Top 8 Hiking Trails in the Great Smoky Mountains

by | Jan 27, 2023 | Insights

There is an unending variety of meandering roads, panoramic vistas, cascades, and biological communities to uncover in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which has over 800 miles of trails to explore. The Great Smoky Mountains include trails suitable for hikers of all experience levels, so you won’t get bored no matter where you start. However, before embarking on a journey into the mountains, it is essential to first do some study about the area.

This list highlights some of the most well-known trails in the vicinity of Gatlinburg and provides some insight into what you may anticipate if you choose to take advantage of the natural beauty that is right here in our backyard.

Roaring Fork Nature Trail

The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, which is found just on the outskirts of Gatlinburg, provides a scenic drive for people who wish to observe the beauty of nature while remaining in the comfort of their car.

Guests will travel through the breathtaking Smoky Mountains on a path that only goes in one direction over the 5.5-mile circle. In addition, you’ll discover Noah “Bud” Ogle’s Self-Guided Nature Path right beyond the entrance to the motor route.

This trail is ideal for individuals who want to get out, stretch their legs, and visit some of the cabins and other historically important structures that are situated there.

Once guests are back on the motor route, they have the opportunity to see tranquil woods and mountain streams in their natural state. The name of the path comes from a stream that is notable for being extremely swift and big.

The “Place of a Thousand Drips” is a collection of little water chutes that have been braided together to form one eye-catching waterfall.

Guests will reach the “Place of a Thousand Drips” when they are getting close to the conclusion of the motor path. The route was inaccessible throughout the winter months but has now reopened for the rest of the season.

Middle Fork Trail

Attention, all those who like both water and history, because this one is for you!

This trail covers such a gorgeous diversity rolled into one convenient package, which may seem like an unusual combination at first listen. There are three notable waterfalls located along the Middle Prong Trail. These waterfalls include the Lynn Camp Prong Cascades, the Lynn Camp Falls, and the Indian Flats Falls.

This path is considered difficult since it has a round-trip distance of 8.3 miles, but it is well worth the effort because it leads to several gorgeous waterfalls, has a rich history, and has some hidden gems.

One of the last remaining logging settlements in Great Smoky Mountains National Park was located in the hamlet that the path now meanders through. This community was established one hundred years ago.

Having said that, there are hints of that life scattered along the route for hikers to find as they go through the woods. It is easy to imagine the past coming to life all around you, from the gravel road that marks the trail, which was formerly a railway line, to an old Cadillac that was left behind and is located just a short distance from the trail path.

Both things are examples of how the past has been left behind. Its attractive attributes make for an enjoyable though tough trip, especially considering that hikers will have to cross a few minor streams on their own without the assistance of an overcrossing.

Hikers may reach the path from Upper Tremont Road, and it will ultimately bring them to a confluence with the Greenbrier Ridge Trail and the Lynn Camp Prong Trail.

Gatlinburg Trail

The ease of the Gatlinburg Trail, which extends for 1.9 miles from Sugarland’s Visitor Center all the way to Gatlinburg, is one of the reasons why it is such a popular attraction among tourists.

People come to the road for a variety of reasons, including to get some exercise, to have a stroll, or just to observe the aesthetic characteristics the route provides since it is one of only two walking pathways in the national park that allows dogs and bicycles.

Those who have an interest in history are in for a real treat along this path. The route passes through several ruins of former homesteads and settlements. The route also parallels a stretch of the Little Pigeon River, which hikers will be able to cross on a charming footbridge at one point.

This route is great for individuals who wish to go out and take in the fresh air of the mountains without doing anything that is too tough because of its relatively short duration.

Andrews Hill Bald

Since Andrews Bald is the tallest bald in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it is an incredible location to visit to take in the breathtaking scenery of the surrounding mountains.

Hikers may begin the one-way journey that is 1.8 miles long at the entrance to the Clingman’s Dome parking lot. This trail is accessible via the Forney Ridge Trail.

The path to Andrews Bald is one of the few in the national park that starts with a descent of about one mile. This contrasts with most of the other trails in the park. The last fraction of a mile, on the other hand, consists of a gentle ascent to the verdant meadow that is known as Andrew’s Bald.

Andres Thompson, the person after whom the bald is named, was one of the early settlers who utilized these places in the mountains for cattle. Not only is the location stunningly beautiful, but it also has a rich history because so many early settlers used these areas.

