Regain Your Mindful Center in the Great Smoky Mountains Outdoors
If you’re feeling directionless, purposeless, or overwhelmed with life, it may be because you’re out of balance with your authentic self. In times like this, you’re allowed to take the time and space you need to regain your center. One of the best ways to get back in touch with your inner light again is to immerse yourself in the serenity of nature. Consider taking a self-care trip to a quiet and secluded place like the Great Smoky Mountains, where quaint mountain towns like Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are full of both exciting and calming ways to experience nature. The Smoky Mountain outdoors will take you from the hazy blue peaks to the eternally flowing Pigeon River, inviting you to let loose and lose yourself only to find yourself once again.
Fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the few places in the eastern U.S. where you can still find wild trout. Angling is allowed year-round in the park as long as you have a Tennessee or North Carolina fishing license, obtained from any of the nearby cities. Burrow deep into the park to find your preferred spot among the 2,900 miles of headwater and coolwater streams. From there, you’ll find the peace of the deep woods, the pleasantly constant trickling sound of the waters, and a meditative mindset awaiting as you set up your pole. Once the sunlight has waned, look forward to grilling up some brook, rainbow or brown trout, smallmouth bass, or rock bass for dinner tonight.
Retreating to Wears Valley Ranch
A Christian-based home and school for children without a strong family support system, Wears Valley Ranch is a spiritual retreat in and of itself. The campus welcomes visitors to explore the 120-acre property, meditate or pray in the chapel, find inspiration at the art gallery, and try a scoop of their homemade ice cream. Perhaps your mindfulness practice calls you to volunteer for a few days or a season. Even if you’re only in town for a short while, Wears Valley Ranch is worth visiting to spend time with the barn animals, including cattle, sheep, horses and chickens.
Whitewater Rafting at Smoky Mountain River Rat
One surefire way to get out of your head and back into the present moment is to experience some fast-paced adventure and adrenaline-pumping thrills. When visiting the Smokies, whitewater rafting on the Pigeon River is a must. Head out to Hartford, TN, about a 40-minute drive from Gatlinburg, where you’ll find various whitewater rafting companies, including Smoky Mountain River Rat.
Smoky Mountain River Rat has been leading safe rafting expeditions on the Pigeon River since 1995. You’ll be in good hands, whether you choose the Upper Pigeon, Lower Pigeon, or Upper Xtreme Pigeon tours. Featuring Class III and IV rapids over 5.5 miles, the Upper Pigeon is ideal for experienced rafters or those looking for high-level thrills. The Lower Pigeon traverses 6.5 miles of gentler Class I and II rapids, perfect for families with small children or those looking for a relaxing day on the water with stops at the local swimming holes. Take the Daycation tour if you’d like to try both sections of the river, or go all-in with the Xtreme tour, which covers the Upper Pigeon in a whippy X-boat.
If you’re in the mood for something much more chill than even the Lower Pigeon tour, you might be better off driving to Townsend, about a 45-minute drive from Gatlinburg in the opposite direction. Townsend is the site of Smoky Mountain River Rat’s two river tubing outposts. Bring your dog with you to Outpost A for a slow 2-mile float along mild rapids, past swimming holes and rock jumps, or take on the bigger rapids over 1 mile at Outpost B. Whether you want to jump-start your nervous system into happy clarity or suppress it with a tranquil floating meditation, Smoky Mountain River Rat is the best place to go near Gatlinburg for adventures on the water.
Ziplining at CLIMBWorks
Ziplining is another fantastic option if chasing thrills helps you regain your sense of mindfulness. At CLIMBWorks, you’re in for some of the best ziplining in Gatlinburg on their 2-hour guided tour. The Mountaintop tour soars across six side-by-side ziplines and includes an initial ATV ride to the top of the mountain, four skybridges, educational tidbits about the local and natural history, and a controlled rappel back to the ground at the end.
Although ziplining is not allowed within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park bounds, you’ll be right across the street and within view of the same spectacular views of the mountain ridgelines, valleys, forests and wildlife below. While the rush of wind and the challenge of pulling flying stunts melt away all your worries, the calm stillness between zips amid stunning mountain views reminds you to have gratitude for wherever you are in life.
Snowsports & Views at Ober Gatlinburg
Whether you could use excitement to wake up your nerves or peace of mind from some of the best views of the Smokies, Ober Gatlinburg has it all. Catch the Aerial Tramway from downtown Gatlinburg to take you to the top of Mount Harrison, where you’ll find an entertainment center full of shopping, dining, and kid-friendly amusement rides. Spend an afternoon playing mini-golf, climbing the rock wall, testing your skills on the ice-skating rink, or hiking the trails. Not only this, but Ober Gatlinburg provides some of the best skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing in Eastern Tennessee – just in case you need a wintertime getaway. Finish off your afternoon of playtime with a sunset ride on the Scenic Chairlift, the longest of its kind in the entire country. On a clear day, you’ll see incredible panoramic views from Mount LeConte all the way to Douglas Lake.
When you’re feeling out of alignment with yourself, it’s essential to give yourself adequate time and space to process the thoughts and feelings that come up. Traveling can be an excellent tool for this kind of personal growth, helping you step outside your comfort zone and rediscover who you truly are. In the Great Smoky Mountains, you might recall your ability to enjoy the thrilling ups and downs of life on a whitewater rafting tour. On the other hand, you may find the peace and quiet you need to hear your inner voice again at the end of a fishing rod. No matter what kind of nature experience calls most strongly to you, the outdoor adventures of the Great Smoky Mountains can be a great start to becoming aware of the breadcrumbs leading back to inner peace.