Nestled in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg is a majestic town in Tennessee that has a plethora of outdoor summer activities. The most well-known beautiful attraction of Gatlinburg is Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the town enjoys all of the outdoors activities that come along with a national park including hiking, camping, fishing, and whitewater rafting.


What to do in Gatlinburg in the Summer

1. Hiking

Of course, hiking is popular in a location that has over 800 miles of trails, including seventy miles of the Appalachian Trail. The popular destinations and routes to take while hiking include Mount Le Conte, Alum Cave Trail, Chimney Tops, and Laurel Falls Trail which leads to a powerful waterfall. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is also great for hiking. The park has various trails and one of the more popular ones (and easy to trek) is The Tennessee Heritage Trail. This trail has three great pathways that are fantastic to trek during the summer time: The History Trail, The Music Trail, and The Arts & Crafts Trail.


2. Camping

In addition to hiking in the summertime, camping and backpacking are activities that are also very popular. Be sure to check in with the national park as there are designated locations throughout the trails that you can camp in. The majority of the park’s camping shelters are located along the Appalachian trails or a short distance from the trail. Other camping shelters include The Mt. LeConte Shelter, The Kephart Shelter, and The Laurel Gap Shelter.


3. Fishing

Apart from hiking and camping, fishing is also a fun activity to do in the summer. The Great Smoky Mountains have miles and miles of streams filled with trout and fishing is permitted year round. Some of the best fishing spots along the Little Pigeon River include Greenbrier, Little River, and Abrams Creek.


4. Whitewater Rafting

Along the Big Pigeon River there are miles and miles of strong rapids. There are several park employees who are happy to help with planning your river adventure, whether you want a smooth float down a stream or a more action packed one.


5. Wildlife

Keep your eyes peeled because along the various trails, you will have the opportunity to see over 1,500 black bears, over 200 species of birds, elk and deer. The park provides one of the few places in the United States where black bears roam in their natural habitat. You can also witness over 1,600 wildflower species which are in full bloom during the summer.


6. Bicycling

Another popular activity to do during the summer is bicycling. Bicycles are available to rent at Cades Cove and after you can go for a great bicycle ride on the 11 mile Loop Road. Bicycling is a good option if you want to see all of the wildlife the park has to offer.


7. Picnics

Due to Gatlinburg being extremely scenic, there are countless areas for great picnics. A popular picnic area is the Cades Cove picnic area in which you can enjoy views of the Little Pigeon River. Other popular picnic areas include the Chimneys picnic area and Metcalf Bottoms.


8. Waterfalls

Keep your eyes peeled for beautiful waterfalls throughout Gatlinburg and Great Smoky Mountains. The ones to look out for include:

- Grotto Falls – off of the Roaring Fork Motor Natural Trail, the Grotto Falls is a fairly easy waterfall to get to.

- Abrams Falls – 20 feet high, the Abrams Falls has powerful streams and is very deep, so no swimming! It is still a beautiful sight nonetheless.

- Laurel Falls –considered a must see, Laurel Falls is an 80 foot cascade and is easy to walk to so it will make for a beautiful family picture.

- Ramsey Cascades – the highest waterfall accessible by trail, this waterfall drops 100 feet. The Ramsey Cascades takes about 5-7 hours to hike.

9. Visit the Gatlinburg Space Needle

For a beautiful summer view of Gatlinburg, be sure to visit the Space Needle which is a 342 foot high observation tower that provides a beautiful view of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Gatlinburg is a great town to visit during the summer so be sure to pay this Tennessee hot-spot a visit!


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This article was written by Walter Godinez.