Best Hiking Trails in the Smoky Mountains

panoramic view of the Great Smoky Mountains
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Of all the natural wonders that the United States has to offer, few places are as awe-inspiring as the Smoky Mountains. This mountain range spans both Tennessee and North Carolina, and boasts an abundance of wildlife, waterfalls, and scenic views that make it a hiker’s paradise. With over 800 miles of trails to choose from, it can be daunting to decide which hikes to prioritize. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to help you discover the best hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a beginner, there’s a trail here for you to enjoy. Get ready to lace up your boots and experience the natural beauty of the Smokies.



Alum Cave Trail

Trail Length: 4.6 Miles Roundtrip | Difficulty Level: Moderate | Elevation Gain: 1,125 Feet | Trailhead: Alum Cave Bluffs Trailhead

The Alum Cave Trail is a must-visit destination for hikers looking to explore the natural beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Known for its stunning scenery, historic landmarks, and challenging terrain, this trail offers an unforgettable hiking experience for adventurers of all skill levels. From lush forests to cascading waterfalls, the Alum Cave Trail offers a diverse range of natural wonders to discover.

Reasons to Hike Alum Cave Trail:

  • Stunning Scenery: The Alum Cave Trail offers breathtaking views of the Smoky Mountains and its surroundings. From the lush forests to the majestic waterfalls, there’s no shortage of natural beauty to admire on this hike.
  • Historic Significance: The Alum Cave Trail has a rich history, having been used by Native Americans, early settlers, and even soldiers during the Civil War. Along the way, you’ll come across historic landmarks such as Arch Rock and the Alum Cave Bluffs, which offer a glimpse into the past.
  • Variety of Terrain: The trail features a variety of terrain, including rocky cliffs, streams, and bridges. This makes for an interesting and challenging hike that will keep you engaged and entertained throughout.
  • Wildlife Viewing: The Smoky Mountains are home to a diverse range of wildlife, and the Alum Cave Trail is no exception. Keep your eyes peeled for black bears, deer, and a variety of bird species as you make your way through the forest.
  • Accessibility: The trailhead for the Alum Cave Trail is located just a short drive from Gatlinburg, making it a convenient option for visitors to the area. Additionally, the trail is well-maintained and features several rest areas along the way, making it accessible to hikers of all skill levels.

Recommended Gear: Hiking Boots, Backpack, Water Bottles, Snacks, Sunscreen, Insect Repellent, First Aid Kit


Charlies Bunion Trail

Trail Length: 8.0 Miles Roundtrip | Difficulty Level: Strenuous | Elevation Gain: 1,640 Feet | Trailhead: Newfound Gap Trailhead

Charlie’s Bunion Trail is a popular hiking destination in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This challenging trail takes hikers on a scenic journey through lush forests, past babbling brooks, and up to a stunning rock formation known as Charlie’s Bunion. With sweeping views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, this trail is a must-visit for anyone looking to experience the natural beauty of the Smokies.

Reasons to Hike Charlies Bunion Trail:

  • Stunning Views: The Charlies Bunion Trail offers breathtaking views of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. At the end of the trail, hikers are rewarded with sweeping views of the surrounding peaks and valleys, making it one of the most scenic hikes in the park.
  • Unique Rock Formations: The trail takes hikers past several unique rock formations, including the iconic Charlies Bunion. This large rock outcropping juts out from the mountain and offers a one-of-a-kind photo opportunity for hikers.
  • Varied Terrain: The trail features a variety of terrain, from forested paths to rocky scrambles. This makes for an interesting and challenging hike that will keep you engaged and entertained throughout.
  • Wildlife Viewing: The Smoky Mountains are home to a diverse range of wildlife, and the Charlies Bunion Trail is no exception. Keep your eyes peeled for black bears, deer, and a variety of bird species as you make your way through the forest.
  • Historic Significance: The trail was named after Charles Conner, a local mountain guide who was known for his barefoot hikes through the park. The trail also played a role in the creation of the Appalachian Trail, making it a historic landmark for hikers and nature enthusiasts.

