Best Hikes
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20 Popular Hikes in the Smokies You Need to Experience

With millions of visitors each year, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers something for everyone from panoramic views and incredible wildlife viewing to fishing and unforgettable hikes. The park is home to a diverse range of hiking trails that cater to all levels of hikers, from easy walks to challenging backcountry treks.

Here’s a list of some of the most popular hikes in the Smokies:

Alum Cave Trail to Mount LeConte
Alum Cave Trail to Mount LeConte | photo via bbrianmarkk

Alum Cave Trail to Mount LeConte

A challenging hike offering diverse landscapes, including Arch Rock, Inspiration Point, and Alum Cave Bluffs, leading up to the summit of Mount LeConte.

The Alum Cave Trail to Mount LeConte is a popular hiking route known for its diverse landscapes and scenic views. Stretching about 5 miles to the summit of Mount LeConte, the trail features notable landmarks such as Arch Rock, Inspiration Point, and the Alum Cave Bluffs.

Hikers encounter steep sections, narrow pathways, and changing weather conditions, making it a moderately difficult hike. The trail offers insights into the area’s history and geology, including the unique aluminous soil at the bluffs. It’s a preferred route for reaching Mount LeConte’s summit, attracting hikers with its beauty and challenges.

Andrews Bald-GSMNP
Andrews Bald | photo via sarah.sc11

Andrews Bald

An easier hike that leads to a beautiful grassy bald with outstanding panoramic views, especially in June when the flame azaleas are in bloom.

Hiking to Andrews Bald involves a 3.5-mile round trip on the Forney Ridge Trail, starting from the Clingmans Dome parking area. This trail descends through spruce-fir forests, leading to Andrews Bald, a high-elevation grassy bald known for its panoramic views and seasonal wildflower displays.

The hike is considered moderate in difficulty, with rocky and root-filled paths that can be muddy after rain. The trail has been improved with log steps and drainage systems to protect the area from erosion. Andrews Bald is the park’s highest bald and offers a unique ecosystem and stunning vistas.

Charlies Bunion

A moderate to difficult hike along the Appalachian Trail offering spectacular views of the mountains from a rocky outcrop.

The hike to Charlies Bunion — a prominent rock outcropping with dramatic views — is an 8-mile round trip journey along the Appalachian Trail, starting from the Newfound Gap parking area. This route is renowned for its rugged terrain, featuring steep climbs and rocky paths. The trail offers sweeping views of the surrounding mountains and dense forests.

The hike is considered challenging due to its elevation gain and trail roughness and evokes a sense of accomplishment for those who reach it. Along the way, hikers can enjoy the diversity of the Appalachian highlands, including potential sightings of wildlife and seasonal wildflowers.

Chimney Tops

A strenuous hike that rewards with one of the most iconic views in the park.

The Chimney Tops trail is a 4-mile round trip hike, known for its steep ascent and spectacular panoramic views. Starting from the Newfound Gap Road, the trail climbs through a forested area, crossing streams and offering glimpses of the surrounding mountains. The final ascent to the Chimney Tops pinnacles involves a challenging scramble over rocky terrain.

The trailhead’s elevation gain of 1,400 feet makes it a strenuous hike, recommended for experienced hikers. Due to damage from wildfires, the last section leading directly to the pinnacles is closed, but a newly constructed viewing platform near the end provides stunning views of the Chimney Tops and the surrounding peaks.

Clingmans Dome
Clingmans Dome | photo via cloudstodirt

Clingmans Dome Observation Tower

An easy, paved trail leading to the highest point in the park, offering 360-degree views of the Smokies and beyond.

Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the park, and the hike to its observation tower is an approximately 2-mile round trip. The hike to the tower is a challenging but rewarding experience, as it takes trekkers through a beautiful forest filled with diverse plants and wildlife.

The trail is paved for the most part, but it can be strenuous for those unaccustomed to high altitudes. The observation tower at the summit offers breathtaking 360-degree views of the Smokies and beyond.

Grotto Falls

An easy-to-moderate hike through old-growth forest to a waterfall you can walk behind.

The 2.6-mile round-trip hike to Grotto Falls is a popular and rewarding experience. The trip takes hikers through a beautiful old-growth forest and along a cascading mountain stream. The trail is well-maintained and relatively moderate in difficulty, making it suitable for hikers of all skill levels.

