By Leif Palmer
Imagine waking up tomorrow to watch the sun rise over the mountains. The cool air of early morning is scented with pine and wildflowers, and a fog clings to the valleys in wisps of white. You pull on your hiking boots and set out along a trail where deer graze peacefully and birds greet you from the treetops. All is quiet. Not a cellphone ring or car horn to be heard. It's just you and Mother Nature.
Sound like a dream getaway? It's closer than you think.
No matter your taste in outdoor activities, you will very likely find it in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, TN. Choose from thrilling adventures such as whitewater rafting or a canopy tour, spend a quiet afternoon enjoying the peace of a mountain clearing, or trek into the wilderness on horseback for a glimpse back in time.
Nearly 200 years ago, the first European settlers discovered a beautiful land teeming with wildlife. Towering mountain peaks gave way to lush valleys, creating a stunning landscape that stretched from horizon to horizon. Little has changed in two centuries. The Great Smoky Mountains still offer some of the most spectacular scenery you'll find anywhere in the country, and with it, a chance to escape the fast-paced world and get back to nature.
Enjoying this treasure can be as simple as slipping on your shoes. With more than 800 miles of trails crisscrossing the mountains, there's no shortage of walkable excursions to bring you closer to the grandeur of the area. Short hikes offer a fantastic opportunity for bird watching or admiring the wildflowers, while longer treks afford truly dazzling views.
Communing with nature gets a lot more exciting when you grab a paddle and step into an inflatable boat for a trip down the Upper Pigeon River. Miles of whitewater keep even avid rafters on their toes, and more than a few class III and class IV rapids leave everyone breathless. Not only will you love the thrills, but you'll see parts of the countryside few get to enjoy as well.
If camping out under the stars is more to your liking, check out the options for overnight trips on horseback. These adventures will have you feeling like a true cowboy, while offering a chance to wander deep into the wilderness, in much the same way as those long-ago settlers did.
Ground level isn't the only option for sightseeing, though. Visitors with a taste for speed (and no fear of heights) will want to grab a helmet and harness and strap on to a zipline. You'll soar effortlessly from tree to tree, getting a real bird's-eye view of the landscape.
Whether you're looking to escape the city life for a few days or just want to enjoy the grandeur of the mountains, you'll find an unforgettable experience in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, TN. Hundreds of miles of hiking trails, thrilling whitewater excursions, and peaceful tours on horseback all provide ample opportunity to savor the beauty of the great outdoors. Best of all, with a family-friendly reputation and down-home Southern hospitality, the Great Smoky Mountains offer what might just be the perfect vacation destination. Don't forget to search for a rental cabin to use as home base for all of this outdoor excitement.
About Leif Palmer
Leif Palmer loves residing in east Tennessee. He is an avid outdoorsman: rowing for exercise on the lake, trail hiking, and free climbing rocks in the mountains. He indulges his arty side by periodically beating up pieces of marble by sculpting. He is always frustrated by his inability to sink long putts, and hates his curly hair (but his wife loves it). Leif has been known to muster enough courage to change a diaper, and hopes his son will become a chip off the old block.