With more than 800 miles of trails within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – across parts of Tennessee and North Carolina – there are plenty of opportunities for getting out and hiking in the Smokies – even along parts of the Appalachian Trail. You can easily stop by one of the visitor centers to find trail maps and get helpful information, or you can read on for just a few local favorites on your hiker’s getaway! Try an easy day hike, climb your way to the highest point in the Smokies, check out incredible views from an observation tower, find the tallest waterfall (Ramsey Cascades), and more!
Popular Trails in the Great Smoky Mountains
Abrams Falls Trail
This 5.2-mile roundtrip hike takes you to a 20-foot waterfall that makes up in volume what it lacks in height. The water rushing over the rocks is quite a sight, but we caution hikers not to swim because the undertow and currents can be very dangerous.
This easy 3.6-mile hike offers a cool walk through an old-growth forest before opening up to the expansive Andrews Bald. The clearing here is a great picnic spot! Start the trail at the Clingmans Dome parking area, and remember you’ll experience an elevation change of about 1,200 feet during the hike.
Cades Cove Loop
Not looking for a challenging hike? Take a scenic drive through Cades Cove, where you’ll be treated to wildlife (turkeys, deer, and black bears – if you’re lucky!), peaceful streams, nice picnic areas, fields of wildflowers, historic churches and homesteads, and some easy hikes.
This strenuous 8.1-mile roundtrip hike isn’t for the beginner. If you’re a seasoned hiker and up for the challenge, you’ll be treated with panoramic views on this hike in the Smokies. The trail can be found at Newfound Gap and travels east along the Appalachian Trail. Along with an abundance of wildflowers, hikers can enjoy views of Mount Leconte and Myrtle Point.
The Chimney Tops trail is considered moderately difficult, totaling 3.3 miles roundtrip and boasting a lovely stream and panoramic views. While the hike may not be long, it is quite steep. Start the trailhead at the Newfound Gap parking area and get ready for a challenging day!
Forney Ridge Trail
Located between Clingmans Dome and Andrews Bald, the Forney Ridge Trail is 1.8 miles and underwent a major reconstruction project from 2008 to 2011 with the Trails Forever program. It’s now refreshed and ready for a lovely hike in the Great Smoky Mountains!
Boasting one of the best azalea displays in the world, the top of Gregory Bald brings hikers from across the world. Even outside of mid to late June, the views from this clearing are stunning, looking out at Cades Cove, Fontana Lake, and beyond.
Parts of this 3-mile roundtrip trail are rocky, but because it’s short, it’s generally considered pretty easy. You’ll follow Trillium Gap Trail through old-growth forests and go behind a 25-foot waterfall, so don’t forget your camera and some sturdy shoes.
Indian Creek and Toms Branch Falls
About 1.6 miles roundtrip, the Indian Creek and Toms Branch Falls hike offers up 2 beautiful waterfalls! the hike is located in the Deep Creek area, and bicycles are allowed in this section. Start the trail past the campground at the end of Deep Creek Road.
Laurel Falls Trail
This 2.6-mile roundtrip trail is also considered moderate in difficulty because sections can be rough and uneven – even slippery if the weather has been less than ideal. Overall, though, this hike is easily navigable because the path is paved and it is less than three miles roundtrip. And the end result is worth it! This hike takes you to the 80-foot-high Laurel Falls – a stunning sight that gets even better if you make the trip in May when the mountain laurel surrounding the falls is in bloom.
If you’ve considered hiking in the Smokies, you’re sure to have heard of the hike to Mt. LeConte. The Alum Cave Trail hike (check out Arch Rock), leading past the Alum Cave Bluffs, to Mt. LeConte is easily one of the more challenging hikes here, but it also offers some of the most diverse views along the way. Unique geological features, a cave, trees, wildlife, wildflowers, backcountry camping, the historic LeConte Lodge, and more…it’s all there!
Porters Creek Trail
This easy 4-mile (roundtrip) trail is one of several wildflower walks recommended by the National Park Service in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You’ll get to see everything from bloodroot to violets to white trilliums on this nature trail. You’ll also get to see a cascading stream, a lush old-growth forest, and several centuries-old establishments of the early settlers in the area. The trail begins out of Greenbrier just east of Gatlinburg.
There’s so much you can do in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park besides hiking, too, to keep your body active and to enjoy the great outdoors. Horseback riding, swimming, bicycling, and fishing are just a few of the activities the park has for you to enjoy. Be sure to plan your visit to the park the next time you visit the Smokies!
Getting its name from the rainbow created by the mist of this 80-foot waterfall, Rainbow Falls is a must-see in the Smokies. The rainbow can be seen on sunny days, while winter weather brings an icy showcase. With a 1,500 foot elevation gain and 5.4 miles roundtrip, this hike is considered moderately difficult. To summit Mount LeConte, follow the trail about 4 miles past the waterfall! Start the trailhead in the Roaring Fork area/parking lot and prepare for about 3-5 hours of a challenging hike.
Late spring boasts an awesome mountain laurel display, while other parts of the year offer views of North Carolina (on clear days) after a 5-mile hike. About 1.2 miles farther down the trail, you’ll have panoramic views from Rocky Top, looking out at Fontana Lake, Cades Cove, Townsend, Maryville, and more.