One of the hike’s highlights is the opportunity to walk behind the 25-foot-high waterfall, providing a unique and refreshing perspective. The cool mist and the sound of the falling water create a serene and picturesque setting, making Grotto Falls a favorite destination for nature enthusiasts and photographers.

Laurel Falls

One of the most popular and easiest hikes to a beautiful waterfall, suitable for families.

The well-maintained and paved trail to Laurel Falls treats visitors to an easy 2-6-mile round trip that’s accessible to hikers of all abilities. The highlight is the 80-foot-high Laurel Falls — one of the park’s most picturesque waterfalls.

The trail takes adventurers through a beautiful forest filled with diverse plant and animal life, offering a peaceful and scenic experience. Due to its accessibility and the stunning beauty of the waterfall, Laurel Falls can be a busy trail, especially during peak seasons.

Rainbow Falls

A moderate hike leading to the tallest single-drop waterfall in the Smokies, with rainbows visible on sunny afternoons.

The hike to Rainbow Falls is a rewarding, yet moderately challenging 5.4-mile round trip that takes hikers through lush forests and alongside a rushing mountain stream. The well-maintained trail includes some steep and rocky sections, making it more suitable for experienced hikers.

The hike’s namesake destination is the 80-foot-high Rainbow Falls, named for the rainbow that appears in its mist on sunny afternoons. The waterfall is a stunning sight and a favored destination for hikers seeking natural beauty, tranquility, and unbelievable pictures.

Ramsey Cascades-GSMNP
Ramsey Cascades | photo via waterfallsandmushrooms

Ramsey Cascades

The park’s tallest waterfall accessible by trail, this strenuous hike passes through old-growth forest.

Ramsey Cascades is a challenging but rewarding 8-mile round trip known for its stunning natural beauty. It’s considered one of the most spectacular waterfall hikes in the park, taking hikers through a diverse old-growth forest and crossing over streams past all sorts of plantlife and wildlife.

The reward for the hike is arriving at the 100-foot Ramsey Cascades, the tallest waterfall in the park, and a breathtaking sight to behold. Due to the length and difficulty of the trail, which includes several steep and rocky sections, it is recommended for experienced hikers who are prepared for a strenuous journey.

Abrams Falls

A moderate hike in Cades Cove offering views of one of the most voluminous waterfalls in the park.

The moderately challenging hike to Abrams Falls is a 5-mile round trip that follows Abrams Creek and takes hikers through a beautiful forest to the 20-foot-high Abrams Falls — known for its impressive volume of water and the deep pool at its base.

The trail to Abrams Falls is well-maintained but includes some rocky and uneven sections, making it more suitable for hikers with moderate experience. Visitors are advised to wear appropriate footwear and exercise caution, especially near the waterfall and in slippery areas.

Gregory Bald-GSMNP
Gregory Bald | photo via wesleywanders_hiking

Gregory Bald

A strenuous hike that is especially popular in June when the flame azaleas bloom, offering spectacular floral displays and views.

Hikers who love a challenge can trek the 11.3-mile round-trip journey to Gregory Bald, passing through diverse landscapes on the way to breathtaking panoramic views from the bald’s grassy summit.

The trail to Gregory Bald takes hikers through a variety of forest types, including old-growth hardwoods and rhododendron thickets on the way to Gregory Bald, where hikers are rewarded with expansive views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Due to the length and difficulty of the trail, it is recommended for experienced hikers who are prepared for a challenging journey.

Porters Creek Trail

An easier hike that is particularly beautiful in spring for wildflowers and historical structures.

The Porters Creek Trail is an easy 4-mile round-trip journey, known for its diverse flora, historic sites, and beautiful natural scenery. The trail is well-maintained and suitable for hikers of various skill levels, including families with children.

Hikers on the Porters Creek Trail can enjoy a peaceful walk through a lush forest, passing alongside a scenic mountain stream and through a historic area with remnants of old settlements. The trail also features an impressive display of spring wildflowers, making it particularly busy during spring.

The Boogerman Trail

A moderate loop hike in the Cataloochee area, known for its large old-growth trees and historical sites.

The Boogerman Trail is a moderately challenging 7.4-mile round-trip hike renowned for its scenic beauty and mix of natural beauty and historical intrigue that appeals to both history buffs and nature enthusiasts. The trail has some uphill sections and uneven terrain, suitable for hikers with at least some experience.

