There are over 800 miles of hiking trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and even those don’t account for all of the walks, drives, overlooks and scenic views that can be found in this beautiful area of the Smoky Mountains. Here are some of our favorite trails and outdoor attractions.
Grotto Falls is the waterfall that you can walk behind – you’ve probably seen someone’s photo of this one. The trail that leads to Mount LeConte runs under the falls, and a Llama train walks this trail weekly, running supplies to the LeConte Lodge. This is Trillium Gap Trail, that starts from the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail – a beautiful scenic drive rather than a hike, and one that many people don’t realize exists. See our feature page on Grotto Falls for all the details.
The Boulevard trail is one of the trails that lead to Mt. LeConte, and probably the hardest trail. Here are some photographs of the trail and the scene at the top: Smoky Mountain Hiking Trails: Mt. LeConte. And perhaps the best view from the four peaks that comprise LeConte is from Cliff Top – here are some sunset shots: Sunset Views from Cliff Top on Mt LeConte.
Rainbow Falls trail leads to one of the most popular waterfalls in the national park, with a straight drop of water falling 80 feet. The trail is fairly strenuous, but there are plenty of scenic attractions along the way if the going gets too tough – although the destination id well worth the effort if you can make it. If it’s all too much, never fear – the trailhead for this trail starts close to an on the way to the start of Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, so if getting out of the vehicle is not on, from weather, small kids, or other incapacity, take the scenic trail drive instead. See all the details in our Rainbow Falls Trail feature page.
Spruce Flats Falls is another waterfall of great beauty, and one that many people don’t know about. The hike is fairly short but with roots and some erosion it can be a tricky one – not for small kids or people who are less than agile. The trail starts at Tremont and leads through several very scenic attractions. At the end is a stunning, tiered waterfall in a magical dell, with plenty of boulders to sit and walk around on. Definitely a photo opportunity here. See more at our Spruce Flats Falls page..
For a full list of the many waterfalls in area and the trails that lead to them, see our page on Waterfalls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. And to see a list of some of the best hiking trails, take a look at our Hiking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
One trail that is an easy walk for the whole family to enjoy is the Little River Trail. This runs alongside the Little River and intersects with other trails to offer several options. In itself, it’s a sneakers-and-shorts type of trail, and it offers several little waterfalls, and many scenic and nature views, as well as historic buildings, some great foliage, and quite a lot of wildlife. See our feature page on the Little River Trail.
Getting back in the high country, Andrews Bald is a short hike from Clingmans Dome, and worth it for the view. A Bald is a flattish, mountain-meadow area in the high elevations, perfect for a picnic or just to rest and gaze at the view. Here are a couple of photos of this area in our Andrews Bald page.
Finally, for this first review of outdoor adventures in the Smoky Mountains, take a look at one of the hardest, and one of the best, scenic adventures. Chimney Tops, with its two rocky outcrops at the end, offers an indescribable view of the Smoky Mountains all around. Since the wildfires of 2016, the farthest of the two outcrops has been closed to hikers, as indeed the whole trail was for a time, while rehab work was taking place. Check out our feature story on Chimney Tops Trail.
Stay tuned for more of our reviews of the outdoor excursions from your vacation cabin, and for some easy starters, check out our Easy Outdoor Adventures in the Smoky Mountains. And for those who can’t get around too easily, there are actually two waterfalls in the national park that you can access by car. See our guides to Place of a Thousand Drips and also Meigs Falls.
For more information go here for a Smoky Mountains Map of the national park, and for a full list of hiking trails. Also see our guides to Things to Do in the Smoky Mountains, and especially for outdoor adventures, check out our Smoky Mountain Activities and our Things to Do in Gatlinburg With Kids.
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