Rafting & Kayaking in the NC Smoky Mountains

rafting the rapids on the NantahalaThe rivers of the Smoky Mountains offer some of the best opportunities for rafting and paddling on the east coast, and are suitable for almost everyone regardless of age or experience. Whether you get your thrills from the rapids, or from the scenic beauty of the terrain, you’re sure to have a fantastic time rafting in the Smoky Mountains.

River Adventures for the Whole Family

The rivers of the Smokies are so varied that you’re sure to find one to meet your needs, even if you have young children or older family members.

For an slower-pace and scenic rafting trip, take a fully guided trip down one of the most popular whitewater runs in America, the Nantahala River. The Nantahala River offers Class I, II and III rapids, so you’re sure to find a section perfect for you. Your children will fondly remember your vacation Rafting in the Smoky Mountains for the rest of their lives, too.

The Smoky Mountains Are Where World Class Kayakers Compete

When Rafting in the Smoky Mountains, be on the lookout for world-class athletes training for World Championships. Come rafting on the gorgeous Nantahala and you can say you went Rafting in the Smoky Mountains on the same river that the world’s top freestyle paddlers compete on each year. Watch them do cartwheels, loops, blunts and other unforgettable moves.

The Best Kayaking Locations in Western North Carolina’s Smoky Mountains

Kayaking Group in the nc smoky mountainsWe have numerous amazing outdoors activities here in the North Carolina Smokies, but we’ve got a special place in our hearts for kayaking. Some of the best kayaking locations in these United States are located in western North Carolina! There are many rivers to choose from, with sections that range from gentle currents to whitewater. Try your paddling skills along the French Broad River, Tuckasegee River, Little Tennessee River, Nantahala River, Green River, and others.

When you are choosing kayaking locations, remember that each river will have its own unique character, scenery and views, but they all share something in common – they’re surrounded in natural beauty.

Local Outfitters Help You Find the Best Kayaking Locations

Our local outfitters can help you get the gear you need, arrange a guided trip, and even transport you to the best kayaking locations in Western North Carolina. They’ll help you select the right section of river based on your skill set and the type of adventure you want to experience, and they’ll ensure your trip is fun, safe and exciting.

And if you wanted to do a little fishing during your kayaking vacation, an outfitter can help you find kayaking locations with great fishing opportunities. And as you plan your trip, remember that the western North Carolina Smokies have some of the best fly fishing waters this side of the Mississippi.

Other Outdoor Adventures.

There are so many amazing things to do and see in this area in addition to all the great hiking, biking, fishing and kayaking locations. Don’t just wing it. Plan in advance to pack the maximum number of adventures into your time in the North Carolina Smokies. Here’s a list of other great adventures.