Hikers on the Boogerman Trail can enjoy a peaceful walk through a lush forest, passing alongside a mountain stream and through an area with remnants of old homesteads, including the historic Cataloochee Ranch.

Deep Creek Trail-GSMNP
Deep Creek Trail | photo via doris.daxler

Deep Creek Trail

Known for its waterfalls, this area offers several easy-to-moderate hikes that can be combined for longer walks.

The Deep Creek Trail is an easy 5.4-mile trek, known for its scenic beauty, following alongside Deep Creek and offering opportunities to enjoy waterfalls, rhododendron thickets, and peaceful forest surroundings. The trail is well-maintained and suitable for hikers of various skill levels, including families with children.

The accessibility and the opportunity to witness multiple waterfalls make the Deep Creek Trail a very popular choice. The trail features three notable waterfalls: Juney Whank Falls, Toms Branch Falls, and Indian Creek Falls, providing hikers with picturesque natural attractions.

The Middle Prong Trail

An easier hike along an old railroad grade in the Tremont area, featuring waterfalls and cascades.

The Middle Prong Trail is a moderately challenging 8.3-mile round-trip journey. Hikers on the Middle Prong Trail can enjoy a journey through a diverse forest environment, following alongside the Middle Prong of the Little River and passing through old-growth forests, rhododendron thickets, and along several picturesque cascades.

Albright Grove Loop Trail

This moderately difficult hike showcases the park’s lush hemlock forests.

The Albright Grove Trail is a short .65-mile hike off the Maddron Bald Trail (approximately 3 miles from the trailhead) that treats visitors to serenity and a picturesque grove of hemlock trees. The trail is well-maintained and suitable for hikers of various skill levels, including families and those with limited mobility.

The trail offers an opportunity to observe these iconic hemlock trees and appreciate the unique beauty they contribute to the park’s ecosystem.

Baskins Creek Falls

A moderate hike to a beautiful two-tiered waterfall, less crowded than some of the park’s more famous falls.

The picturesque 40-foot Baskins Creek Falls is nestled in a serene forest setting, providing a refreshing and captivating sight for visitors. Hikers can get there after a moderately challenging 3-mile round trip through beautiful forests and alongside Baskins Creek.

The trail to Baskins Creek Falls includes some rocky and uneven sections, making it more suitable for more experienced hikers.

The Little River Trail

An easy-to-moderate hike along a river, offering views of waterfalls and remnants of the park’s logging history.

The Little River Trail follows the Little River within the park, offering visitors offering picturesque views and the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the river and surrounding forest on an easy-to-moderate 4.9-mile round trip hike.

The trail is well-maintained and suitable for hikers of various skill levels and those looking for a leisurely nature walk. Hikers on the Little River Trail can experience a peaceful walk through a lush forest, with the soothing sound of the river providing a tranquil backdrop.

The Bullhead Trail

A challenging hike to the summit of Mount LeConte, offering unique views and wildflower displays in spring.

One of the park’s most challenging treks is the Bullhead Trail which takes hikers through a dense forest environment on a 13.9-mile round trip. The reward is stunning panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

The highlight of the hike is reaching the summit of Mount LeConte, one of the highest peaks in the Smoky Mountains. Due to the length and difficulty of the trail, the Bullhead Trail is recommended for experienced hikers who are prepared for a strenuous journey.

The Forney Ridge Trail to Andrews Bald-GSMNP
The Forney Ridge Trail to Andrews Bald | photo via hikingwithghosts

The Forney Ridge Trail to Andrews Bald

A moderate hike leading to a grassy bald with excellent views, particularly beautiful in the summer months.

The Forney Ridge Trail to Andrews Bald takes travelers on a captivating journey through a diverse forest environment and culminates in breathtaking panoramic views from the grassy summit of Andrews Bald. The trail provides a moderate challenge, with some uphill sections and uneven terrain, suitable for more experienced hikers.

On the 3.6-mile round-trip hike, hikers can enjoy a scenic walk through a beautiful forest on the way to the open meadows of Andrews Bald, where visitors are treated to stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

Enjoy a Hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

With more than 100 trails cutting through Great Smoky Mountains National Park, hikers of all ages and skill levels can go on an incredible and unforgettable journey. The most popular hikes showcase the incredible diversity of park and the Smokies, from the highest peaks and stunning waterfalls to its rich history and lush forests.

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