PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (AP) — You may have walked, hiked and biked in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and now you have a chance to see it while riding in a decked-out pink Jeep Wrangler.
Pink Jeep Tours, a company that offers Jeep tours at different locations around the country, has held a grand opening for its Pigeon Forge location for media, officials and area business owners.
The Pigeon Forge location, which is at 3152 Parkway, is the company's first in the eastern United States. It already has locations in Sedona, Arizona; the Grand Canyon; and Las Vegas.
The idea for a Pigeon Forge location came about around a year go after Herschend Enterprises purchased Pink Jeep Tours, according to Andrew Wexler, CEO of Herschend Enterprises.
"The Smoky Mountains are the most visited national park in the country. In fact almost double the No. 2 park, which is the Grand Canyon, where we already have operations, so it really just made a natural extension that we needed to be at the most popular national park in the country," said Wexler.
"Not to mention the incredible beauty and the fact that it's a family destination. It really just made a lot of sense for us to expand here first."
Each Pink Jeep Tour lasts two to four hours, taking up to seven passengers through parts of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Wexler said Pink Jeep Tours went through a permitting process with the national park in order to have tours there.
Pink Jeep Tours' Pigeon Forge location will offer four tours, and they include the Newfound Gap Tour, the Foothills Parkway Tour, the Roaring Fork Tour and the Oconaluftee Farm Tour.
Once the national park section of the tour wraps up, each tour will also feature a 30-minute off-road section on private property, where tour guides take the Jeeps up and down steep hills.
Members of the media got to ride along the off-road section, and the hills and twists and turns of the trail give guests an eventful ride, to say the least. You're strapped in with seat belts, but be prepared to hang on and have fun.
"We just built this trail through this old campground, repurposed the land with very minimum impact, which is really a big deal for us," said Matt Auberle, the general manager of Pink Jeep Tours' Pigeon Forge location.
"You know, stewardship and environmental awareness is something that, it's an undertone with all of our tours, you know helping people appreciate the natural environment because they're not building anymore of it ..."
In order to take on those steep sections of the tour, Pink Jeep Tours modifies its Jeep Wranglers, so they can safely carry passengers and take them off road, according to Auberle.
Here's a list of changes Pink Jeep Tours make once they receive the Jeep Wranglers from the factory.
— Replace axles with heavy duty three-quarter ton axles with better traction control.
— Upgrade suspension.
— Add roll bar and seating arrangement, which has six seats in the back and one in the passenger's seat up front.
— Adds canopy.
— Customizes the Jeeps with upholstery and of course, pink paint.
The guides/drivers who lead the tours go through a three-week training course. The course involves off-road driving training, trail familiarization and classroom training about the area they will educate guests about, according to Auberle.
The eight to 10 Pink Jeep Tours guides in Pigeon Forge will give information on the plants, animals, geology and human history of the area.
"... With education comes appreciation, so when people learn about stuff more then they are more inclined to preserve it ..." said Auberle.
To reserve your spot on a Pink Jeep Tour, visit www.pinkadventuretours.com.
Each of the four Smoky Mountain tours have different lengths and prices, according to the Pink Jeep Tours website. Take note, the Roaring Fork and Oconaluftee Farm tours won't start until May 24.
— Newfound Gap Tour: Three hours. $65 for adults, $56 for children.
— Foothills Parkway Tour: Three hours. $65 for adults, $56 for children.
— Roaring Fork Tour: Two and a half hours. $55 for adults, $46 for children.
— Oconaluftee Farm Tour: Four hours. $75 for adults, $64 for children.