Brookside Campground & Rafting
Brookside Campground and Rafting is a modern facility offering recreational camping and white water rafting. Brookside is located deep in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains with grassy campsites along the creek, complete hook-ups, hot showers and clean restrooms, picnic tables, covered garbage cans that are emptied daily, laundry facilities, a game room, pay telephone and playground. Brookside's country store offers snacks, drinks, and everything the average camper might need. In addition, there is whitewater rafting.
764 Hwy 19 Nantahala, NC 28781 (828) 321-5209 brooksiderafting.com Get Directions
Carolina Outfitters Whitewater Rafting
Experience whitewater rafting! Nantahala and Ocoee River family whitewater rafting adventures is located near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the majestic mountains of western North Carolina. Enjoy the scenic splendor of the Nantahala National Forest and thrill to the challenge and excitement of whitewater rafting on the most popular rivers in the Southeast. Experience unnecessary. Combine our rafting with gemstone mining, horseback riding, and scenic train tours. Vacation homes and cabins available.
715 U.S. Hwy. 19 Topton, NC 28781 (828) 488-6348 www.carolinaoutfitters.com Get Directions
Deep Creek Tube Center & Campground
Deep Creek flows out of the Great Smokies National Park and by our campground. We rent light-weight vinyl tubes for $6 (all day rental). Tubes are available at a discount to registered campers and groups. Life jackets are available for children. Our camp store also sells creek shoes and other tubing accessories and souvenirs. We have twenty-one rental cabins, from modern campground cabins to hand-hewn log cabins, plus a large house for small groups. More than 40 campsites, from creekside tent camping to pop-ups, travel trailers, RVs and mobile homes. Gem Mining: Pan for rubies, sapphires, quartz, topaz, emeralds and other colorful gems at the Deep Creek Tube Center Mining Company.
1090 West Deep Creek Rd Bryson City, NC 28713 (828) 488-6055 deepcreekcamping.com Get Directions
Nantahala Outdoor Center
NOC’s main campus is located at the intersection of the Appalachian Trail and the Nantahala River, just outside Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A mecca for outdoor enthusiasts, NOC’s 500-acre campus boasts plenty of exciting adventures to keep your group happy & active. Whitewater raft, explore Fontana Lake in a kayak or canoe, zipline, or mountain bike and hike! Between adventures, check out NOC’s riverfront restaurants and retail stores, and even spend the night in a cozy trailside cabin.
13077 Hwy 19 West Bryson City, NC 28713 (828) 785-5082 www.noc.com Get Directions
NOC Paddling School
Voted “Best Place to Learn” by Outside Magazine, NOC’s elite team of instructors offer kayak and canoe courses for all ages and skill levels. Choose a weekend or weekday course and try something new or build on your existing skills! With 40+ years going into every course, you know you’re in great hands.
13077 Hwy 19 West Bryson City, NC 28713 (866) 297-5281 www.noc.com Get Directions
Come and enjoy nature at its best. We offer leisurely self guided kayak trips down the Little Tennessee River. The trips are 2 1/2 -3 hours long and we supply you with all your equipment needed. You will see along your trip river otters, beavers, deer and endless birds. It is a beautiful and peaceful trip to enjoy nature at its best. If you have your own equipment, we offer a "Drop and Shuttle service" so that you can use your own equipment and enjoy the river. Also, enjoy Gem Mining rain or shine in our Covered Outdoor Gem Flume along the Little Tennessee River. You will discover many different gemstones and fossils including topaz, rubies, amethyst, emeralds and many others. We help you to identify your gemstones. We welcome all rockhounds and treasure seekers, it’s great fun for the entire family. Your adventure and treasure await you!
155 Robin Lynn Lane Otto, NC 28763 (828) 349-1717 www.primitiveoutback.com Get Directions
Rolling Thunder River Company
Family-friendly rafting trips for over 30 years. Guided/Non-guided on the Nantahala River; guided only on the Ocoee River.
10160 Hwy. 19 West Bryson City, NC 28713 (800) 408-7238 www.rollingthunderriverco.com Get Directions
Smoky Mountain River Adventures
Great Family-oriented Whitewater Rafting Trip!!!! Rafting/Kayaking/Tubing/Canoeing
Smoky Mountain Tubing
Since 1999 Smoky Mountain Tubing has been the highlight of family vacations offered here in Cherokee! We promise to provide fun, safe, and scenic adventure unlike any other! Come relax and cool off on a hot summer day on the gently flowing Oconaluftee River while enjoying the scenic beauty of the Smoky Mountains. While tubing take a moment to enjoy the swimming holes and a trip off the rope swing.
1847 Tsali Blvd Cherokee, NC 28719 (828) 497-4545 cherokeetubeandraft.com Get Directions
Wildwater Nantahala Gorge Adventure Center
We offer fully guided, guide assisted, and rental trips on the Nantahala, Ocoee, Big Pigeon, and Chattooga Rivers. Take advantage of the original Raft and Rail package at Wildwater Nantahala! Climb aboard the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad and enjoy a delicious deli lunch, followed by a guided 8-mile Nantahala River whitewater trip. All transportation is included to and from the Bryson City train depot. The Raft and Rail package is a great way for families to enjoy the two best adventures in the region in one day.
10345 Hwy. 19 W. Bryson City, NC 28713 (866) 319-8870 wildwaterrafting.com Get Directions