Journey under the Smokies and surrounding mountains to see one of a kind rock formations. Learn about the past lives of the caves - everything from bootlegger havens, to ancient Indian dwellings, to the playgrounds of curious kids from the previous generation.
And, because the caves have a consistent temperatures inside (approx. 58 degrees), exploring under the mountain is a great way to beat the heat of summer and makes a perfect rainy day activity. Many caves operate with seasonal hours (peak times April to October), so be sure to check websites or call ahead if traveling in winter months.
Forbidden Caverns (455 Blowing Cave Road, Sevierville, TN 37876 Ph: 865-453-5972 www.forbiddencavern.com) is one of America's most spectacular caves, see sparkling formations, towering natural chimneys, numerous grottos and a crystal-clear stream. A rich history of ancient Indian dwellers with a legend telling of the fate of an Indian princess who was lost in a "hollow mountain of two streams...which was forbidden."
More than a century ago, the Indians discovered and hid in the caves at Tuckaleechee Caverns (825 Cavern Road, Townsend, TN 37882 Ph: 865-448-2274 www.tuckaleecheecaverns.com). Today, concrete walkways and well-lit paths illuminate Fairyland, the Big Room and Stream Passage.
The Mystery Mine Ride at Dollywood (1020 Dollywood Lane, Pigeon Forge, TN37863 Ph: 1-800-365-5996 www.Dollywood.com) travels 1,800 feet as it races races through an abandoned coal mine. Inside the ramshackled old abandoned mine and you'll find countless red eyes peering at you from the darkness as the roller coaster plunges riders into dark ruins of an early 1900s coal mine. Hold on tight as your coal car plummets down a 95-degree vertical drop through a series of high-speed twists and white-knuckle turns that will have you screaming all the way to the light at the end of the tunnel.
Take an inspiring tour through huge caverns - large enough to hold a two-story building - at The Lost Sea Adventure (140 Lost Sea Road, Sweetwater, TN 37874 Ph: 423-337-6616 www.thelostsea.com). See colorful rock formations, a waterfall and even an old moonshine still. Deep in the cave, take a guided boat trip across America's largest underground lake (almost three football fields long) for an adventure you'll always remember. Screen for gems at Red Ruby's Gem Mine. With the picnic pavilion and the restaurant on site, you've got a perfect full day's worth of activities.
Live a prospector's dream at the Pigeon Forge Gem Mine (2865 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863 Ph: 865-453-4733 www.pfgemmine.com) by unearthing real gems by panning in a water flume. Mine for rubies, emeralds and sapphires - plus, you can have any stone you find set.