8 of the Best Smoky Mountain Trails to Hike in the Summer

Abrams Falls in the Smoky Mountains.
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Gorgeous wildflowers, cascading waterfalls, wildlife — you’ll have the opportunity to see all of these things and more when you go hiking in the Smoky Mountains during the summer. Summer is one of the most popular times to explore the Smoky Mountains! You’ll have more than 850 miles of trails to explore, ranging in level of difficulty from easy to difficult. To help you decide where you want to hike, we’ve come up with the 8 best Smoky Mountain trails to hike in the summer:

1. Abrams Falls Trail

The Abrams Falls Trail is one of the most popular waterfall hikes in the Smokies. The hike is only 5 miles round trip, and we’ve listed it as one of the top hikes in the Smoky Mountains that is great for beginners! Though the waterfall itself is only 20 feet high, the amount of water rushing over the falls makes up for its height. The deep pool at its base creates a picture-perfect scene.

cabin on porters creek trail2. Porters Creek Trail

Porters Creek Trail is 4 miles roundtrip and makes for a beautiful hike. The first mile of the hike is on a gravel road that runs along the banks of Porters Creek. During this part of the hike, you’ll be able to see rushing streams and a thick canopy of trees. You’ll also have the chance to see parts of history, like the remnants of the Elbert Cantrell farmstead, where the Porters Creek community settled in the early 1900s, and the Ownby cemetery. About another mile into the hike, you’ll run into Fern Branch Falls. This 40-foot waterfall provides a gorgeous view!

3. Big Creek Trail

Big Creek Trail is located in the North Carolina part of the Smoky Mountains. One of the best things to do in the summer is hike Big Creek Trail to Mouse Creek Falls, a gorgeous waterfall about 2.1 miles along the trail. Mouse Creek Falls is especially beautiful during the summer after a strong rain storm. On your way back from the waterfall, stop at Midnight Hole, which is also located along Big Creek Trail. Midnight Hole is a small waterfall and a popular swimming hole, so you can jump in and cool off before finishing your hike.

4. Ramsey Cascades Trail

If you’re up for the challenge of a more difficult, yet extremely rewarding, hike, try the Ramsey Cascades Trail. This Smoky Mountain trail is 8 miles to and from the waterfall. It takes about 5 to 7 hours to complete. The trail to the waterfall gains more than 2,000 feet in elevation and follows rushing rivers and streams. You’ll even pass through an old-growth cove hardwood forest with silver bells, yellow birches and more beautiful flowers. After hiking 4 miles, you’ll be rewarded with the stunning view of Ramsey Cascades, the tallest waterfall in the park. Water drops 100 feet over rocks and creates a small pool at the bottom. Make sure you bring a camera when you hike this trail!

5. Laurel Falls

Laurel Falls Trail is another popular waterfall hike. The roundtrip distance to the waterfall and back is only 2.6 miles, making it a great hike for families to enjoy together during the summer! The waterfall is 80 feet high. In May, an evergreen shrub blooms along the trail. The waterfall has both an upper and lower section, which is divided by a walkway that crosses the stream at the base of the upper falls. Summer is an especially busy time on the trail, so keep in mind that parking at the trailhead will be limited.

6. Andrews Bald

forney ridge trail to andrews baldWith an elevation of 5,920 feet, Andrews Bald is the highest grassy bald in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The hike to get there is actually along the Forney Ridge Trail. The trail begins from the Clingman’s Dome parking lot and drops elevation on your way to Andrews Bald. After a large descent and a broad ridge, you’ll make your way through a forest that brings you to the grassy area known as Andrews Bald. It’s great during the summer because of the cooler temperatures and gorgeous wildflowers.

7. Schoolhouse Gap Trail

The Schoolhouse Gap Trail is located in Townsend, TN, between the Townsend Y and Cades Cove. The trail has thousands of Smoky Mountain wildflowers and offers the opportunity to see a variety of wildlife. It is a 4.7-mile out-and-back trail that is typically used for hiking, running and even horseback riding! It’s a great hike for when you just want to enjoy some fresh mountain air with your family. After you’re done, head to the Townsend Y, where you can soak up the sweet sunshine or take a dip in the water.

8. Gatlinburg Trail

dog on the gatlinburg trailThe Gatlinburg Trail is an easy hike for families with kids to enjoy during the summer. It travels 1.9 miles one way from the Sugarlands Visitor Center to the outskirts of Gatlinburg. This Smoky Mountain trail is relatively flat and offers stunning views of the Little Pigeon River. The best part about the trail is that it is 1 of only 2 trails in the park that allows dogs, so your four-legged friend can join in on the fun!

Try one of these amazing Smoky Mountain trails when you visit this summer! Check out more things to do while you’re here, and get ready for an unforgettable summer vacation.

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