Family-Friendly Adventure Just a Stone's Throw from Gatlinburg
By Jon Hoffman © 2011, All Rights Reserved

If your dream vacation includes a water-soaked plunge down a raging river or a bike ride along a secluded mountain trail, then don't miss the Nantahala Outdoor Center, where adventure awaits the active family. Located within easy driving distance of the popular Gatlinburg, Tenn. area, this North Carolina attraction is perfect for a day trip.

Getting there Really is Half the Fun

Start your day with a drive through some of nature's most beautiful scenery. As you travel through the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you'll see stunning vistas spread before you from the top of every rise. Encompassing more than 800 square miles of wilderness, the park is home to many thousands of species of plants, trees, and wildlife, so even a short excursion will be memorable.

A Different View of the Mountains

Arriving at the Nantahala Outdoor Center, you'll enjoy the scenery from a different perspective. Strap on your life jacket and get ready for a whitewater rafting adventure that will leave you breathless – and soaked to the skin! Whether you're new to the sport or have logged many miles in a raft, you'll find the perfect level of adventure on one of six area rivers.

Nantahala Outdoor Center's experienced guides will lead your group on an outdoor thrill ride through a spectacular wilderness setting. Children as young as seven will enjoy their first whitewater trip on the mild and scenic Nantahala River, where eight miles of family-friendly rapids lead up to the Class III grand finale at Nantahala Falls. For the more adventurous, a white-knuckle trip along the Chattooga River is one heart-stopping rapids after another. Whichever you choose, though, you'll get a glimpse of nature that's unmatched anywhere else.

Or spend the day paddling along the shores of a quiet mountain lake in your own personal kayak. Explore the hidden coves and shallows of Fontana Lake while learning about the history of the area from your guide. Kids as young as four will enjoy this easy half-day tour that includes plenty of opportunities to spot the wildlife that call the area home.

If you prefer to take in the scenery from dry land, be sure to check out the mountain biking at Nantahala Outdoor Center. Several miles of trails crisscross the landscape, offering everything from flat and easy paved tracks to brutal climbs into the hills. This is your chance to see ancient forests largely untouched by human hands, and enjoy the quiet sounds of area wildlife as they go about their busy days. Bring your own or rent a top-quality bike from the NOC Bike Shop.

The Great Smoky Mountains offer an endless variety of family-friendly adventures. Gatlinburg's central location makes for an easy day trip into the surrounding wilderness where you'll be inspired by the beauty of nature and invigorated by the quiet that surrounds you. Whether you choose to float serenely on the edges of a calm lake, or hurtle along a mountain river at breakneck speeds, one thing is certain: you won't soon forget your vacation in the Smokies.

Jon Hoffman is Reservations Manager of Volunteer Cabin Rentals specializing in cabins near Nantahala Outdoor Center. Visit the main website to book cabins for your next Smoky Mountain Vacation.