Area Visitor Centers
Cades Cove Visitor Center
Clingmans Dome Visitor Contact Station
Oconaluftee Visitor Center
Sugarlands Visitor Center
GEAR + FOOD + MORE FOR A HIKER ON THE SMOKY MOUNTAIN TRAILS
Although the area is well-known for its many attractions, restaurants, and shops, the Smokies has received its fame through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There are 800+ miles of trails to explore in the park, so lace up your boots and get ready for your hiker’s getaway in the Smokies!
Nantahala Outdoor Center Gatlinburg | 1138 Parkway | Gatlinburg
This 18,000-square-foot outdoor outfitter has everything you could need for a day (or weeks) on the trails. There is an entire 1,000 square feet of The North Face gear in The North Face Summit Shop, and top brands like Patagonia, Columbia, Mountain Hardware, Osprey, MSR, Chaco, Keen Footwear, Vasque, and Black Diamond Equipment are also carried at NOC.
Throughout the store, find the clothing, gear, and accessories you need for adult and kid hikers in a variety of price ranges. Grab backpacks, hiking poles, tents and sleeping bags, jackets, hiking boots, sandals, hydration packs and water bottles, dried foods and trail snacks, hiking socks, and everything from lightweight clothing for summer days on the trails to heavy-duty gear for winter hiking.
Day Hiker | 634 Parkway #1 | Village Shoppes | Gatlinburg
Tucked among the European-style shops of The Village in the heart of downtown Gatlinburg, Day Hiker is a cozy shop that packs a lot into a small space. It’s all about hiking in this 2-story shop, with hiking poles, hats, sunscreen and sunglasses, water bottles and hydration packs, backpacks, t-shirts, wooden hiking sticks, lightweight to heavy-duty hiking socks, hiking shoes and boots, water shoes, first-aid kits, picnic supplies, and so much more.
GSM Outfitters LLC | 3275 Wears Valley Rd | Sevierville
Michael and Heather Shepperd’s love for the outdoors and the mountains is what led them to open the local GSM Outfitters LLC. They carry top brands with the gear you need for a hiking getaway, from backpacks and shoes to clothing and beyond. Stop in to meet the local owners and pick up brands like Chacos, Buff, Columbia, Darn Tough, Eno, Exefficio, Grand Trunk Keen, Marmot, Gregory, Osprey, Patagonia, PrAna, Mountainsmith, Teva, and True Grit. Supports of Appalachian Bear Rescue and The Great Smoky Mountain Association, they’re also a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the Great Smoky Mountains!
Refueling for the Hiking Trails
After a long day hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains, you’ll be ready to refuel and get some rest in your cozy cabin. There are dozens of restaurants to choose from, giving you plenty of options for filling up and refueling after a challenging hike. Need a few ideas? Check out:
- Homestyle sides and Tennessee BBQ at Calhoun’s Restaurant
- A burger and locally brewed beer at Smoky Mountain Brewery
- A big breakfast at Crockett’s Breakfast Camp after an early-morning hike
- Apple fritters and a Southern-style meal at Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant
- A family-style dinner at Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen at The Island
- Pizza and beer at Big Daddy’s Pizzeria
- A treat-yourself dinner at The Peddler Steakhouse
Refueling after a hike also means getting the rest your body needs. We have hundreds of cabins to choose from, perfect for kicking up your feet and unwinding after a long day on the trails. Browse by amenity – mountain views, hot tubs, and more – or check out our 1-2 bedroom cabins that are great for a hiker’s getaway. Whether you’re here on your own or with a few friends, they have the amenities and space you’ll need to relax.
Guided Hikes in the Smoky Mountains
If you’re excited to hike but need some help, consider a guided hike! There are several great options for guided hikes in the Smokies, ensuring everyone can have a safe and enjoyable experience on the trails.
The pros at Smoky Mountain Guides know the area, so they have you covered for small groups, families, corporate retreats, and more. They’ve been featured on the History Channel, TravelChannel.com, and Travel Mindset and offer guided hikes, driving tours, wildflower hikes, Appalachian Trail trips, fly fishing trips, and more!
A Walk in the Woods is a top-rated tour guide service in the Smoky Mountains. They have been awarded the Certificate of Excellence by TripAdvisor several years – even guiding Travel Channels’ Samantha Brown on a 4-day adventure into the Smokies! Learn about Cherokee and Appalachian history, walk where early residents did, choose a variety of hike lengths (1 hour, multi-hour, half day, and full day), enjoy gorgeous fall colors, stop by waterfalls, and much more!
100 Years of National Parks | 2016 Celebration
2016 marked an important anniversary for the National Park Service—100 years! According to the National Park Service website, on August 25, 2016, the National Park Service Centennial celebrated a full century of maintaining America’s national parks for community recreation, conservation, and historic preservation.
When you visit Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge, you’ll have one of those national parks right in your backyard. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the U.S. with more than 9 million visitors each year. This park features exciting activities for all its guests to enjoy throughout the year, including picnicking, biking, swimming, fishing, birdwatching, horseback riding, and wildlife viewing.
In 2016, the NPS kicked off the Hike 100 challenge extended by the Park Superintendent to hike 100 miles of park trails by the end of the year. It’s a great challenge to try, even if the 100 year celebration is over!