Tubing Adventures in Great Smoky Mountains National Park: A Guide to Fun and Relaxation

When the sun is shining and the temperatures are rising, tubing adventures in Great Smoky Mountains National Park are perfect ways to cool off and enjoy the summer! Floating down gentle river currents surrounded by lush forests and picturesque landscapes is a favorite pasttime for both adults and children.

In this guide, we’ll explore how and where to go tubing in Great Smoky Mountains National Park to make the most of your outdoor adventure.

tubing in Great Smoky Mountains

Tubing Adventures in Great Smoky Mountains: The Basics

Before embarking on your tubing adventure, it’s important to keep a few essentials in mind:

  1. Tubing Equipment: Bring your own inflatable tube or rent one from a nearby outfitter. Opt for tubes with sturdy handles and a durable bottom to ensure a comfortable and safe ride. Note that the tubes created for pool usage are NOT appropriate for river usage. River tubes are thicker and sturdier!
  2. Safety Precautions: Always wear a life jacket, even if you’re a strong swimmer. It’s also a good idea to wear water shoes or sandals to protect your feet from rocks or debris. Great Smoky Mountain National Park now requires life jackets for all tubers 13-years-old and under while within park boundaries.
  3. Know Your Limits: Choose tubing routes that match your skill level and comfort. Avoid areas with strong currents, rapids, or obstacles that may pose risk.
  4. Weather Conditions: Check the weather forecast before your tubing trip. Avoid tubing during storms or inclement weather, as conditions can quickly become dangerous.

Tubing Locations in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

While tubing is not permitted within the boundaries of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there are nearby rivers and outfitters that offer tubing opportunities just outside the park’s borders. Here are some popular locations:

1. Deep Creek near Cherokee, NC:

Deep Creek is a popular tubing location for Great Smoky Mountain visitors. The creek offers a gentle current and scenic beauty, making it an ideal spot for tubing enthusiasts. Note that the upper section of the creek offers more rapids and a more intense experience than the lower, calmer section of the creek.

Several outfitters outside the park boundaries provide tube rentals for guest enjoyment. The national park prohibits commercial outfitters from driving shuttles to drop-off points within the park. Thus, it is necessary to rent your tubes, load them up, then drive to your put-in location.

Remember that pets are not allowed in most areas of the National Park, including trails to and from the Creek. Expect to walk 0.5 to 1 mile on trails to enter and exit the the creek.

Notice that these are the closest tubing companies if you are staying near the Cherokee, North Carolina entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park:

  1. Deep Creek Tube Center & Campground – This campground offers tube rentals and life vest rentals. Tube rentals are $7 per day. Campground guests are offered discounted rental rates.
  2. Deep Creek Lodge & Tube Outpost – This is the closest location to the park entrance.
  3. JJ’s Deep Creek Tubes – This facility offers tube rentals only. They will advise you on the best locations to put in and exit the river.

2. Little River in Townsend, TN:

The Little River, which flows through Townsend, is another great tubing option near the park. The river offers a mix of calm sections and small rapids, providing an exciting tubing experience. Local outfitters in Townsend provide tubes and transportation services for a convenient tubing adventure.

tubing adventures in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Tubing outfitters near Townsend, TN:

  1. River Rat Tubing – River Rat’s main outpost (A) provides visitors and pets 3-years-old and up tubes and transportation to the put-in and exit of the calmest section of the Little River. Guests can tube from the outpost B for the more intense section of rapids. This section has a minimum age of 6-yearas-old, and it is not dog-friendly. You can book these trips online ahead of your tubing dates.
  2. River Rage Tubing – Guests ages 6 and up can enjoy this 1.5 hour tubing adventure. River Rage offers additional outdoor adventure rentals such as bicycles and UTVs. All reservations can be booked online.

Planning Tips

To ensure a smooth and enjoyable tubing experience, consider the following tips:

  • Check Water Levels: Before heading out, check the water levels of the river you plan to tube on. Higher water levels may result in faster currents, while lower water levels can make tubing more challenging or even unsafe. Additionally, levels can impact minimum ages and pet restrictions.
  • Arrive Early: Tubing can be a popular activity, especially during weekends and peak summer months. Arriving early in the day can help you secure a tube rental and avoid crowds. Be sure to book your rental online, if possible!
  • Pack Essentials: Bring essentials such as sunscreen, water, snacks, and a waterproof bag to store your belongings. Wear river shoes that won’t fall off in the rapids. It’s also a good idea to bring a towel or a change of clothes for after your tubing adventure.
  • Respect the Environment: Remember to respect the natural surroundings and adhere to Leave No Trace principles. Dispose of trash properly, avoid damaging vegetation, and be mindful of wildlife.

If you plan to take the family tubing during your summer visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you may consider staying at a campground with its own rentals and river access.

We love the Townsend KOA where we last reserved a cabin overlooking the river. Although it was only March, our kids enjoyed the river access for splashing and games. Sumer visitors to this KOA can rent tubes and take off directly from camp!

For those of you that wish to stay near Cherokee, NC, you may consider the Deep Creek Tube Center & Campground mentioned above. Remember, there is value to the convenience of dropping a tube from camp!

Read more about white water rafting near Cherokee, NC.

Get Ready for Tubing Fun!

Tubing in the Great Smoky Mountains region offers a delightful combination of relaxation and excitement amidst stunning natural beauty. Whether you choose to float down Deep Creek or explore the Little River in Townsend, you’re in for a memorable adventure.

So, gather your family and friends, grab your tubes, and get ready to enjoy a refreshing tubing experience in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park region!