Despite the boom in tourism and touristy attractions in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and area residents have managed to preserve their culture into an incredible wealth of knowledge and learning opportunities. From environmental sciences to artisanship to Native American and pioneer history, the Smoky Mountains is your all-in-one field trip for any grade!
Visit the Smokies for a day or construct an awesome overnight field trip in a large group cabin your students will remember for a lifetime because you will be hard-pressed to find downtime in between the plethora of activities, museums, and exhibits. Here are 10 awesome field trip ideas in the Smoky Mountains for teachers and parents who homeschool!
- Environmental Science and Ranger-Led Field Trips
Kindergarten through High School
The National Park Service is an outstanding resource for your next science field trip with staff that can help you plan the entire process for both ranger-led and teacher-led field trips. There are cool salamander research field trips for both middle and high schoolers that teach students about the local wildlife and how studying these animals closely provides researchers information on climate change and environmental challenges such as water and air pollution! There are tons of options, so take a look at the NPS’s wide range of materials for teachers and field trips to the Smokies!
- Arts and Culture in the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community
3rd- 8th Grade
Artisanship and handmade goods have a rich, long history in the Smokies, providing tons of historical context and value to your lessons on early life and culture of North American settlers. This 8-mile loop is a fantastic way to share these lessons with your students while staying on a budget! You can eat along the loop or host a great picnic lunch (even MORE budget-friendly) in Cades Cove.
- Wilderness Wildlife Week in Pigeon Forge
What could make this week-long event hosting a wide range of educational lectures, activities, and tours on subjects from science to history to arts even better? Oh, that’s right, it’s FREE! Simply pre-register your students for particular classes to ensure availability and begin your adventures with one of the country’s top wildlife education events!
- Science and History in Cades Cove
The biodiversity of the Smoky Mountains comes together in the beautiful mountain valley nestled into the heart of this national park. The 11-mile loop is full of gorgeous scenery, wildlife, and historical structures preserved by the park. This is another budget-friendly field trip, and you can visit the teaching materials link aforementioned for scientific and historical teaching materials provided by the National Park Service!
- Native American Culture and Art in Cherokee, North Carolina
As one of the only Native American Reservations federally recognized in the South, this jewel is a one-of-a-kind experience when teaching your students about indigenous cultures of North America. With numerous shops, museums, and events such as the 106th Annual Cherokee Indian Fair, there are ample opportunities to take advantage of this rich resource of preserved cultural beauty with your class.
- Science and Geology in the Tuckaleechee Caverns
While the area’s staple attraction is the towering, majestic mountains, there is even more to be discovered below the surface! Daily tours, open to the public from April 1 to October 31 and November 1 to the 15, through the underground caves of the Tuckaleechee Caverns supply your class with a cool adventure filled with historical, geological, and biological facts.
- Some Weird Science and History in the Ghost Town of Elkmont, Tennessee
Like wandering the streets of a scene plucked out of The Walking Dead, this abandoned town is a unique opportunity to show your students the biological impact of humans and what happens when they remove themselves from the ecological system. Owned by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Elkmont is a designated Historical Landmark and is a great detour to other stops like Cades Cove.
- History on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
Departing from Bryson City, this scenic steam/diesel train ride is an out-of-the-norm way to tour the Great Smoky Mountains! With discounted group rates, the GSMR narrated car is the perfect way to enjoy your ride with your class while sitting back and letting a local author, poet, and storyteller, Horace Kephart, take your students back in time with historical facts, local ghost legends, and commentary on the scenes through the train windows.
- A Field Trip Designed For Online Schooling!!
Imagine the impossible: taking your students along the thousands of miles along the Appalachian Trail which cuts through the Great Smoky Mountains…without spending any money! Thanks to the Great Smoky Mountains Electronic Field Trip, teachers can cover subjects such as animal and plant biodiversity, climate change, and history with an incredible HD video, fun games at the end of each lesson, and a tour to encourage remote learning while staying hands-on!
- Science, History, and Art at the Annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage
This Smoky Mountain event is an educator’s gold mine, not to mention, the student discount is great (Students under 15 are FREE, while students 15+ are only $15 in contrast to adult registration of $50-$75!) This event is so prestigious and great (it’s coming up on its 69th year!) that it was sold out during pre-registration for the 2018 event held in April. Make this an overnight field trip of a lifetime and participate in hikes, classes on journaling and photography, and informative hands-on lectures about animal and plant biology…and SO much more!
Okay, so you want to plan an overnight field trip, but how on earth do you house your students without digging deep into parents’ and teachers’ pockets? Book a Pigeon Forge, Tennessee Cabins lodge! Not only can you avoid pricey hotels and spread out students, but the amenities also keep your kids plenty entertained before curfew and during downtimes! Eating, meetings, and hanging out as a group is immeasurably easier in one cabin. Check out your options here and begin planning the field trip of your students’ lifetimes!