Our Gatlinburg whitewater rafting trip in 2016 was a vacation highlight! We bought combination rafting and ziplining tickets at Rafting in the Smokies based on all of the great on-line reviews…and I’m here to add another endorsement to that list!
Below is a map of the whitewater rafting route, pictures, tips, and a video montage of our family’s rafting and ziplining fun. I’ve also added our answers to questions that we had going into the trip in the hopes that this helps you plan your adventure!
Map of Gatlinburg Whitewater Rafting Route:
The above map show the first 5+ miles of the 6.5 mile ride down the Upper Pigeon River. The rapids identified were a few of our family’s favorites. Check out the video clips below!
List of memorable rapids – (start to finish)
- Full of Water (Class III)
- 2nd Helping (Class III)
- After Shave (Class II)
- Vegematic (Class III)
- Big Bend (Class III)
- Roller Coaster (Class III)
- Lost Guide (Class IV)
- Duck & Run (Class III)
- Rooster Tail (Class III)
- Double Reaction (Class IV)
- Accelerator (Class IV)
- Super Glue (Class III)
- Rock & Roll (Class III)
- Between the Sheets (Class III)
- Twist & Shout (Class II)
*There’s an area of calm water for swimming towards end – lots of fun!
Our Gatlinburg Whitewater Rafting Ride!:
If you enjoyed this, I posted a longer video on our YouTube account. Check it out!
Our Gatlinburg Ziplining Adventure!:
Ziplining & Whitewater Rafting FAQs:
Is whitewater rafting safe? Are my kids too young?
This whitewater rafting trip is open to anyone 8 years and older and over 70 pounds. The key is that they need to fit in the small life vest. I was nervous initially, but my fears were calmed as the ride began. It was adventurous, but not dangerous. The guide will put the smaller children in the center of the raft. Our guide had us sit on the inflatable row and ‘wedge’ our feet under/against the row or sidewall in front of where we sat. The person at most risk in the raft is the guide! The guide sits on the back of the raft with their feet unsecured. On Lost Guide Rapids(ironically), our guide was bounced from the raft and we rescued her! Check out our video clip – below. You’ll also notice from the video that there is a series of rafts together on the trip – and they all look out for one & other.
What do the class of whitewater rapids mean?
Rapids are classified as: Class I-Easy; Class II-Novice; Class III-Intermediate; Class IV-Advanced; Class V-Expert; Class VI-Extreme/Exploratory. The rapids on our Gatlinburg whitewater rafting trip were Class II-IV – lots of fun…a bit of adrenaline, but not terrifying.
What should I wear?
Each rafting company has their own set of rules, but it makes sense to wear clothing that you intend to get wet. I would not wear items that can easily fall off (sunglasses, hats, loose jewelry, etc..). For our trip, they also would not allow open toe shoes or croc-style shoes. This made sense after I realized the importance of our feet being used to hold us tightly in the raft.
Should I bring an action camera?
I would. We brought action cameras (as you can see from the video). I decided to rent the helmet with attachment which our cameras easily attached to. The additional cost of this rental was only $5. I used my own helmet strap to video the ziplining which worked out fine. We also bought the pictures that they took of us rafting (one of them is at the top of this page). They are reasonable priced and nice pictures. They take these pictures at one of the first rapids after the start (Full of Water rapids).
Is Ziplining Safe?
I felt very safe on our ziplining rides. The Rafting in the Smokies staff were great – very friendly and very conscientious about the safety protocols and procedures. If you watch the video clip below, you’ll see that every ride has dual connections on the cable that you’re riding, along with a carabiner clipped to a parallel safety cable. My wife and 9 year old son were comfortable after their first ride (There are 6 total breath-stealing rides between the Smokey Mountain tree tops!)
How much time do I need between ziplining & rafting?
Our reservations were for a 11:00 am zipline and a 2:00 pm rafting trip. This was too much time in between. I wanted to leave time for lunch, but we had over 2 hours from the time we finished ziplining to the time our bus boarded for rafting. We could have easily made a 1:00pm rafting trip after having a leisurely picnic lunch.
Would I do this again?
ABSOLUTELY!! We loved this trip – both ziplining & whitewater rafting! Thank you Rafting in the Smokies
If you’re planning a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Gatlinburg, whitewater rafting is a must-do! It’s a great way to literally immerse yourself in the surroundings.