Great Smoky Mountains Family Adventure

Trip Length 4 Days
Group Size 4–12
Activity level
Starting from
$1,999 for REI Members
$2,184 for non-members
Departures Mar 2023-Aug 2023

Spend 4 days as a family experiencing the sights, summits, flavors and joys of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Every day of this trip brings a new adventure and reveals a new side of these ancient mountains. Discover this UNESCO World Heritage site and International Biosphere Reserve with naturalist guides who seem to know something interesting about every plant, critter, hill and holler. You’ll hike amongst old-growth giants, mist-veiled valleys, meadows of year-round wildflowers, and a thousand years of human history. (Ever hiked a Civil War road or explored a moonshine cave? You will!). Navigate a multi-level aerial challenge course, then board rafts for a ride on the rollicking Nantahala River. Evenings are for roasting marshmallows and cuddling up to the campfire and gazing up at “wow”-worthy night skies, all in the comfort of our deluxe private Signature Camp. Give your kids the chance to rediscover the beautiful simplicity of life with less technology.

REI Flash 18 Pack

Kids get an REI day pack — Kids traveling on our Family Adventures will receive an REI day pack for their adventure! Kids age 8-17 will receive the REI Flash 18 Pack (while quantities last, colors may vary). Learn more about REI Family Adventures.

Not traveling with kids? Check out our Great Smoky Mountains Adventure trip or our Great Smoky Mountains Backpacking trip.

Like-minded families come together to share adventures-to-remember in one of America’s most iconic national parks.

Trip Highlights

  • Hike through towering forests full of discovery and delight
  • Raft down gentle Class II and III rapids along the Nantahala river
  • Test your courage on a Zip Line Adventure Park under the forest canopy
  • Roast marshmallows and play games in our exclusive Signature Camp

Activities

This trip is rated Moderate [3]. Trip members should be capable of hiking 5-8 hours each day (up to 11 miles) with as much as 3,000' elevation gain and loss. ​The aerial challenge course and zip-lining is suitable for beginners. Weight ranges for zip-lining are 60 pounds minimum and 250 pounds maximum. 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.

  • Hiking
  • Rafting
  • Zip-lining

What's Included

Any park or other admission fees or permits, Guides and Camp Host; Round trip transportation from Gatlinburg, TN to all destinations visited during the trip; All meals and snacks from lunch on day 1 through lunch on day 4.

Accommodations

REI Signature Camping, 3 nights

Your Adventure Itinerary

Itinerary map for Great Smoky Mountains Family Adventure
Day 1

Explore Cades Cove and the Tremont section of Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Our adventure begins this morning in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We meet our guides for a brief trip orientation before embarking on a 45 minute drive to Cades Cove. The unique topography and environment of this opulent Appalachian Valley attract a wide variety of plant and wildlife including the park’s famous black bear. Cade’s Cove captivates visitors with rich human history, including that of the Cherokee people whose deep connection with the Smokies dates back more than a thousand years. Our adventures will also take us past the remains of well-preserved churches, cabins and civil war cemeteries built by settlers of this area. Before heading back to our comfortable Signature Camp we’ll transfer to the Tremont section of the Great Smoky Mountains where we'll hike to an impressive set of large cascades surrounded by numerous small waterfalls and cascades. All meals included.

Hiking: 3 miles; 600' elevation gain and loss; Transfers: 1.5 hours.

Day 2

The forest becomes a classroom on a day full of discovery

Today’s journey takes us past settler's homesteads and the remains of gigantic Chestnut trees before reaching picturesque Hen Wallow Falls. Surrounded by a lush forest of rhododendron, fern and towering hemlock our naturalist guides teach us about the unique characteristics which make this amazing area an International Biosphere Reserve. Using the forest as our classroom we’ll take time to learn which plants are edible and which are valued for their medicinal properties. Back at camp, we'll play games, enjoy great food and end the day roasting s’mores on the campfire. All meals included.

Hiking: 5 miles; 1,000' elevation gain and loss; Transfers: 1 hours.

Day 3

Explore historical artifacts before indulging in a festive farewell barbecue

Our mission today is to explore a unique section of trails; home to the largest collection of human artifacts in the National Park system. Walk along a beautiful mountain stream through an old growth forest. Climb to one of the most picturesque mountain vistas with expansive views of breathtaking rock formations. Our celebration of this spectacular region continues as we head back for a tasty meal around a roaring campfire. We’ll spend our final evening together sharing stories and reflecting on our last few days of adventure. All meals included.

Hiking: 3-6 miles; 1,000-1,500’ elevation gain and loss; Transfers: 2 hours.

Day 4

Experience a multi-level aerial challenge course with zip lines and float down the beautiful Nantahala River

Today our adventure takes us south through Great Smoky Mountain National park to the Nantahala Outdoor Center. The NOC is a mecca for outdoor adventure and located at the intersection of the Appalachian Trail and the Nantahala River. After three days of exploring on foot, we take to the air to experience the park from above. We race along dual zip lines and test our skills navigating the aerial challenge course before loading into whitewater rafts to enjoy a family friendly ride down the scenic Nantahala River. After rounding out our exploration of the Great Smoky Mountains by land, sky and water we make our way back to Gatlinburg. We expect to arrive back in Gatlinburg in the early evening. Breakfast and lunch included.

Multi-level aerial challenge course with 550-foot long zipline, Time: 2 hours, Time: 1-2 hours; Whitewater Rafting: 8 miles, Time: 3 hours; Transfers: 4 hours.

Itinerary map for Great Smoky Mountains Family Adventure

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. This gear list has been created to help you choose the proper equipment. Try to bring only what is necessary; this will help you and the field staff.

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.