8 Hikes in the Smoky Mountains with the Best Views
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When you visit the Smoky Mountains, you don’t want to miss the chance to explore some of the trails in the national park! The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has over 850 miles of hiking trails, offering everything from historic structures to waterfalls. If you want to see the beauty of the Smokies up close, you have to go for a hike on your vacation! Here are 8 hikes in the Smoky Mountains with the best views:
1. Alum Cave Trail to Mt. Leconte
Distance: 11 miles round trip
If you’re feeling up for the challenge, hike the Alum Cave Trail to Mount LeConte! This is an 11-mile round-trip hike, but the incredible views make every step worth it. The first major landmark along the trail is Arch Rock, which you’ll come to about 1.3 miles into the hike. The trail actually takes you under the arch of the rock. About 2 miles into the trail, you’ll reach Inspiration Point, which offers gorgeous mountain views. At 2.2 miles, you’ll be at Alum Cave, a concave bluff about 80 feet high and 500 feet in length. Some people turn around at this point, but for the best views, you’ll keep going for a little over 3 miles. Here, you’ll reach High Top, the summit of Mount LeConte. Mount LeConte is the third highest peak in the Smokies, so the views you’ll get from this spot are unforgettable.
2. Andrews Bald
Distance: 3.6 miles round trip
Andrews Bald is an open grassy meadow that offers incredible views. To get to the bald, you’ll hike the Forney Ridge Trail for about 1.8 miles. What’s unique about this hike is that the first part of the trail features a large descent instead of an uphill climb. On the final part of the trail, you’ll ascend until you reach the grassy bald. Here, you’ll have sweeping mountain views! This is a popular hike to do in the spring and summer to see all of the beautiful wildflowers. It’s also a popular spot to relax and enjoy a picnic lunch!
3. Clingmans Dome Observation Tower
Distance: 1.2 miles round trip
For an easy hike to see spectacular views, head to Clingmans Dome! It’s just a half-mile hike to the top of the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower, but keep in mind that it’s steep because of the elevation gain. At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! The tower offers 360-degree views of the Smoky Mountains, and on clear days, you can see as far as 100 miles. This is one of the most popular spots to watch a Smoky Mountain sunrise or sunset.
4. Charlies Bunion
Distance: 8 miles round trip
The hike to Charlies Bunion is another one of the longer hikes. To get there, you’ll use the Appalachian Trail. This hike involves an elevation gain of 1,640 feet! Charlies Bunion is a stone outcrop from which you’ll have breathtaking views of the Smoky Mountains. You don’t have to wait until you get to the top to see incredible sights, however. The trail offers some mountain views along the way! Once you reach Charlies Bunion, every step will feel worth it. You’ll have views of Mount Kephart, Mount LeConte and Mount Guyot. Even if it’s cloudy or rainy when you get to the top, you’ll still have great views!
5. Chimney Tops
Distance: 3.8 miles round trip
Chimney Tops is one of the shortest hikes in the Smoky Mountains with the best views. The first section of the trail follows along Road Prong Creek, and you’ll get to cross several footbridges along the .9-miles route to Beech Flats. In the spring and summer, you’ll get to see a variety of beautiful wildflowers. Once you pass Beech Flats, you’ll have to hike up steep terrain to reach the summit. When you reach the observation point, you’ll be able to see views of Mount LeConte!
6. Porters Creek
Distance: 4 miles round trip
If you want views of a little bit of everything, Porters Creek is the perfect hike for you. The first mile of the Porters Creek Trail is an old gravel road that runs through a forest along the banks of Porters Creek. About two-thirds into the hike, you’ll get to see remnants of the Elbert Cantrell farmstead and the Ownby Cemetery. Other historic sites you can see are the John Messer farm site and the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club cabin. You can also see Fern Branch Falls, a 60-foot waterfall that drops off the ridge of the trail. The waterfall is the turnaround point of the hike. It’s a great hike to see Smoky Mountain wildflowers too!
7. Rainbow Falls
Distance: 5.4 miles round trip
If a gorgeous view of a waterfall is what you have in mind, Rainbow Falls is one of the best hikes in the Smoky Mountains! This 5.4-mile round-trip hike features breathtaking views of an 80-foot-high waterfall. Be ready to make a climb, however, because this trail gains about 1,500 feet in elevation between the trailhead and the falls. Rainbow Falls is a stunning waterfall that is best viewed after long periods of rain. On sunny afternoons, a rainbow produced by the mist of the falls can be seen. If you visit during the winter, you’ll have the opportunity to see an impressive ice formation around the falls! Most hikers turn around at this point, but you can continue for about 4 miles to reach the summit of Mount LeConte!
8. Rocky Top and Spence Field
Distance: 13.9 miles round trip
To get to Rocky Top, you’ll take the Anthony Creek Trailhead, which is located in the Cades Cove picnic area. The trail begins by following Abrams Creek. About 3.5 miles along the hike, you’ll turn right where the trail dead-ends into the Bote Mountain Trail. About 5.1 miles into the hike, you’ll reach the Appalachian Trail at Spence Field. This spot offers its own beautiful views for hikers to enjoy! To get to Rocky Top, you’ll continue along the Appalachian Trail for about 1.2 miles. Although you’ll have to complete a steep climb to get to Rocky Top, the outstanding views from this spot make it worth it!
More Hikes in the Smoky Mountains
We’ve given you some of the best hikes in the Smoky Mountains with views, but the truth is you won’t have a bad view on any hike in the Smokies! Whether you want to see a waterfall, some historic structures, mountain vistas or wildlife, there is a hike in the Smoky Mountains for you. Learn more about some of the most popular hikes in the area, then decide which trail you want to try on your next visit!