16 Must do Hiking Trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park encompasses an 522,427 acre area of Tennessee and North Carolina. In 2018, over 11.4 million outdoor enthusiasts roamed from the valleys to the peaks of the Smokies. Contents of the national park include 70 miles of the Appalachian Trail, the LeConte Lodge, about 800 miles of trails, camping sites, 2,100 miles of streams, and an abundance of wildlife and nature.
The following list has been compiled of some of the best hikes within the park to help you plan your Smoky Mountain National Park adventures.
The most popular section of this trail within the park is from Newfound Gap to Charlies Bunion. This is an 8 mile round trip hike which offers some of the best views in the park at Charlies Bunion.
Clingmans Dome is one of the most visited spots in the park as it is the highest point there. The endless views offer sights that are simply unmatched. The sunrises are often breathtaking and the sunsets reveal the Blue Ridge Mountains that will leave you wishing you could soak in the view every night. At just 1 mile round trip it is easy to see why this is one of the most visited spots in the national park.
The hike to Mount Cammerer is in the top three best hikes in the park. Once you reach the summit, you are blessed with an ocean of incredible views. There is a lookout tower up there as well to enhance the views you are soaking in. The tower was build back in 1937 and is still open for exploring. It also makes a great place to take shelter if you get caught in the rain or snow; or simply want to take a nap before heading back down.
Alum Cave Trail
If you are looking to go a hike with views after views, the Alum Cave Trail is a perfect hiking trail for just that. The journey also features tranquil cascades, and the shortest access to Mount LeConte by the Alum Cave Bluffs.
Cades Cove Loop
This is one of the trails that you are allowed to drive on, but, we do not recommend it. If you hike it, run it, or bike it you will get to enjoy the Cades Cove experience, if you drive it, it all goes by too fast. We also recommend going for the full 11 mile loop which gives you a good taste of the historic building sites and opportunity to view wildlife.
The 8 mile round trip hike to the tallest waterfall in the park is well worth it. The hike itself is beautiful as you pass through the park’s largest old-growth forest.
Thunderhead Mountain & Rocky Top
This is a challenging hike that has some absolutely stunning views. Once you get there you will probably start singing the “Rocky Top, you’ll always be home sweet home to me” lyrics; it is just that good.
Gregory Bald & Shuckstack Fire Tower
When you feel the need to test your fear of heights, this trail is a good one to do just that. When you reach the summit, you will have a 360 degree view of the surroundings. The height fear test comes in by climbing the almost 100 year old, 78 stair fire tower.
Mount Sterling Via Big Creek Loop
Reaching the summit of Mount Sterling by taking the Big Creek Loop trail is one of the hardest hikes in the park. But the views at the top make the journey well worth its’ difficulties. If you are not looking for a challenging 17 mile hike but still want to reach the summit of Mount Sterling, you can opt to take a 2.7 mile trail that leads directly there.
Mount LeConte Via Trillium Gap and Boulevard
When you want to experience it all in just one hike, pick this one. The hiking trail features a waterfall, amazing views, the LeConte Lodge, and the Appalachian trail. If you decide to do this one, you also need to decide if you want to shuttle portions of it, or make a really long day out of it.
Abrams Falls Trail
This is a waterfall hike that we recommend either combining with the Cades Cove Loop or just make it a weekend adventure by camping out at the Cades Cove Campgrounds.
Andrews Bald is a great destination if you are looking to add some extra millage to your Clingmans Dome visit. The Forney Ridge Trail leaves directly from the parking lot, and you can continue on the trail from the bald.
The Chimney Tops trail is only 2 miles long but ascends up 1,375 feet. This short hiking trail is one that will not only get your heart pumping but will leave you in awe as you gaze upon the views from the top.
Middle Prong Trail
Middle Prong Trail is a great beginner hiking trail that is filled with history and waterfalls. Plus, bonus points if you find the 100 year old Cadillac left behind by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Deep Creek Loop
The Deep Creek Loop will journey you to three of the park’s beautiful waterfalls. In the summer months, cool off with a lazy tubing trip down the river.
Little River Trail
Little River Trail is an easy riverside hiking trail that is just perfect for a casual stroll through the mountains. Bring the kids along for a hunt of some of the park;s famous salamanders near the creek too.