Hiking remains one of the most popular activities that visitors enjoy in The Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Here is a look at some of the most popular trails in the park.
Forney Ridge Trail-Easy
The trail begins at the Clingmans Dome parking lot and ventures 1.7 miles to Andrews Bald. Though not very strenuous, the elevation gradually increases 900 feet. Hikers may need to navigate around rain run-off, rocks and small boulders. The Bald refers to an open grassy meadow, perfect for picnicking or relaxing. Here the stupendous view includes the southern area of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
This 4 mile roundtrip journey begins at Greenbrier. Follow a gentle cascading stream through a thick old forest. Along the way, sights include the remains established by early settlers. The path eventually leads to a waterfall. During the spring the forest floor exhibits a carpet of numerous wildflower species. Around one mile from the trailhead lies a side path that ventures to the old John Messer farm that features a cabin and a cantilevered barn.
The 6.5 roundtrip trail begins at the Newfound Gap parking lot and goes 2.7 miles down the Appalachian Trail, which turns onto the Jump-Off path. The climb starts steep from the parking lot and hikers gain 1,275 feet in elevation. The Appalachian Trail offers excellent views on either side. The Jump-Off features a 1,000 foot cliff, which represents the northeastern flank of Mt. Kephart. Hikers also get a glimpse of the central and eastern Smokies from this perspective.
This 4.4 mile roundtrip route climbs in altitude to the tune of 1,125 feet where an 80 foot tall, 500 foot long space carves into the bluff. Water drips from the ledge in the summer months and falling icicles pose a danger in the winter. Prior to reaching the cave, look east toward the Eye of the Needle and see peregrine falcons nesting on the outcroppings. The views from the cave also attract many. Locals and manufacturing companies once mined Epsom salts from the site.
The 12 mile roundtrip hike climbs 2,500 feet and begins at the Low Gap Trailhead in Cosby and ends at the summit of Mt. Cammerer. Hikers eventually cross a grassy ridge before entering a challenging spur trail to the summit. While the views here remain impressive, climbing to the deck of the stone fire tower provides a full 360 degree view of the area.
Made famous by the folk song, the 12.5 mile hike begins at the Anthony Creek trailhead in the Cades Cove Picnic region. The hike makes its way to Spence Field with picturesque views of the North Carolina side of the mountains. Hiking in the spring time treat visitors to the sight of a pink and white blanket of laurel flowers. Continuing on this path for another 1.2 miles to Rocky Top, one of three summits of Thunderhead Mountain.