Recommended Gear: Hiking Boots, Backpack, Trekking Poles, Water Bottles, Snacks, Sunscreen, Insect Repellent


Chimney Tops Trail

Trail Length: 3.0 Miles Roundtrip | Difficulty Level: Strenuous | Elevation Gain: 1,400 Feet | Trailhead: Chimney Tops Trailhead

The Chimney Tops Trail is a popular hiking destination in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This challenging trail takes hikers on a steep ascent up to a stunning rock formation known as the Chimney Tops. With breathtaking views of the surrounding peaks and valleys, this trail is a must-visit for anyone looking to experience the natural beauty of the Smokies. Despite its difficulty, the Chimney Tops Trail offers a rewarding hiking experience that is sure to leave a lasting impression.

Reasons to Hike Chimney Tops Trail:

  • Spectacular Views: The Chimney Tops Trail offers breathtaking views of the surrounding peaks and valleys. At the top of the trail, hikers are rewarded with sweeping panoramic views that are simply unforgettable.
  • Challenging Terrain: The trail is steep and rocky, offering a challenging hiking experience for those who are up for the climb. Despite its difficulty, the trail is well worth the effort, offering a sense of accomplishment and stunning views that are second to none.
  • Unique Rock Formations: The Chimney Tops themselves are a unique rock formation that juts out from the mountain and offers a one-of-a-kind photo opportunity for hikers. The trail also features several other interesting rock formations and geological features along the way.
  • Wildlife Viewing: The Chimney Tops Trail is home to a variety of wildlife, including black bears, deer, and a variety of bird species. Keep your eyes peeled for these fascinating creatures as you make your way up the trail.
  • Sense of Adventure: The Chimney Tops Trail offers a sense of adventure and excitement that is hard to match. From the challenging terrain to the stunning views, this trail is a must-visit for anyone looking for an unforgettable hiking experience in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Recommended Gear: Hiking Boots, Backpack, Trekking Poles, Water Bottles, Snacks, First Aid Kit, Sunscreen


Abrams Falls Trail

Trail Length: 5.0 Miles Roundtrip | Difficulty Level: Moderate | Elevation Gain: 340 Feet | Trailhead: Abrams Falls Trailhead

The Abrams Falls Trail is one of the most popular hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The trail takes hikers on a scenic journey through a lush forested landscape, leading to the stunning Abrams Falls, a picturesque waterfall that cascades into a large pool below. With its natural beauty and relatively easy terrain, the Abrams Falls Trail is a must-visit for hikers of all skill levels.

Reasons to Hike Abrams Falls Trail:

  • Stunning Waterfall: The highlight of the Abrams Falls Trail is undoubtedly the stunning Abrams Falls itself. The waterfall cascades 20 feet into a large pool below, offering a picturesque spot for hikers to rest, relax, and take in the natural beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains.
  • Scenic Views: The trail is surrounded by a lush forested landscape, offering hikers beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The trail’s relatively easy terrain makes it accessible to hikers of all skill levels, allowing everyone to enjoy the natural beauty of the area.
  • Wildlife Viewing: The Abrams Falls Trail is home to a variety of wildlife, including black bears, deer, and a variety of bird species. Keep your eyes peeled for these fascinating creatures as you make your way along the trail.
  • Historic Sites: The trail passes through several historic sites, including remnants of early settler communities and a Civilian Conservation Corps campsite. These sites offer a glimpse into the area’s rich history and provide an added layer of interest to the hike.
  • Relaxation and Recreation: With its relatively easy terrain and scenic beauty, the Abrams Falls Trail offers hikers a chance to relax and unwind while enjoying the great outdoors. The trail’s picturesque waterfall and natural surroundings provide the perfect backdrop for a peaceful day hike or picnic.

Recommended Gear: Hiking Shoes, Backpack, Water Bottles, Snacks, Insect Repellent, Sunscreen, Camera


Rainbow Falls Trail

Trail Length: 5.4 Miles Roundtrip | Difficulty Level: Moderate | Elevation Gain: 1,685 Feet | Trailhead: Rainbow Falls Trailhead

The Rainbow Falls Trail is a popular hiking trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, known for its stunning views and beautiful waterfall. The trail is relatively challenging, taking hikers on a steep ascent through a lush forested landscape before arriving at the impressive Rainbow Falls. With its natural beauty and challenging terrain, the Rainbow Falls Trail is a must-visit for hikers looking for a rewarding and memorable adventure.

