Posted by Darryl Payne in Outdoor Adventure
How would you like to view a spectacular mountain range from 1,000-11,000 feet up in the air?
That's the exhilarating thrill you'll experience when you take a Smoky Mountain helicopter ride.
Offered at various locales throughout the Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge area, these exciting rides give you a bird's-eye view of majestic peaks, sparkling waterways, and unspoiled mountain forests.
What's more, they're open to virtually everyone, from babies to senior citizens. All you need is a spirit of fun and adventure. No special equipment is required, although you'll definitely want to bring along a digital camera or camera-equipped smartphone. (After all, you'll want to snap some pics of those breathtaking aerial vistas.)
At Scenic Helicopter Tours (1949 Winfield Dunn Parkway, Sevierville, Tennessee), you can book state-of-the-art 4-person and 5-person choppers for a wide variety of Smoky Mountain helicopter rides – ranging from an 8-mile flight over the French Broad River to a stunning 100-mile tour of the Tennessee and North Carolina Smokies. Not to mention a riveting ride along the ridge of the Chilhowee Mountain Range, eye-popping flights over the Wears Valley (complete with panoramic vistas), and a special National Park Tour, offering views of the Park's fabled wildlife.
Scenic Helicopter Tours offers flights daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Group and customized tours are available.
Other local helicopter tour companies offer similar opportunities. Most provide aerial tours of local towns and cities, such as Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and Sevierville. Some can take you high above Douglas Lake, a 28,000-acre reservoir popular with boaters, swimmers, and bass fishers. Still others may have you soaring over the Smokies' highest peaks – for instance, with a dramatic 11,000-foot climb above legendary Clingman's Dome.
Tour prices start around $25 and vary depending on the length and altitude of the flight. And, while reservations are not usually required, it's always best to book ahead during popular seasons like summer and fall. Most companies let you easily book online.
Nervous about flying in a helicopter? Never tried it before? Relax. When pilots are properly trained, helicopter flights are among the safest modes of transportation. Just make sure you choose a reputable company with highly experienced staff.
Remember, helicopter pilots fly just about every day, and they constantly receive additional training in safety and aeronautics. Bottom line? These veteran professionals are skilled, seasoned, and savvy. They're also adept at putting you at your ease.
Some companies will even equip you with headphones and microphones, so you can convey any questions and concerns to your pilot in mid-flight.
Be sure to arrive ahead of time to receive full briefing and instructions. And definitely travel light. Leave heavy baggage on the ground. (The tour company will probably provide lockers or other storage expressly for this purpose.) Bring only your camera, your sunglasses, and the clothes on your back. Your 'copter will have heating and air conditioning, so you'll be perfectly comfortable regardless of outside temperatures.
If possible, try to get a seat with an optimal view. If seating is pre-assigned, make sure you let the staff know about any special needs you may have – for instance, if you or a family member are prone to motion sickness.
You and your family will be safely strapped in, and the chopper will be securely closed. As you take off, you may feel just a tiny bit of turbulence, but that should last only a moment or so. Soon you'll be gliding serenely above the everyday world.
During the flight, snap plenty of photos, but don't spend your entire tour clicking away. Take some time to just relax and enjoy the spectacular view.
You'll find that the whirr of the rotors is actually quite relaxing. And the breathtaking scenery is also wonderfully soothing. Just drink it all in – lush, forested mountaintops, winding ribbon-like rivers, ridge after ridge of rolling foothills. It's truly a feast for the senses.
Most passengers find that their cares and anxieties quickly drift away. Even if you've always been afraid of heights, you'll be reassured by the calmness of the ride and enthralled by the beauty of the scenery.
Most helicopter tour companies offer flights year 'round, so you'll be able to book a chopper adventure anytime you visit the Smokies. But some seasons may offer more visual delights than others. During fall foliage season, for instance, you'll enjoy enchanting views of mountains ablaze with vivid color. And during the holidays, you'll have an aerial perspective on the region's sparkling Winterfest, with thousands of festive LED lights shimmering below.
Chopper rides are just one of the awesome activities awaiting you here in the Smokies, Gather your family, pack up your bags, and head for the mountains right away.
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