This very easy climb is well worth the effort since not only does it provide breathtaking vistas, but also, during the warmer months, it is home to a plethora of colorful plants and flowers.

The bald is most well recognized for its abundance of flame azaleas, a flower whose name accurately describes the fiery orange hue of its petals. Visitors who want to see these stunning sights should schedule their trek during the month of July, which is normally the peak flowering season for these plants.

This location is an absolute must-see while you’re in the Smoky Mountains since it encompasses not only fascinating Appalachian history but also breathtaking scenery and lovely wildflowers.

Alum Cave Hiking Trail

There is a good argument can be made that the Alum Cave route is one of the most well-known trails in the Smokies.

Visitors are enticed to undertake the 2.3-mile journey from the trailhead to the Alum Cave Bluffs by the prospect of seeing a wide range of geologic treasures, as well as taking in the breathtaking scenery along the way.

During a trek that is “moderate,” hikers will ascend an elevation gain of 1,125 feet. Arch Rock, which is one of the first geological marvels you come across and is undeniably a standout element of the path, is one of the first things you see.

Hikers ascend a picturesque stone stairway that has been cut into the floor of a naturally sculpted archway to make their way through a narrow tunnel.

As you proceed down this path toward Alum Cave, you will see that the forest floor is adorned with wildflowers, adding to the already breathtaking scenery. About two miles from the trailhead, on a bald that’s been given the name “Inspiration Point,” hikers are rewarded with breathtaking vistas of the mountain valley below them.

The major event may be found roughly 0.5 kilometers (0.3 miles) farther along. A hollowed-out cliff that is 500 feet in length and 80 feet in height is built directly into the side of the mountain.

There have been reports of water dripping from the ceiling of the cave, which, during the winter months, may result in the formation of icicles. When traveling to Alum Cave in the winter, tourists should be aware of the possibility of being hit by falling icicles.

This is an essential safety precaution that should not be overlooked. Hikers have the option of either beginning the journey back down the route, which is filled with a variety of beautiful sights, or continuing the path to reach the peak of Mount LeConte.

Grotto Falls

There is little question that Grotto Falls is one of the most unique places in the Smokies. It is the only waterfall in the park that permits people to wander beyond the rushing cascade, thus not only is it a gorgeous waterfall that drops 25 feet, but it is also the only waterfall in the park.

The Trillium Gap Trail, which can be accessed via the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and is located just outside of Gatlinburg, is the most direct route to the waterfalls and the fastest way to get there.

The trip to the streams that will quickly lead to Grotto Falls and swishing cascades is considered to be of a moderate difficulty level. Visitors will follow a trail that is surrounded by hemlock trees and is studded with wildflowers as they make their way across rocky terrain.

A cool haven from the sweltering heat of summer, this location offers a thick forest and rapids in the river as its primary natural features. Having said that, the native flora and fauna enjoy the cooling effects of nature just as much as the tourists do.

On the rocks that surround the pond, salamanders and other forms of animals may be spotted if one looks carefully enough. However, due to the nature of the terrain and the rocks, you need to use extreme caution! Black bears are yet another kind of wild animal that you can come upon.

They may choose to make their presence known in this region on occasion, so always brush up on your knowledge of bear safety and be ready before setting out on a trek.

Laurel Falls

Only four of the paths in Great Smoky Mountains National Park are paved, and this path is one of them. Even while the climb is enjoyable, the true reward is getting to see the stunning waterfall that is almost 80 feet high.

In certain places, the pavement is smoother and simpler to navigate than in others, where it may be more uneven and more challenging. It’s possible that strollers and wheelchairs won’t be able to handle the terrain on this path.

Both bicycles and pets are not permitted here. The entire distance of the trek to and from the waterfalls is 2.6 miles. The trek does not provide a significant challenge, and many hikers should be able to complete it in under two hours.

According to the feedback provided by previous guests, this path is suitable for children aged 6 and above.

It is recommended that visitors to Laurel Falls get there first thing in the morning since the area tends to grow congested later in the day. Bears are a potential threat, so being vigilant is essential. Don’t throw trash on the ground or leave food in places where bears may find it.

Take Away

The breathtaking scenery and wide variety of things to do in the Great Smoky Mountains make them a perennial tourist destination. Hiking is the activity that attracts the most visitors to the national park.

It makes no difference whether you have never been hiking before or if hiking is your pastime since the Great Smoky Mountains have a path that is ideal for everyone – no matter their level of experience.

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