Reasons to Hike Rainbow Falls Trail:

  • Stunning Waterfall: The Rainbow Falls Trail leads hikers to the stunning Rainbow Falls, a 80-foot tall waterfall that cascades over a rocky ledge into a large pool below. The waterfall’s mist creates a beautiful rainbow, giving the falls its name and making it a popular spot for photographers.
  • Challenging Hike: The Rainbow Falls Trail is a challenging hike, taking hikers on a steep ascent through a lush forested landscape. The hike is approximately 5.4 miles round trip and gains over 1,500 feet in elevation, making it a rewarding challenge for hikers looking to push themselves.
  • Scenic Views: The trail is surrounded by a beautiful forested landscape, offering hikers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Along the way, hikers will have plenty of opportunities to stop and take in the natural beauty of the area.
  • Wildlife Viewing: The Rainbow Falls Trail is home to a variety of wildlife, including black bears, deer, and a variety of bird species. Keep your eyes peeled for these fascinating creatures as you make your way along the trail.
  • Year-Round Hiking: The Rainbow Falls Trail is open year-round, offering hikers the chance to experience the trail’s natural beauty in all seasons. In the winter, the trail can be icy and treacherous, but the stunning views of the snow-covered landscape make it a worthwhile adventure for experienced hikers.

Recommended Gear: Hiking Shoes, Water Bottles, Snacks, Sunscreen, Insect Repellent, Camera, Trekking Poles


Mt. LeConte via Trillium Gap Trail

Trail Length: 13.9 Miles Roundtrip | Difficulty Level: Strenuous | Elevation Gain: 3,790 Feet | Trailhead: Rainbow Falls Trailhead

The Mt. LeConte via Trillium Gap Trail is a challenging and rewarding hike that takes hikers through a variety of scenic landscapes, including old-growth forests, meadows, and rocky outcroppings. The trail is known for its stunning views of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the surrounding valleys. At the end of the hike, hikers can enjoy the hospitality of the LeConte Lodge, which sits atop Mt. LeConte and offers stunning views and comfortable accommodations.

Reasons to Hike Mt. LeConte via Trillium Gap Trail:

  • Stunning Views: The Mt. LeConte via Trillium Gap Trail offers hikers breathtaking views of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the surrounding valleys. Along the way, hikers will be treated to stunning vistas of the mountains and the rolling hills of Tennessee.
  • Challenging Hike: The Mt. LeConte via Trillium Gap Trail is a challenging hike, taking hikers on a steep ascent through a variety of scenic landscapes. The hike is approximately 13.9 miles round trip and gains over 3,200 feet in elevation, making it a rewarding challenge for hikers looking to push themselves.
  • Unique Landscape: The trail takes hikers through a variety of unique landscapes, including old-growth forests, meadows, and rocky outcroppings. Along the way, hikers will have plenty of opportunities to stop and take in the natural beauty of the area.
  • Wildlife Viewing: The Mt. LeConte via Trillium Gap Trail is home to a variety of wildlife, including black bears, deer, and a variety of bird species. Keep your eyes peeled for these fascinating creatures as you make your way along the trail.
  • LeConte Lodge: At the end of the hike, hikers can enjoy the hospitality of the LeConte Lodge, which sits atop Mt. LeConte and offers stunning views and comfortable accommodations. The lodge is a unique and memorable way to end a challenging and rewarding hike.

Recommended Gear: Backpack, Hiking Boots, Water Bottle, Flashlight, Rain Jacket, First Aid Kit, Snacks


Andrews Bald Trail

Trail Length: 3.6 Miles Roundtrip | Difficulty Level: Moderate | Elevation Gain: 900 Feet | Trailhead: Clingmans Dome

Andrews Bald Trail is a scenic hiking trail located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This 1.8-mile trail (one-way) takes you on a beautiful journey through lush forests, rocky terrain, and breathtaking mountain vistas. The highlight of the trail is reaching the bald, a treeless area at the summit that provides panoramic views of the surrounding mountain range. Andrews Bald Trail is a must-visit for anyone looking for a short yet rewarding hiking experience in the Smokies.

Reasons to Hike Andrews Bald Trail:

  • Stunning Panoramic Views: The bald at the summit of Andrews Bald Trail offers breathtaking, 360-degree views of the surrounding mountain range.
  • Short and Sweet: With a total length of only 1.8 miles, Andrews Bald Trail is a relatively short and easy hike that can be completed in just a few hours.
  • Abundant Wildlife: The trail is home to a variety of wildlife, including black bears, deer, and birds of prey, making it a great destination for nature enthusiasts.
  • Beautiful Wildflowers: The trail is lined with beautiful wildflowers that bloom in the spring and summer, adding color and beauty to the already picturesque landscape.
  • Great for All Skill Levels: Andrews Bald Trail is suitable for hikers of all skill levels, making it a great option for families or those new to hiking.

