12 Can’t-Miss Smoky Mountain Hiking Trails in the National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains has more than 850 miles of trails for visitors to explore! Depending on which trail you choose, you can see breathtaking views of mountains, waterfalls, wildlife and more! To help you decide where you should hike during your vacation, we’ve put together a list of 12 of the can’t-miss Smoky Mountain hiking trails in the national park:
1. Laurel Falls Trail
The Laurel Falls Trail is a 2.6-mile roundtrip hike that’s considered moderate in difficulty. It is one of the most popular hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The 80-foot waterfall has an upper and lower section that’s divided by a walkway that crosses the stream at the upper base of the falls.
2. Ramsey Cascades Trail
Ramsey Cascades Trail is an 8-mile roundtrip hike that can be considered strenuous because it gains 2,000 feet in elevation on the 4-mile course to the waterfall, but every step is more than worth it. When you reach Ramsey Cascades, you will see the gorgeous sight of water dropping down 100 feet over rock outcroppings and collecting in a small pool below. It is the tallest waterfall in the park.
3. Abrams Falls Trail
Abrams Falls Trail is a 5-mile roundtrip hike that is considered moderate in difficulty. The waterfall itself is only 20 feet tall, but the volume of water that rushes over the falls more than makes up for its lack of height. The trail travels through a pine-oak forest on the ridges and a hemlock and rhododendron forest along the creek.
4. Alum Cave Trail
The Alum Cave Trail has gorgeous view after gorgeous view. It is 2.5 miles one-way to the Alum Cave Bluffs. The Alum Cave Bluffs are about 80 feet in height and 500 feet in length. When it’s warm, water drips off the ledge above, and during the winter, the water droplets turn into icicles. Most people turn around once they reach the bluffs, but the trail continues for about 5 miles to the summit of Mount LeConte, the third highest peak in the Smoky Mountains.
5. Rainbow Falls Trail
Rainbow Falls Trail is another scenic waterfall hike. It is a 5.4-mile roundtrip hike that is considered moderate in difficulty. Between the trailhead and the waterfall, you will gain 1,500 feet in elevation. On sunny afternoons, you can see a rainbow that is produced by the mist from the 80-foot waterfall. During the winter, there is an impressive ice formation around the falls. The trail continues 4 miles past the falls to the summit of Mount LeConte.
6. Porters Creek Trail
The Porters Creek Trail is a 4-mile roundtrip hike that travels through a lush forest along the banks of Porters Creek. It is one of the most popular hikes during the spring because of all the gorgeous wildflowers. You will see historic sites and structures, as well as Fern Branch Falls, a 60-foot waterfall.
7. Grotto Falls
To get to Grotto Falls, you’ll hike along Trillium Gap Trail for a little more than a mile. The trail runs through an old-growth hemlock forest that actually runs behind the 25-foot waterfall! The cool, moist environment around the falls makes it a popular summer hike. It’s considered moderate in difficulty.
8. Clingmans Dome
Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at 6,643 feet. It is a moderately difficult paved trail that leads to an observation tower, where you can see a breathtaking view of the Smoky Mountains. On clear days, views can span for over 100 miles. The trail to the observation tower is 1.2 miles out and back.
9. Andrews Bald
To get to Andrews Bald, you will hike the Forney Ridge Trail for 1.8 miles. The trail begins from the Clingmans Dome parking lot and drops elevation to get to Andrews Bald. After the large descent, the trail levels on a broad ridge, then ascends through a forest to reach the grassy area of Andrews Bald. At about 5,900 feet, it is the highest grassy bald in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
10. Little River Trail
The Little River Trail is a quieter trail in the Smoky Mountains. It ascends a gentle grade along a gravel road that runs parallel to the Little River. During the spring, you can see a variety of wildflowers. At about 2.2 miles, you’ll reach Huskey Branch Falls, a small 20-foot waterfall that runs into the Little River.
11. Rich Mountain Loop
Rich Mountain Loop is a popular trail in Cades Cove. It’s a great way to explore Cades Cove on foot and away from the crowds. It is an 8.3-mile loop that features important parts of history like the John Oliver cabin, scenic views and the most diverse amount of wildflowers in the Smoky Mountains! Be sure to keep an eye out for white-tailed deer along your hike!
12. Gatlinburg Trail
The Gatlinburg Trail is one of only two trails in the national park that allows dogs, so if your furry friend is with you in the Smokies, this is the perfect hike for you. It’s a 1.9-mile trail that travels from the Sugarlands Visitor Center to the outskirts of Gatlinburg. It offers views of the Little Pigeon River, as well as old homesites and foundations of chimneys.
Now that you know all the best Smoky Mountain hiking trails, it’s time to plan your visit to the Smokies. When you hike in the great Smoky Mountains National Park, you’ll need a parking tag. Daily parking tags are available for only $5. Find out where you can purchase a Great Smoky Mountains National Park parking tag, then get ready for an exciting trip to the Smokies!