5 of the Most Difficult Hikes in the Smoky Mountains

Gregory Bald in the Smoky Mountains
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With over 850 miles of trails, there are plenty for you to explore in the Smoky Mountains! There are trails for every skill level, from beginners to expert hikers. If you’re looking for something a little more challenging, you will have some incredible trail options. To help you decide where you want to go hiking, we’ve put together a list of 5 of the most difficult hikes in the Smoky Mountains.

1. Ramsey Cascades

Ramsey CascadesRamsey Cascades Trail is an 8-mile round trip hike and worth every step! At 100-feet, the waterfall is the tallest waterfall in the national park, and one of the most beautiful. Water drops 100 feet over rocks and collects in a small pool at the bottom. On the 4-mile course to the waterfall, the trail gains more than 2,000 feet in elevation, so be ready for a climb! It follows rushing rivers and streams, and the last 2 miles pass through old-growth cove hardwood forest.

2. Gregory Bald via Gregory Ridge Trail

The round trip hike to Gregory Bald is a total of 11.3 miles. During your hike, you’ll gain a total elevation of 3,020. The highest elevation you’ll reach along the trail is 4,959 feet! The elevation change, distance, and terrain are what make this hike considered difficult. Gregory Bald is especially beautiful during the spring, when the colorful azaleas start to bloom. The bald itself is made up of Elkmont sandstone. From the top of Gregory Bald, you’ll have gorgeous views of Cades Cove, Rich Mountain, the Nantahala National Forest and more.

3. Rainbow Falls to Mt. LeConte

Mount LeConte in the SnowMt. LeConte via the Rainbow Falls Trail is about 13 miles roundtrip. It has a total elevation gain of almost 4,000 feet! In the first 2.3 miles of the hike, the trail gains more than 1,500 feet. Though difficult, it’s definitely worth it. Mt. LeConte is the third highest peak in the Smoky Mountains at 6,593 feet. The summit rewards hikers with stunning views of the surrounding mountains and the national park.

4. Rocky Top to Thunderhead Mountain

The Rocky Top to Thunderhead Mountain hike is located in the Cades Cove area of the national park. It’s 13.9 miles round trip, and you’ll experience an elevation gain of 3,665 feet. The trail leading to Rocky Top is lined with flowering plants and trees and offers beautiful views of blooming rhododendron during the spring and summer. Rocky Top is one of three summits on Thunderhead Mountain and inspired the official Tennessee state song! The last push to Rocky Top is steep, but once you get to the bald area, you’ll have some of the best views of the Smoky Mountains!

5. Mt. Cammerer via Low Gap

The hike to Mt. Cammerer via Low Gap is a little more than 11 miles, but it is still the shortest and most common route to get there! The hike features rugged terrain, which is part of the reason it’s considered difficult. Mt. Cammerer stands at an elevation of 4,928 feet. You’ll have great views overlooking the Pigeon River Gorge, and can see the sights from the deck of a stone fire lookout. The tower provides 360 degree views of the Smokies.

All of these difficult hikes in the Smoky Mountains have something special to offer. The breathtaking views you’ll have along each of the hikes make the challenge worth every step. Before you go on your hiking trip, learn more about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and everything it has to offer!

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