Summer in the Smokies! Why go to the beach for sunburn, gritty sand everywhere, and noisy crowds? Make a change this year, and spend your summer in Gatlinburg, where you can wander along shady trails and swim in cool alpine lakes. Those are just a few of the summer activities in Gatlinburg TN you can find here in Gatlinburg. Read on for more!
Literally the biggest attraction here in Gatlinburg is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Covered in old-growth forests and fog, the park has over 800 miles of hiking trails, including a portion of the Appalachian Trail. The park offers hiking, biking, and horseback riding along trails that wind through the cool, shady forest, up to peaks with spectacular views, past grassy meadows filled with colorful wildflowers, and alongside bubbling streams and cascading waterfalls.
The park has hikes of various distances and levels of difficulty, accessible pathways, and dog-friendly trails too. Start with an easy hike like the popular Cades Cove where you can look for local wildlife amid the crumbling remains of old churches and homesteads, and work up to the short but strenuous hike to Chimney Top for breathtaking views.
For even more amazing panoramic views, try a hike with an observation tower like the highest point in the park, Clingmans Dome, or Mount Cammerer. Hikes to waterfalls include the Ramsey Cascades (the tallest waterfall in the park), pretty Laurel Falls, Middle Prong Trail (a great beginner hike), and Deep Creek Loop with three pretty waterfalls.
There’s a lot of history in the park too (not just Gatlinburg summer activities to enjoy), and the remains of Southern Appalachian Mountain culture are everywhere. If you’re interested in burial landscapes and historic buildings, hike to Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Little Greenbrier Cemetery, Elkmont Ghost Town, and Mingus Mill.
A few of the most popular destination hikes are Alum Cave Bluffs, Andrews Bald, and Rocky Top & Thunderhead Mountain. And the Little River Trail meanders alongside the river and is home to many of the park’s world famous salamanders. As you hike, be on the lookout for other local wildlife. Black bears, white tailed deer, wild turkeys, coyotes, and Flamed Tigersnails (this very cool snail’s defense mechanism is a “bioluminescent bubbly orange mucus”!) are just a few of the critters around.
Cool off as you swim, tube, kayak and fish for trout and smallmouth bass in one of the park’s streams and rivers. You can also stay in your car and do some auto-touring through the park.
It’s all about the view! Don’t miss the SkyBridge, the longest pedestrian cable bridge in the country and a hugely popular Gatlinburg summer activity). Besides great views, the bridge has a section of glass floor panels in the middle just to make things interesting as you cross. And, while you’re downtown, a trip up the 407-foot-high Gatlinburg Space Needle (in the cool glass elevators) offers panoramic views of the Smokies and Gatlinburg.
Adventure & Amusement Parks
Gatlinburg has several amusement parks, each with a special focus. There’s sure to be a few you’ll want to visit. NASCAR SpeedPark Smoky Mountains has go-karts, mini-golf, rock wall-climbing, bumper boats and more.
During summer months, Ober Gatlinburg Amusement Park and Ski Area has mini-golf, bumper cars, a roller coaster, carousel, rock climbing wall, wildlife encounter area, and Alpine Slide. Or, just ride the Aerial Tramway for more panoramic views.
Anakeesta’s mountaintop park, right in the center of downtown Gatlinburg, offers amazing panoramic views from its gondola ride, observation tower, plus ziplines, a single-rail mountain roller-coaster, a tree-top skywalk and more.
Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country is in nearby Pigeon Forge. Along with a top-rated waterpark and amusement park, Dollywood also has mini-golf, arcades, traditional arts and crafts exhibits, and plenty of live music. It’s home to the Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame too.
When the weather gets too hot, head inside! The Hollywood Star Car Museum’s exhibits include Mayberry’s squad car, the Beverly Hillbillies old jalopy, Herbie the Love Bug, and two Batmobiles, while the Tennessee Museum of Aviation has exhibits featuring jets, helicopters, fighters, and amphibious planes. And there’s the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, Ripley’s Super Fun Zone, and the ever popular Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.
For some adult indoor fun, take a distillery tour. While you’re in Appalachia you should try moonshine, if you haven’t already. There are several distilleries in town offering tours and tastings of locally made shine, whiskey, craft beers and more. A few to try are Sugarlands Distilling Company, Old Smoky Moonshine, Smoky Mountain Brewery and Old Forge Distillery.
Summer Activities in Gatlinburg TN
At the end of a wonderful day full of exploring the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, head back to your Gatlinburg vacation rental where you can sit out on the deck, sipping local moonshine, and watch the stars twinkling in the sky above those lovely Smoky Mountains. It’s a perfect ending to a wonderful summer day. Give us a call for help planning your Gatlinburg summer vacation today!