With numerous Smoky Mountain hiking trails to choose from, which ones provide the best Smoky Mountain hikes? These 7 Smoky Mountain trails are perfect for any skill level…
No matter what the calendar says, hiking in the Smoky Mountains remains nearly everyone’s favorite activity.
Even when the occasional snow falls in winter, most of the Smoky Mountain trails that crisscross the GMSNP remain open. So even if you are planning a winter visit to the area, a hike can remain on your list of must-dos.
The best Smoky Mountain hiking trails aren’t necessarily the toughest or the longest. If you’re looking for Smoky Mountain hikes that suit any fitness level, you certainly won’t have trouble finding several that will still afford outstanding picture-worthy scenery.
Consider these seven Smoky Mountain hiking trails when you want to go on a trek suitable for almost everyone in your traveling party…
Bryson City, North Carolina
On this quick but breath-stealing 1.8-mile hike, you’ll begin at the Clingmans Dome parking lot. It also is a bit deceptive – you’ll begin by descending on the trail, crossing a ridge, then climbing the final portion to get to the “bald,” or open meadow.
The trail itself is also a bit rugged with small boulders and rain runoff. But once you get to the top, take a moment to rest and absorb the beautiful Smoky Mountain views surrounding you.
What an incredible 1.8-mile hike in and another 1.8 miles out. This trail has it all with beautiful wood frame squares that look like stairs but with the natural trail still below your feet. These eventually tapered off and you are left with a lot of downhill hiking on a rugged path.
Make sure to stop along your hike and listen to the silence of the forest that is occasionally broken by the sounds of nature. This trail will leave you tired if you’re a casual hiker but it will also offer you exactly what you’re looking for when you imagine hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains!
Count on about an hour in and an hour out and if you’re slow like me an hour and fifteen each way!
– Kristine B.
Kephart Prong Trail
Bryson City, North Carolina
One of the most family-friendly Smoky Mountain hiking trails, Kephart Prong runs approximately 2.0 miles to a shelter. It crosses the creek four times over sturdy log bridges and offers several fascinating historic sites along the way.
In addition to the shelter at the trail’s end, you’ll also notice what remains of the Civilian Conservation Corps’ Depression-era camp and old fish hatchery.
Love Kephart Prong. It is a gorgeous 4-mile round trip hike with the best of everything the Smokies has to offer; roaring mountain streams, CCC history, and quaint footbridges. It is a moderate mountain trail, but a bit rocky…
This is a great trail if you have already done a bunch of strenuous hiking and just want some simple nature time. If you want zen this trail is it!
Porters Creek Trail
Another one of the most popular hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains that is suitable for all ages and abilities, Porters Creek shares a similar settlement history to Cades Cove. The difference here is you’ll see mostly remnants of homesteads as well as an old cemetery.
The brief 1.0-mile trail begins at the Greenbriar Cove and winds through the cove hardwood forest and ends at a cantilevered barn and cabin, giving visitors a good representation of how life was in the 19th century.
I have been through the Smokies about 30 times in my life. But this was my first time on this trail. I will come back often! It is past the Greenbriar picnic area (a gem in itself!) The trail will follow Porters Creek.
Take a detour to some historic log cabins, one of which sheltered the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club. Other log edifices include a homestead and a cantilevered barn. At the 2-mile mark, you will reach Fern Branch Falls, a 60-foot cascade.
– Kathy D.
Part of the famed Appalachian Trail, this trek begins with an immediate ascent from the Newfound Gap parking lot.
About 4.0 miles later, it ends up along a high elevation ridge that takes you to a distinctive rocky outcropping named after an actual man named Charlie Conner who had a real bunion that looked like the rocks.
His companion made sure that the area formerly known as Fodderstack could be rechristened in his friend’s honor.
The view is worth the hike. It took us about 3.5 hours out and back and we spent about 45 minutes eating lunch and enjoying the view. This is a fairly easy to moderate hike. Conditions are wet and muddy. You will be rewarded with 250-degree views of the Smoky’.
Go straight up the Appalachian Trail. Typical terrain for AT – rocky and wet. We arrived at 830 and there was plenty of parking. Take your pic at the Tennessee North Carolina border.
Rainbow Falls Trail
Another of the most popular trails in the Smoky Mountains that eventually leads to Mt. LeConte, you’ll find what’s almost the rainbow’s end here, or at least its waterfall equivalent.
Crossing several bridges over LeConte Creek, it then ascends through a series of switchbacks and an elevation gain of 1,700 feet.
While that may sound daunting, the view of the 80-foot Smoky Mountain waterfalls will be worth the effort. In winter, they may also take on an hourglass shape when frozen.
It took our family of 4 (2 kids ages 5&8) about 4 hours round trip. We actually got engaged at Rainbow Falls 12 years prior and wanted to hike it with our kids. It’s a nice trail, but without much spring color and lots of dead/downed trees.
The waterfall is spectacular. The trail is uphill pretty much the whole way in, so we came prepared with lots of water, candy, & snacks for the kids.
– Sara B.
The “chimneys” here are pinnacle rocks that are the reward for a steep 2.0-mile climb with a clear view of Mount LeConte. The trailhead is located about 6.7 miles from the Sugarlands Visitor Center.
After crossing some fast-moving streams several times, you’ll climb a total of 1,400 feet to the view mentioned above. Be sure to take caution on the trail, which can be slippery when icy conditions exist.
The Chimney Tops Trail is perhaps, my favorite trail in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The river views from the bridges at the trailhead are amazing, but they are only the beginning of the beautiful adventure that awaits all who dare to traverse the challenging climb to the top.
The views at the top literally take your breath away and the journey to get there is one that you will never forget.
Editor’s Note: Due to fires in recent years, the rock on the top of the chimneys has become unstable. Please check the GSMNP website for the most up-to-date trail conditions and practice safe-hiking protocol.
This trail represents the beginning of the more difficult Mt. LeConte trail and runs 2.5 miles from the trailhead to the Arch Rock and the famous cave bluffs.
If you visit this popular destination during the winter, you’ll probably witness some spectacular icicle formations draped on the bluff’s ledges. However, take caution that these icicles can fall at any time.
Be sure to bring a camera along to capture the fabulous Smoky Mountain view at Inspiration Point.
This is a popular hike for a good reason. It is a beautiful hike up and you can even continue to Mount LeConte. I tried to make it to LeConte but it was foggy as I went higher. I did not want to go all the way up and be unable to see anything. Nevertheless, I was able to get nice views from Alum Cave Trail. The walk along the stream was pleasant.
Go early because when I came back to my car there was no parking left. This was a cloudy and rainy day too, so I could only imagine what a sunny day is like. Alum Cave Trail is worth it and it is a moderate hike, in my opinion. If you do not have a lot of hiking experience it could be challenging.
– John B.
Interactive Map of Smoky Mountain Trails
Click on the interactive map of Smoky Mountain trails below to find the best Smoky Mountain hikes near you!
More Adrenaline-Pumping Things to Do in the Smokies
When you’ve conquered the best Smoky Mountains hikes, don’t miss the other adrenaline-pumping things to do in the Smokies! Add white water rafting, horseback riding, and more to your Smoky Mountains getaway.
Smoky Mountain hiking trail reviews from TripAdvisor and Google