5 Easy Smoky Mountain Hikes Under 5 Miles
Looking for the perfect morning or afternoon activity in the Smoky Mountains? Go for a hike! There are hikes for all skill levels, but you don’t have to do something challenging in order to get great views. We’ve made a list of some of our favorite hikes that are all less than 5 miles roundtrip and shouldn’t take more than 2-3 hours to complete, depending on the pace you go. Here are 5 easy Smoky Mountain hikes under 5 miles:
1. Laurel Falls
Arguably the most popular hike in the Smoky Mountains is Laurel Falls. You’ll be rewarded with gorgeous views of an 80-foot-high waterfall that has both an upper and lower section. The sections are divided by a walkway that crosses the stream at the base of the upper falls. The hike to the falls is 1.3 miles, for a total roundtrip distance of 2.6 miles. Keep in mind that since it’s one of the most popular trails in the park, the trail and parking lots can be crowded.
To get to the trailhead, turn toward Cades Cove on Little River Road, then drive 3.5 miles to the trailhead. There are parking areas on both sides of the road.
2. Grotto Falls
Another popular waterfall hike for families is Grotto Falls. To get to this waterfall, you’ll hike the Trillium Gap Trail, which runs through an old-growth hemlock forest. What’s unique about this hike is that the trail actually runs behind the waterfall! The distance to the waterfall and back is 3 miles. It’s considered one of the best hikes to do in the summer because of the cool and moist environment near the falls. Be sure to keep an eye out for salamanders, too! It takes about 203 hours to hike to the waterfall and back.
To get to the trailhead, turn at traffic light #8 on the Parkway in Gatlinburg, then follow the Historic Nature Trail into the park. You’ll then take Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail to stop #5, where there’s a large parking area.
3. Gatlinburg Trail
For a quick and easy hike that the whole family will love, try the Gatlinburg Trail! This trail travels 1.9 miles one-way from the Sugarlands Visitor Center to the outskirts of Gatlinburg. It’s a relatively flat trail, making it great for kids, strollers, and bicycles. Along the hike, you’ll have beautiful views of the river, along with foundations of chimneys and several old homesites. It’s also one of only two dog-friendly trails in the park! It’s said to take about 45 minutes each way.
The trailhead for the Gatlinburg Trail is at the Sugarlands Visitor Center.
4. Abrams Falls
If you love visiting Cades Cove, then you’ll love this hike! Abrams Falls is a 20-foot-tall waterfall. What it lacks in height, it makes up for in volume. A large volume of water rushing over the falls collects in a long, deep pool that’s picture-perfect. Abrams Falls Trail is 5 miles roundtrip, and the hike takes visitors through a pine-oak forest on the ridges and a hemlock and rhododendron forest along the creek. If you’re looking for something a little more challenging than the other easy hikes we’ve listed, this is the one for you! It takes about 3-4 hours to hike to the waterfall and back.
The turnoff for the Abrams Falls trailhead is just past stop #10 on the Cades Cove Loop.
5. Little River Trail
Although it’s the longest hike on our list, another great hike for families to do is the Little River Trail. It’s an easy hike in the Smoky Mountains that travels along an old logging road. Along the trail, you’ll see some evidence of past logging operations, like railroad rails and steel cables. The trail follows along the Little River, and at about 2.2 miles, you’ll cross Huskey Branch Falls, a small 20-foot waterfall. You’ll also have the opportunity to spot the popular synchronous fireflies! Once you get to the Cucumber Gap Trail junction on your right, you’ll want to turn around to keep it a short and easy hike.
To get to the trailhead, drive 4.9 miles west along Little River Road from the Sugarlands Visitor Center. Then, turn into Elkmont and drive 1.4 miles to the entrance for the campground. There, you’ll turn left and drive about 0.6 miles to reach the parking area for the trail.
More Easy Smoky Mountain Hikes
These Smoky Mountain hikes under 5 miles are perfect for a few hours at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! If you’re looking for more easy hikes in the Smokies, you’re in luck. Take a look at some of our other favorite easy Smoky Mountain hikes, then start planning your trip.