The Great Smoky Mountains National Park attracts more visitors than any other national park in the country. Its popularity is largely attributed to the park’s array of hiking trails, spanning more than 800 miles. So you will find an appropriate trail regardless of your age or hiking experience.
If you have never been to the Smokys, it could be difficult to narrow down the options. To make your life easier, we have listed some of the best hiking trails below:
1. The Appalachian Trail
This famous trail traverses the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for more than 71 miles. The Appalachian trail accesses the park through Fontana Dam in the south and departs through Davenport Gap in the northeast. The summit of Clingmans Dome stands at an elevation of 6625 feet, making it the highest point along the entire trek. In addition to traveling past Charlie’s Bunion and Rocky Top, the trail also goes by several other prominent Smoky Mountain locations.
Most hikers spend seven days completing the Appalachian Trail through the Smoky Mountains. Thankfully, the long trek is made easier by the great accomodations available throughout the Smokys. You just have to Google Great Smokys cabin rentals to view all the amazing options you have. To aid hikers in navigating the Appalachian Trail, a series of painted symbols called “blazes” are affixed to trees, poles, and rocks at regular intervals. Even though there are some minor regional differences, most hikers get the gist of the scheme rather quickly.
2. Middle Prong Trail
This hike offers a little bit of everything in terms of scenic diversity. Lynn Camp Prong Cascades, Indian Flats Falls, and Lynn Camp Falls are the three most well-known waterfalls along the Middle Prong Trail. Although the 8.3-mile round-trip distance makes this trail a bit challenging, the stunning waterfalls, fascinating history, and hidden gems along the way more than make up for it.
The settlement that the trail winds through was one of the first logging communities in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park 100 years ago. The trailhead is located off Upper Tremont Road and will eventually take hikers to the intersection of the Greenbrier Ridge. The Middle Prong Trail often witnesses bear activity, particularly during autumn. As you wander through the woods, keep your eyes peeled for interesting sights.
3. Andrews Bald
Andrews Bald is a 3.5-mile round-trip hike that starts close to Clingmans Dome. It is a moderately strenuous climb with an elevation gain of 899 feet. As you trek through the forest, be sure to pause and take in the sounds of nature that can occasionally be heard breaking the solitude. The expansive grassy meadow of Andrews Bald provides stunning panoramas of the surrounding Smoky Mountains.
You can also enjoy the scenic vistas of nearby Fontana Lake. This is an excellent spot to eat lunch during your hiking excursion. The trail will wear you out if you are not an experienced hiker. However, it will also provide you with all you could hope for in a Great Smoky Mountains trek. The bald is most famous for its abundant flame azaleas, a flower whose name is befitting of its fiery orange color. Plan your hike in July to see these stunning flowers at their optimum bloom time.
4. Mt. Cammerer
A hike up Mount Cammerer will reward you with stunning views and fascinating historical landmarks. The hike has 3,045 feet of elevation gain for a round-trip of 11.1 miles. The track crests at a lofty 5,054 feet. You will get the opportunity to take in breathtaking views from the Sutton Ridge Overlook, which also features some fun ridge-top climbing.
The Mount Cammerer fire tower, a historic lookout building, offering solace amidst the tranquility of nature, is the ultimate prize for your efforts. It is a great hike year-round, but the summer months make the venture especially stunning due to the profusion of rhododendrons along the trail.
5. Chimney Tops
It is a quick but strenuous climb up to the Chimney Tops. The well-kept trail starts with two bridges that pass over the river. To see the amazing flora above and the lovely waterfalls, make your way down to the rocks below. Keep going up the route, and you will reach a third bridge, followed by what seems like an unending flight of dirt stairs. Though you may be exhausted and sweating by the time you reach the summit, the fantastic vistas are well worth the effort.
There is a barred fence and a notice stating not to venture further than 100 yards from this lookout. Great Smoky Mountains and neighboring Gatlinburg were devastated by a massive forest fire that was sparked by two children throwing matches from Chimney Tops. Before that blaze, the climb was four miles round trip. Unfortunately, the last quarter of a mile is closed due to ongoing trail maintenance.
6. Cades Cove
The 11-mile-long route through Cades Cove is accessible to pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists alike. This road is closed to motor vehicles on Wednesdays. So if you want to ride your bicycle or go for a walk without worrying about cars, this is the best time to visit Cades Cove. Also, Saturdays between 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. are vehicle-free hours. Along this section, you will see stunning scenery and a plethora of native plant and animal species. On your excursion around Cades Cove, you may spot deer, wild turkeys, and bears.
Those pressed for time should be aware of the probable large crowd. Due to the high volume of visitors, this section of the park is ideal for an early morning visit. Stop into the Cades Cove Visitor Center, located roughly midway through the route, to learn more about Cades Cove.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a paradise for nature lovers. There is an abundance of flora and fauna, including waterfalls, panoramic mountain vistas, and colorful wildflowers. The best way to immerse yourself in the beauty of Smokys is to take one of the hiking trails covered in this blog!