Hiking the Smoky Mountains is an experience not to be missed, especially if you love adventure. There’s no shortage of great trails for every level of hiker.
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Hiking the Smoky Mountains should be high up on your list of things to do if you love adventure. The Smokies are one of the best attractions that Tennessee has to offer.
Besides having high peaks, this incredible national park also offers plenty of wildflower fields, unique old-growth forests and waterfalls.
Whether you’re trying out a portion of the Appalachian or a family-friendly hike, there is something for every hiker, making it a popular destination.
It’s also why it’s so popular for horseback riding.
Rainbow Falls Trail
Distance: 5.4 mile round-trip
Elevation: 1,500 feet
Trailhead: Rainbow Falls Trail can be accessed from Cherokee Orchard Road.
This is an excellent waterfall hike in the Smoky Mountains. The 80-foot-high waterfall is well worth the elevation gain. If you have time, hike up to the summit of Mount LeConte, it’s just another 4 miles.
Rainbow Falls trail is one of the best trails to try out when hiking the Smokies. A popular trail among enthusiasts. You can even stay at the LeConte Lodge which is the highest guest lodge in the eastern United States.
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Kephart Prong Trail
Distance: 4.2 miles round
Elevation: 833 feet
Trailhead: The trail can be found on Highway 441 – 8.8 miles from Newfound Gap and 5 miles north of Smokemount.
Hiking the Smoky Mountains isn’t complete without trying out at least one of the many historic trails. The Kephart Prong Trail is an easy hike, great for all levels.
The area was once heavily logged but has recovered, creating a beautiful mix of trees and flowers that will leave you awe-struck. On your way, you’ll pass the remnants of the old logging railway and the 1933 Civilian Conservation Corps camp area.
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Alum Cave Trail to Mount LeConte
Distance: 11 miles round trip
Elevation: 2,700 feet
Trailhead: The trailhead parking lot is located about 8.7 miles from Gatlinburg, south on the Newfound Gap Road.
Not a hike for the faint of heart, the Alum Cave Trail is an exciting path to Mount LeConte’s summit. You won’t find a better place to enjoy the beautiful views of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The views from LeConte’s peak are a spectacular treat that should be on your bucket list when hiking the Smokies. Make sure to get your camera ready at all times!
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Distance: 1 mile round trip
Elevation: 330 feet
Trailhead: The trailhead can be found on Clingmans Dome Road in the large parking area.
At 6,643 feet, Clingman’s Dome is Tennessee’s highest peak. It is a must-see when hiking in the Smoky Mountains; the views from the observation deck speak for themselves.
The best thing about this hike is that it’s a great hike for families and for new hikers, even if you’re out of shape. There are different ways you can hike to Clingmans Dome ranging from easy to challenging.
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Chimney Tops Hike
Distance: 3.8 mile round trip
Elevation: 1,500 feet
Trailhead: A 6.7-mile hike from the Sugarlands Visitor Centre.
Hiking in the Smokies is the perfect way to experience the beautiful topography that this mountain range has to offer. Chimney Tops trail will give you just such an experience. There are plenty of views to be appreciated if you’re up to this challenging hike.
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Andrews Bald Trail
Distance: 4 mile round trip
Elevation: 850 feet
Trailhead: South side of the Clingmans Dome parking lot.
Located near the Clingmans Dome Hike, Andrews Bald is a magnificent paved trail to try when hiking the Smoky Mountains. Make your way up the highest grassy bald in the area to discover unrivalled views.
The route is popular for bird watching and gorgeous wildflower fields.
Abrams Falls Hike
Distance: 5.2 mile round trip
Elevation: 630 feet
Trailhead: About 5 miles along the Cades Cove Loop Road.
Abram Falls may not be the tallest waterfall but for a relaxing hike that includes a beautiful waterfall, the Abrams Falls trail is the perfect pick. The path is well-marked and easy, ideal for families.
Although Abrams Falls is just 20 feet high, it’s a beautiful waterfall trail with its rushing water and glistening pool that makes it well worth a visit. The Cades Cove Campground is close by and a perfect place to stay if you want to extend your day hikes.
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Goldmine Loop Trail
Distance: 3.2 mile round trip
Elevation: 700 feet
Trailhead: From Bryson City, take Everett Street / Fontana Road three miles
north to Lakeview Drive.
One of the shorter trails on the Lakeshore Trail on the Road to Nowhere in Bryson City. This route is great for casual hiking in the Smokies and hiking with school-aged children. You’ll pass through a 365-foot paved two-lane tunnel, one of the hike’s highlights.
