9 Spots You’ll Love if You’re a Nature Nut

The Great Smoky Mountains area is one of the most scenic places in the country, and arguably, the world. It’s home to a huge diversity of trees and wildflowers, along with wildlife and incredible mountain vistas. Whether you’re in the heart of downtown or out among the trees and on the trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you’ll find yourself surrounded by the beauty of the Smokies.

Trails will lead you to rushing waterfalls and scenic overlooks, through old-growth forests, and past trickling streams. Walks along the Parkway will blend the excitement of the city with the beauty of mountain backdrops. A day at the cabin will offer you peaceful wooded surroundings, fantastic mountain overlooks, or a location sitting just over the water.

So if you’re headed to the Smokies and you want to experience the great outdoors, read on. We have 9 great spots to check out if you’re a nature nut like us!

  1. Andrews Bald – With an easy 1.8-mile (one way) trip up to the top, Andrews Bald offers some incredible mountain views from the grassy bald. Start at the Clingmans Dome parking lot and take the short hike up – it will be well worth it.

  2. Porters Creek Trail – A mix of fantastic natural surroundings and cool historic landmarks make this hike beautiful and unique. The trail is considered moderately difficult and is 4 miles roundtrip, showcasing some of the best wildflowers along the way. Follow alongside Porters Creek to watch the water rush over the river rocks and look for as many wildflowers as you can. Stop for a while to enjoy all the little details – moss, fish, and more – before arriving at the stone wall remains of the Elbert Cantrell farmstead. You can also explore the tombstones in the Ownby Cemetery or check out the John Messner farm site and a 1930s Smoky Mountain Hiking Club cabin.

  3. Mount LeConte – Be prepared to really hike if you want the reward of the views from the top of Mount LeConte. On clear days, you’ll see some amazing vistas once you reach the top. And the scenery on the way isn’t bad, either! There are 6 ways to summit Mount LeConte: Rainbow Falls, Trillium Gap, Bull Head, the Boulevard, Brushy Mountain, and Alum Cave Trail. Alum Cave is the shortest and steepest, but it’s also the most popular. It’s about 11 miles roundtrip, but you can break it up by staying at the Mount LeConte Lodge for the night. Just be sure to reserve well in advance; spots book quickly. Awesome sights along the way include a large collection of shale, Alum Cave, Myrtle Point, and Cliff Top.

  4. Dollywood’s Splash Country — Though not what you might expect when thinking about being a nature nut, the natural surroundings at Dollywood’s Splash Country will take you away. You’ll get the fun of the rides with the scenery of the mountains and trees. Don’t miss Wild River Falls, The Cascades, and The Butterfly for the best natural views.

  5. Spruce Flat Falls – A gorgeous 30-foot waterfall cascade awaits at the end of an easy to moderate 2-mile (roundtrip) hike from the Tremont Visitors Center. Just follow the “falls” signs along the way for a true nature lover’s treat. It’s a favorite local spot that’s great if you don’t have a ton of time but want some fantastic scenery.

  6. Aerial Tramway at Ober Gatlinburg – Enjoy nature from a different perspective during a ride over Gatlinburg on the Aerial Tramway. The 2.1-mile ride will take you over the city and over the treetops. Don’t forget your camera!

  7. Chimney Tops – Not for the faint of heart, this strenuous 4-mile (roundtrip) hike is steep and rugged. It stands at 4,724 feet and is famous for its rocky, chiseled look. It cemented its place as a top spot when it graced the cover of Horace Kephart’s Our Southern Highlanders. If you’re up for the trip, you’ll enjoy some really incredible views and natural surroundings.

  8. Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail – Probably the most popular scenic drive in the area, the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail affords some awesome scenic overlooks. Take the 5 ½-mile loop to see mountain streams, wildlife, and historic buildings. Be sure to be on the lookout for the American black bear (the symbol of the Smokies), but drive safe!

  9. Cades Cove – 11 miles roundtrip, Cades Cove features ample opportunities to enjoy nature. Along with the wildlife to look out for (turkeys, black bears, horses, and more), the cove boasts rolling hills, sprawling fields of wildflowers, lush valleys, trickling streams, and a huge variety of trees.

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