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With over 800 miles of scenic trails, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the perfect place to go for a hike! If you don’t have much (or any) hiking experience, you may want to consider hitting the trails with a local guide.
The Smokies are home to a number of nonprofits and businesses that offer fantastic guided hikes in the national park. Even if you’re a veteran hiker, taking a guided hike is a great way to pick up some insider information about the area’s history, animals, and plants. To help you make the most of your next vacation, we have put together a list of the top four providers of Smoky Mountain guided hikes.
1. Get on the Trail with Missy Kane
One of the most popular guided hiking programs in the Smokies is run by former Olympic athlete (and current TV host) Missy Kane. For 20 years, Kane has been leading hikes for visitors and locals alike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Kane’s “Get on the Trail” hikes take place every Wednesday in April and October.
Participants will have the chance to hike one of the well-known trails in the national park. Kane’s hikes are geared toward beginners and the first hike of the season is typically 5 miles or less. The hikes are limited to 50 people and the cost is $20 per person (which benefits the Friends of the Smokies charity). There is a waitlist to participate in many of this year’s hikes, but it is worth signing up because spots have been known to open up. To see Missy Kane’s upcoming hikes, check out the Friends of the Smokies Events Calendar.
2. Classic Hikes of the Smokies
In addition to Missy Kane’s “Get on the Trail” program, Friends of the Smokies also offers annual “Classic Hikes of the Smokies”. From March through December, the nonprofit organizes Smoky Mountain guided hikes to some of the park’s most popular destinations, such as Purchase Knob and Elkmont. During the hikes, participants will learn about the special features of the trail, history of the Smokies, and all of the latest projects going on in the national park.
Guided hikes are $35 per person for your first hike and $20 for subsequent hikes. All of the money raised from the hikes goes toward funding trail restoration projects in the national park. To sign up for a Classic Hike, visit the official Friends of the Smokies website.
3. A Walk in the Woods
A Walk in the Woods has been offering guided hikes in the Smoky Mountains since 1998! Founded by the husband and wife duo of Erik and Vesna Plakanis, this highly regarded company has been featured on the Travel Channel, Discovery Channel, and NBC Nightly News. In addition to Erik and Vesna, A Walk in the Woods employs other accomplished guides who are certified in CPR and as Wilderness First Responders.
With expeditions to Mount LeConte, trips along the Appalachian Trail, and many other adventures, A Walk in the Woods is guaranteed to have a hike that suits your interests and abilities. The company’s friendly guides are known to share Cherokee legends, tall tales, and fascinating information about the pioneer era in the Smokies. For a complete selection of guided hikes, check out the official website for A Walk in the Woods.
4. Smoky Mountain Guides
A hike with Smoky Mountain Guides is perfect for families or other small groups visiting the Gatlinburg area. Many of the guides at SMG were born and raised around the Smokies, giving them years of experience exploring the national park. Smoky Mountain Guides has been profiled on the History Channel and the Travel Channel.
SMG’s hikes take guests all around the national park, including Grotto Falls, Alum Bluffs, Mount LeConte, Courthouse Rock, Charlies Bunion, and even more great destinations. Smoky Mountain Guides also offers a number of specialty trips that you won’t find elsewhere, such as fall foliage tours, adventure photography hikes, wine and waterfall excursions, and hikes with catered meals. To schedule one of these awesome Smoky Mountain guided hikes, visit the official Smoky Mountain Guides website.
For more information about everything to do in the Smokies, check out our Great Smoky Mountains National Park page!