After a dazzling equestrian dinner show at the Dixie Stampede and adrenaline pumping scares in the Mysterious Mansion of Gatlinburg, it is time to enjoy the Smoky Mountains in all her natural wonder – outside! While hiking to Laurel Falls and tubing along the Pigeon River are serene ways to get in touch with the great outdoors, turn the thrills up a notch and discover a tremendously good time while riding an All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) deep into the forests of the Smoky Mountains! Ride through shallow bubbling streams, beside majestic mossy rock formations, and along steep mountain ridgelines to expansive views of rolling peaks for an outdoor adventure you will talk about for weeks!
ATV riding in the Cherokee National Forest
Located between Johnson City and Erwin, Tennessee, Buffalo Mountain is the only designated ATV trail in the Cherokee National Forest. The 13-mile trail runs along the ridgeline of Buffalo Mountain and is considered moderate to difficult – not for beginners. With 2-way traffic and bicycles along the trail, it’s important to be especially aware of your surroundings as you ride. The USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) reminds ATV riders to “Ride for KEEPS” – Keep it Safe, Keep it Legal, Keep on the Trail, and Keep the Privilege. ATV riders can start the trail at the Horse Cove Gap trailhead, where there is a $5 per haul vehicle fee.
Beyond ATV riding, 2 area trails – Unicoi Trail #82 and Smith Mountain Trail #69 – let motorcyclists have some off-road fun. ATVs are not allowed on these trails.
Unicoi Trail #82 | 3.4 miles | multiple-use trail | in the Coker Creek Zone
Smith Mountain Trail #69 | 4.5 miles | multiple-use trail | in the Coker Creek Zone
ATV Tours & Outfitters in the Smoky Mountains
Smoky Mountain Adventures
385 East Parkway Suite 225
A trip to the Great Smoky Mountains – either Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg – isn’t complete without some time spent in the great outdoors. Experience the rugged terrain of the Smokies via a Robby Gordon Polaris 800 cc 4-seat RZR for an adrenaline-pumping ride! This street-legal ride will have you winding past waterfalls, through streams and creeks, and over boulders and mountaintops. You’ll see old homesteads, rivers, old-growth forest, and wildlife as you climb, crawl, and wind through the wilderness.
Foxfire Mountain Adventure Park
3757 Thomas Lane
Sevierville, TN 37876
Go off road at Foxfire Mountain, where their Bear Crawler will have you experiencing the Great Smoky Mountains in a new way. Get dirty and wet as you ride along in the 8-wheeled ATV, along the trails and through the creeks in the area. Along the ride, an experienced guide will tell you stories of the area, giving you a truly one-of-a-kind experience! And at Foxfire Mountain, the outdoor adventures go beyond ATV rides. Families, groups, couples, and friends can also check out 15 zip lines, a ropes course, climbing walls, hiking trails, and swinging bridges. Then guests can enjoy handcrafted ciders at Wyile Cider Barn, the only craft cidery in Tennessee! They even host corporate events, perfect for team building and work retreats!
Big Rock Dude Ranch at Ponderosa
909 Little Cove Rd
Pigeon Forge, TN 37863
Wind your way past creeks, over mountains, and through the trees on exciting 4x4 ATVs at Big Rock Dude Ranch. The 1-hour guided ride will start out easy, giving you time to get used to the feel of it before you head to the top for amazing mountain vistas. Plus, Big Rock Dude Ranch at Ponderosa offers even more fun, with horseback riding, gem mining, a petting zoo, a fishing pond, picnic areas, a museum, and a general store and café!
7717 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway
Townsend, TN 37882
With street-legal UTVs and side-by-side rentals, along with guided off-road tours, Mtn Trax offers the ultimate off roading experience for visitors (and locals) in the Great Smoky Mountains. Get a 2, 4, or 6-seater side-by-side and hit the muddy trails through Cades Cove, Rich Mountain Tremont, Townsend, Gatlinburg, and Elkmont. Want a nudge in the right direction? Take a guided off-road tour, giving you 1 ½ hours of heart-pounding fun through the mountainous terrain that’s not accessible to the public.
Winter hours | By reservation only
Smoky Mountain Jeep Rentals
1725 Waldens Creek Rd #102
Sevierville, TN 37862
Explore the Smokies behind the wheel of a 4-door Jeep Wrangler – with half-door options – for an up-close look at Metcalf Bottoms, Bluff Mountain, the Cascades, Cades Cove, Wears Valley, Pigeon Forge, and beyond! Check their site for top rides, too, including Tail of the Dragon, Little River Road, and Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.
November – December 31 | 9 a.m. – 1 p.m., Monday to Saturday | Closed Sunday
January – February | By appointment only
March – October | 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday to Saturday | Sunday by appointment only
Eager to hit the dirt trails? There are a few things to be mindful of when choosing your ATV adventure! Before picking out a tour and heading to your excursion, use our informative checklist to help narrow down your options and to avoid the possibility of arriving unprepared.
- Age - Be sure to choose an outdoor adventure that allows everyone in your party to ride! While some companies require drivers to be 16 years of age, Jayell Ranch only asks that riders be at least 12 years old. Taking a UTV tour through Cades Cove with Mtn Trax? Drivers of these vehicles are required to be 21 with a valid driver’s license. So, if you are traveling with the whole family, you may want to consider an excursion everyone can be a part of. Don’t worry about missing out on any excitement, however, because Foxfire Mountain takes explorers as young as 3 years old on their 8-wheel Bear Crawler Adventure rides!
- Weight/Height - These requirements most often pertain to children since these rides tend to be bumpy and uneven. Our recommended ATV companies put safety first and want to ensure that the riders and drivers are in no danger of being thrown from the vehicle. If your child is smaller for their age, be sure they meet height and weight standards as well as the age requirements. When safety is priority, the fun is, too!
- Reservations - While some outdoor companies require notice days in advance, others serve visitors on a daily first-come, first-serve basis. Simply call the office of the tour you are interested in to find out reservation information. Even if your ATV trip is a last-minute vacation add-on, you have many options and the reputable companies listed are happy to serve you in any reasonable way they can. Tours run on a schedule, be courteous and arrive with plenty of time to get to know your guides, ask questions, and suit up!
- Attire - Your ATV tour provider, whichever trail you decide to explore, will provide any required safety precautions like helmets or goggles. Active clothing is highly recommended, while closed-toe shoes are required. Be sure to check weather conditions and temperatures and dress accordingly to prevent being uncomfortable on your exciting ride! Remember, some of these rides can get you a little down and dirty, too!
More Outdoor Fun in the Smokies
Outdoor fun in and around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is seemingly endless, offering visitors to the area a chance to stretch their legs, lace up their hiking boots, get out their fishing poles, and get their adrenaline pumping. Need a few ideas on what to do in the great outdoors? Here are a few just to get you started.
- Bike the 11-mile Cades Cove loop
- Ski, snowboard, and sled at Ober Gatlinburg
- Take to the sky for up-high views of the mountains
- Go fishing in the many streams, lakes, and rivers
- Go for a wild whitewater ride on the Big Pigeon River
- Try to spot some of the more than 200 species of birds
- Saddle up for a horseback ride through the trees
- Lace up your boots and go for a hike on the 800+ miles of trails in the national park