The Quiet Walkways of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are great for you and your family to stretch your legs during a scenic drive. They’ll also allow you to see some spots that those who stay in their cars will miss, and they’re easy enough for anyone who can walk on a trail.
The numerous scenic drives located throughout the Great Smoky Mountains are well-known by many, but fewer people are aware of the quiet walkways that are scattered across the park. These short and simple trails are easily accessible from some of the most popular roads in the area, so they make a great addition to your family’s scenic itinerary as you explore your surroundings.
The trick with quiet walkways is not to miss the modest little wooden sign with the arrow pointing off the highway, and the small pullout for a couple of cars by the side of the road. This is your trailhead. From here, you quickly immerse into a deep and quiet piece of the park, and spend some time away from the more crowded areas.
If you’re looking for a peaceful day trip from your Smoky Mountains cabin, consider taking a drive that includes checking out one of the many quiet walkways. They are perhaps the most charming and gentle way to get a taste for hiking the park, and may easily lead to trying some longer trails over time.
To get you started, here are some of the notable walkways in the park, but there are several others worth exploring.
Hickory Flats Quiet Walkway
The area between the Sugarlands Visitor Center and Cades Cove on the western end of the park is where you will find several of the quiet walkways. As you drive west from Sugarlands on Fighting Creek Gap Road, the second walkway you come upon will be the Hickory Flats Quiet Walkway. This path takes you near a small creek known as Hickory Flats Branch, which is one of the main routes for water to drain down off of Cove Mountain. It also crosses over Whistlepig Branch as well. The trail is listed as being 0.3 miles one-way in length, and it is over non-strenuous terrain.
Laurel Branch Quiet Walkway
Afterwards, if you drive a little further west on Fighting Creek Gap Road you will see the Laurel Falls Quiet Walkway. This 0.3-mile loop will allow you to see some of the terrain around the Laurel Falls area without having to hike the more strenuous and time-consuming Laurel Falls Trail. Both of these quiet walkways are easy drives from the town of Gatlinburg or the Sugarlands Visitor Center.
Balsam Point Quiet Walkway
Heading south from the Sugarlands Visitor Center on US Highway 441, towards the North Carolina border, you will discover several more quiet walkways. One is the Balsam Point Quiet Walkway, which is just a bit north of the popular Chimney Tops overlook. This path has an ample number of lined parking spaces, and it provides several close views of Steep Branch creek and the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River. This path is also approximately a 0.3-mile loop, and it features a clearing with a log bench where you can relax and enjoy the scenery.
Thunderhead Prong Quiet Walkway
If you’re willing to travel a little farther off the beaten path you can experience some beautiful river views on the Thunderhead Prong Quiet Walkway. This path is a bit longer than some others (approximately 1.4 miles long, so 2.8 mi round trip), but it offers a good example of the flora of the national park’s backcountry without having to travel there. You can find the walkway by heading south of Townsend, TN on Tremont Road, and parking near the Middle Prong Trail trailhead. Then, keep to the right to reach the Thunderhead Prong Quiet Walkway.