There are also plenty of old farms to see and a few streamlets to cross, making this a wonderful hike.
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Distance: 11.8-mile round trip
Elevation: 3,000 feet
Trailhead: The hike starts from the Low Gap Trailhead in the Cosby Campground.
If you’re looking for scenic views and strenuous hiking in the Smoky Mountains, the hike to Mount Cammerer is a perfect choice. This is a great hike to challenge yourself and be rewarded by exceptional views once you reach the top. One of the highlights of this hike is the stone fire tower at the summit.
Make sure to bring all the hiking essentials for this day-long trek. Make sure to have your cameras ready too! The panoramic views here are just breathtaking to behold!
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Ramsey Cascades Trail
Distance: 8-mile round trip
Elevation: 2,200 feet
Trailhead: From Gatlinburg, you can take Highway 321 to Greenbrier Road. Continue south and turn left at the fork in the road. The trailhead is located at the end of this road.
For the adventurous hiker, Ramsey Cascades is the perfect trail.
You’ll find yourself amazed by the tallest waterfalls in the park, not to mention the beautiful tulip trees, silver bells and old-growth hardwood forest that you’ll pass on your hike. There are no historic buildings, just the magnificent outdoors.
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Charlies Bunion Trail
Distance: 8 mile round trip
Elevation: 1,600 feet
The trail starts from the Newfound land Gap parking area.
Charlies Bunion is part of the Appalachian Trail from Newfound Gap. It’s not one of the hiking trails to be missed when hiking the Smokies.
Don’t let the ascent scare you off, as the elevation gain is gradual. The trek through beautiful wildflowers and up to a rocky ridge showcases one of the most amazing views.
Bote Mountain Trail
Distance: 13.3 mile round trip
Elevation: 3,500 feet
Trailhead: The trail begins on Laurel Creek Road.
This paved path of a trail is a nature lover’s dream. A popular hiking trail among hikers as it gives you plenty of opportunities to see brilliant birds and wildflowers.
The elevation is well worth it once you’ve reached the peak. You’ll be encompassed by incredible views of Thunderhead and Defeat Ridge. The perfect mixture of a strenuous hike and spectacular views!
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Distance: 10 mile round trip
Elevation: 2,200 feet
Trailhead: The trail starts at the Clingmans Dome parking lot.
The trail to Silers Bald begins from Clingmans Dome and continues through beautiful trees.
While you trek, you’ll have constant glimpses of Mount Buckley. Make your way through The Narrows to find yourself surrounded by views of Fontana Lake.
The Gatlinburg Trail
Distance: 3.8-mile round trip
Elevation: 160 feet
Trailhead: Starts at the Sugarlands Visitor Center.
Make your way along the Little Pigeon River and enjoy the beautiful outskirts of Gatlinburg. The trail is also dog-friendly and open to cyclists.
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Mt. Sterning Hike
Distance: 5.4-mile round trip
Elevation: 2,000 feet
Trailhead: The trailhead for the Mount Sterling Trail is located at Mount Sterling Gap.
I recommend trying out Mt Sterning when hiking the Smoky Mountains. It’s a strenuous trek up to the top of Mount Sterling but a memorable one.
Pass by a beautiful river and stop off at the historic steel fire lookout tower for amazing views.
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Porters Creek Trail
Distance: 7-mile round trip
Elevation: 1,500 feet
Trailhead: Take Greenbrier Road to the bridge and then follow Porters Creek Road to the trailhead.
A beautiful multi-use trail, Porters Creek is a must-see when hiking the Smoky Mountains. Pass by a waterfall on your way, as well as the remnants of a community that lived there during the late 1700s.
Although the path is not the shortest, it’s still excellent for the whole family.
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Mingo Falls Trail
Distance: 0.5 mile round trip
Elevation: 100 feet
Trailhead: The trailhead begins at the Mingo Falls Campground.
Among the tallest in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Mingo Falls is worth a visit.
This easy trail is perfect for families and beginners and is even dog-friendly. Look out for closures to some sections of the falls, depending on conditions.
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Where to Stay
You’ll find a wide array of choices of where to stay near the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. If you’re looking for luxury, check out Mountain Memories, vacation home with beautiful views and amazing comfort. Make sure to plan in advance for reservations, check the weather forecast, expect panoramic views everywhere you go and taking some bear spray won’t hurt too.
Be sure to check out all our recommended VRBOs and Airbnbs near the Smoky Mountains here.
Before hiking, check for trail conditions, and closures with the park site. Doing so can make a big difference and also helps keep you safe.