a water bottle (carabiner suggested, so you don’t lose your water bottle). 

Guided Rafting Excursions

In the Gatlinburg area, you’ll find everything you need for an exciting rafting trip. Take a guided excursion with any of these highly-rated groups:

Rafting in the Smokies

For a “family float” or whitewater rafting experience, choose Rafting in the Smokies. For the bumpier whitewater adventure, paddle the upper Pigeon River, and for the “family float” slow things down on the lower portion of the Pigeon River.

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SMO Rafting

SMO Rafting offers seasonal rafting trips for all experience levels. Choose from extreme white water rafting or something a bit more relaxed. Combine your rafting experience with one of the other guided outdoor adventure SMO offers for a package deal!

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Nantahala Outdoor Center

Nantahala Outdoor Center offers a variety of guided outdoor excursions, but is well known for their rafting trips. Choose from full or half-day rafting trips offered on 6 different rivers in the area.

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