Recommended Gear: Hiking Boots, Backpack, Water Bottle, Sunscreen, Insect Repellent, Rain Jacket, Camera


Ramsey Cascades Trail

Trail Length: 8.0 Miles Roundtrip | Difficulty Level: Strenuous | Elevation Gain: 2,200 Feet | Trailhead: Ramsey Cascades Trailhead

Ramsey Cascades Trail is a popular hiking trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The trail offers a challenging yet rewarding hiking experience through a beautiful old-growth forest, crossing streams and creeks before culminating at the stunning Ramsey Cascades waterfall. At just over 8 miles round trip, this trail is a great option for experienced hikers looking for a full-day adventure in the wilderness.

Reasons to Hike Ramsey Cascades Trail:

  • Stunning Waterfall: At the end of the trail, hikers are rewarded with the sight of the Ramsey Cascades waterfall, which stands at 100 feet tall and is truly a sight to behold.
  • Old-Growth Forest: The trail winds through a beautiful old-growth forest with some of the largest trees in the park, including tulip poplars, hemlocks, and silverbells.
  • Challenging Hike: The trail is rated as strenuous and offers a challenging hike, making it a great option for experienced hikers looking for a workout.
  • Wildlife Spotting: Hikers may have the opportunity to spot wildlife, such as black bears, deer, and birds, as they make their way through the forest.
  • Escape the Crowds: While still a popular trail, Ramsey Cascades Trail is located in a less crowded area of the park, providing a quieter and more serene hiking experience.

Recommended Gear: Hiking Boots, Daypack, Trekking Poles, Water Bottle, Snacks, First Aid Kit, Rain Gear


Grotto Falls Trail

Trail Length: 2.6 Miles Roundtrip | Difficulty Level: Moderate | Elevation Gain: 585 Feet | Trailhead: Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

The Grotto Falls Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a picturesque hike that offers a unique opportunity to walk behind a 25-foot waterfall. The 2.6-mile roundtrip trail is relatively easy and follows a stream for most of the way. The trail is also known for its abundant wildlife, including black bears, so hikers are advised to take precautions.

Reasons to Hike Grotto Falls Trail:

  • Beautiful Waterfall: The highlight of this trail is Grotto Falls, a stunning 25-foot waterfall that visitors can walk behind.
  • Family-Friendly: With a relatively easy 2.6-mile round-trip hike, Grotto Falls Trail is a great option for families with children.
  • Shaded Trail: The trail is well-shaded by trees, making it a perfect summer hike to escape the heat.
  • Historical Significance: The trail follows an old road used by early settlers in the area, adding an interesting historical element to the hike.
  • Wildlife Spotting: The trail is known for its wildlife sightings, including black bears, which are sometimes seen in the area.

Recommended Gear: Hiking Boots, Water Bottle, Trail Map, Headlamp, Sunscreen, Insect Repellent, Snacks


Mount Cammerer via Low Gap Trail

Trail Length: 12.2 Miles Roundtrip | Difficulty Level: Strenuous | Elevation Gain: 3,360 Feet | Trailhead: Cosby Campground

Mount Cammerer via Low Gap Trail is a scenic hiking trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding mountain ranges. This challenging trail features a variety of terrain, from rocky switchbacks to peaceful forest sections, and is well worth the effort for the stunning vistas at the top. Hikers will also have the opportunity to explore the historic fire lookout tower at the summit.

Reasons to Hike Mount Cammerer via Low Gap Trail:

  • Spectacular Views: The trail offers breathtaking views of the Great Smoky Mountains and surrounding areas from the historic Mount Cammerer Fire Tower.
  • Challenging Hike: The hike is rated difficult and is a great challenge for experienced hikers looking for a tough workout.
  • Rich History: The trail follows an old Cherokee hunting path and offers a glimpse into the area’s rich history.
  • Scenic Trail: The trail is filled with stunning scenery, including streams, waterfalls, and a variety of wildlife.
  • Peaceful Atmosphere: The trail is less crowded than some of the more popular hikes in the area, offering a peaceful and serene atmosphere.

Recommended Gear: Sturdy Hiking Boots, Trekking Poles, Lightweight Backpack, Water Filter or Purification Tablets, Sunscreen, Layered Clothing, Trail Map, Compass


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