The 17 Best Hikes in the Smoky Mountains

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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.

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 some of the highest peaks in the U.S, 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.

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Hiking the Smoky Mountains

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Rainbow Falls Trail

Rainbow Falls Trail - Hiking in the Smokies
Rainbow Falls

Distance: 5.4 mile round-trip

Elevation: 1,500 feet

Difficulty: Medium

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. This is one of the best trails to try out when hiking the Smokies.

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Kephart Prong Trail

The Kephart Prong Trail is magical during Fall.

Distance: 4.2 miles round

Elevation: 833 feet

Difficulty: Easy

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

The entrance to the Alum Cave - Hiking the Smoky Mountains

Distance: 11 miles round trip

Elevation: 2,700 feet

Difficulty: Hard

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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.

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Clingmans Dome

Clingmans Dome is a great place to enjoy epic views of the Smokies.

Distance: 1 miles round trip

Elevation: 330 feet

Difficulty: Easy

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 the whole family can join in the fun.

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Chimney Tops

Chimney Tops - Hiking the Smoky Mountains.

Distance: 3.8 mile round trip

Elevation: 1,500 feet

Difficulty: Hard

Trailhead: The trailhead is located 6.7 miles 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 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

Hikers at Andrew Bald - Hiking the Smoky Mountains.

Distance: 4 mile round trip

Elevation: 850 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

Trailhead: South side of the Clingmans Dome parking lot.

Located near Clingmans Dome, Andrews Bald is a magnificent 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.

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Abrams Falls

Abrams Falls - Hiking the Smoky Mountains.

Distance: 5.2 mile round trip

Elevation: 630 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

Trailhead: About 5 miles along the Cades Cove Loop Road.

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, the rushing water and beautiful pool at its base make it well worth a visit. The Cades Cove Campground is close by and a perfect place to stay if you want to extend your adventure.

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Goldmine Loop Trail

Abandoned cabin on the Goldmine Loop Trail on the Road to Nowhere.

Distance: 3.2 mile round trip

Elevation: 700 feet

Difficulty: Easy

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. You’ll pass through a 365 foot paved two-lane tunnel, which is one of the highlights of the hike. There are also plenty of old farms to see and a few streamlets to cross, making this a wonderful hike.

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Mount Cammerer

Mount Cammerer has amazing views.

Distance: 11.8 mile round trip

Elevation: 3,000 feet

Difficulty: Hard

Trailhead: The hike starts from the Low Gap Trailhead in the Cosby Campground.

If you’re looking for 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 make it to the top. One of the highlights of this hike is the stone fire tower at the summit. Make sure to bring all the essentials for this day-long trek.

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Ramsey Cascades

Ramsey Cascades is a must-see when hiking the Smokies.

Distance: 8 mile round trip

Elevation: 2,200 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

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.

Hiking the Smoky Mountains is the perfect activity for the outdoorsy. 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, silverbells and old-growth hardwood forest that you’ll pass on your way.

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Charlies Bunion

Charlies Bunion is part of the Appalachian Trail and offers amazing views.

Distance: 8 mile round trip

Elevation: 1,600 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

Trailhead: The trail starts from the NewFoundland Gap parking area.

Charlies Bunion is part of the Appalachian Trail from Newfound Gap. It’s not a trail to be missed when hiking the Smokies. The elevation is gradual, and you’ll trek through beautiful wildflowers and up to a rocky ridge with the most amazing views.

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Bote Mountain Trail

Distance: 13.3 mile round trip

Elevation: 3,500 feet

Difficulty: Hard

Trailhead: The trail begins on Laurel Creek Road.

This trail is a nature lover’s dream 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 stunning views of Thunderhead and Defeat Ridge.

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Silers Bald

Hike up to the top of Silers Bald and be amazed by the wildflowers.
Wildflowers at Silers Bald

Distance: 10 mile round trip

Elevation: 2,200 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

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.

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The Gatlinburg Trail

Distance: 3.8 mile round trip

Elevation: 160 feet

Difficulty: Easy

Trailhead: Starts at the Sugarlands Visitor Center.

The Gatlinburg Trail is the perfect family-friendly hike. 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

Distance: 5.4 mile round trip

Elevation: 2,000 feet

Difficulty: Hard

Trailhead: The trailhead for the Mount Sterling Trail is located at Mount Sterling Gap.

This is a great trail to try out 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

Porters Creek is an easy, family-friendly trail.

Distance: 7 mile round trip

Elevation: 1,500 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

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

Mingo Falls is a must-see when hiking the Smoky Mountains.

Distance: 0.5 mile round trip

Elevation: 100 feet

Difficulty: Easy

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.

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, a vacation home with beautiful views and amazing comfort.

Or consider staying at an Airbnb (my favourite choice for stays of two or more nights). You’ll find everything like this gorgeous Lodge at Ski Mountain that has a hot tub or this treehouse located in a serene forest.

Be sure to check out all our recommended Airbnbs near the Smoky Mountains here.

Hiking the Smoky Mountains is the perfect way to get your nature fix in any season.

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