Great Smoky Mountains Hiking, Rafting & Hops | Under 35

Trip Length3 Days
Group Size4–12
Activity level
Starting from
$1,399 for REI Members
$1,539 for non-members
DeparturesAug 2024-Sep 2024

Spend three days hiking and camping just outside of the Great Smoky Mountains where rapids beckon and craft beer calls.

From artisans to brewers, Asheville, North Carolina is a bastion of craft culture. Nestled up against the Great Smoky Mountains, this 3-day trip is perfect for hikers, water-lovers and foodies alike. Designed for travelers aged 18-35, but anyone over 18 can join.

Enjoy and in-depth tour of the Mills River Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. with your fellow campers, then head to your campsite inside the Pisgah National Forest. A crackling campfire and the warmth of a cozy sleeping bag inside your tent await.

We'll hike to a crystal clear swimming hole, float down picturesque rapids and double-summit Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain on the Art Loeb Trail. An ideal trip for anyone short on time who wants a big-time adventure.

Known for its vibrant arts, culinary and beer scene, an evening in bustling Asheville is the perfect balance to the solitude of Signature Camp.

Trip Highlights

  • Tour the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, Mills River location and sample their famous craft beer
  • Take in the expansive views atop Tennent Mountain and Black Balsam Knob
  • Hike through old-growth forests in the Pisgah National Forest
  • Cool off in crystal clear mountain pools and enjoy the spray of tumbling waterfalls
  • Raft down class II and III rapids
  • Feast on locally inspired meals prepared right at your campsite


This trip is rated Moderate [3]. Trip members should be capable of hiking 5-8 hours each day (up to 10 miles) with as much as 1,900' elevation gain and loss. Rafting is suitable for beginners although comfort in/around water is recommended. Rafting is on rapids classified II-III whitewater. All rafting gear, including wetsuits, is provided.

  • Walking
  • Rafting
  • Hiking

What's Included

Guide(s); Round trip transportation from Asheville, NC to all destinations visited during the trip; Rafting gear, including wetsuits; all meals and snacks from dinner on day 1 through lunch on day 3; brewery and tasting fees on Day 1.


Camping, 2 nights

Your Adventure Itinerary

Itinerary map for Great Smoky Mountains Hiking, Rafting & Hops | Under 35
Day 1

Bond over Brews

Meet your guides and fellow travelers this afternoon at the REI Asheville store. After brief introductions, we leave Asheville and transfer to the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. nestled up against the Dupont State Forest in Mills River. Our tour includes learning about the evolution of this craft beer, the brewing process, and their sustainability commitment. Of course, we get the chance to sample some of their classic and specialty brews. We'll enjoy a tasty dinner at the brewery's restaurant before heading out to our private campground where we'll round out the day with s'mores, stories and late-night snacks. Dinner included.

Transfers: 30 minutes

Day 2

Summit Tennent Mountain and Black Balsam Knob

Our mission today is a double peak above 6000'. Climb up and down Tennent and Black Balsam to see forever views of the Southern Appalachians. We wind our way through lush forest and evidence of the long-gone logging era. We will pass through the eerie Graveyard Fields trail before a final look at Second Falls on Yellowstone Creek. All meals included.

Hiking: 10 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +1,889' / -1,919'; Transfers: 35-40 minutes

Day 3

Swimming Holes, Waterfalls & Rafting

We start the day with a morning hike. The destination is a swimming hole with the perfect combination of cool crisp water, backcountry scenery and prime launching spots. After a refreshing dip, we hike to a hidden waterfall tucked deep within the lush mountain forest. Later this afternoon we'll hop aboard a whitewater raft on an exhilarating adventure down class II and III rapids. At the end of the day, we're back to Asheville where we say our final goodbyes to new friends. We expect to get back to Asheville in the midevening. Please note that this time may vary depending on group pace, trail conditions, weather, traffic and other elements beyond our control. Breakfast & lunch included.

Hiking: 4.2 miles, Elevation gain/loss: 600'; Transfers: 3.5 hours

Itinerary map for Great Smoky Mountains Hiking, Rafting & Hops | Under 35

Gear List

The key to staying comfortable while on an active trip is layering. To get maximum comfort with minimum weight, you need versatile layers that mix and match to create the right amount of insulation, ventilation and weather protection. Try to bring only what is necessary—this will help you and the field staff.

Already booked this trip? Sign into your online traveler profile for a more detailed list of what you'll need.

REI members can shop for gently used gear online or at most REI stores. Members can also trade in pre-loved used gear online or at any REI store in exchange for REI gift card credit. Check out Re/Supply at REI to learn more.

We provide

What to pack

Contact Us

Feel free to give us a call at 1 (800) 622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales ( 1 (800) 426-4840 ) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out REI Expert Advice , which has great information to help you prepare for your trip.

Trip specifics may change over time. Reviews reflect the version of the trip that was active at the time the reviewer took it. Please review the itinerary as described above and call our team for any additional details.