Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most popular park in the nation. With more than 800 miles of trails that lead to waterfalls, stunning vistas, peaceful meadows and a diverse variety of plant and wildlife, the Park offers a vast range of hiking and viewing-point options.
Here are some recommended light day-hiking trips that are easy on the feet and suitable for both young and old. Sneakers can usually be worn on these easy trails, though sensible walking shoes are better, and you should always tread carefully, especially if a trail turns a little rough and muddy.
Other tips for comfort: dress in layers and carry a light jacket with you – the temperatures of some these high locations can be 10-20 degrees cooler than in the lowlands. The trails run through deep forests, high ridge tops, and along gushing streams, and waterfalls – all offering stunning scenic views of the Park.
Easy Hikes in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Laurel Falls. A highly popular hike among park visitors because of its proximity to Gatlinburg, this paved path spans 2.6 miles and is dubbed the easiest waterfall hike on the Tennessee side of the Park. Laurel Falls reaches a height of 60 feet, and this trails cuts through a beautiful series of cascades.
- Little River Trail. The Little River is a pretty cascading stream with large boulders and several small waterfalls. The trail goes along the stream and gently climbs an old gravel railroad bed. This trail is especially beautiful during the Park’s famous wildflower season of mid-March to April. You’ll see a host of wildflowers simply walking along the path.
- Porters Creek Trail. This easy hike of 4 miles starts out of Greenbrier, just east of Gatlinburg, and consists of a stroll along a rushing, cascading stream through a lush forest, with structures dating from the early settlement period of the area, and a 50-foot high waterfall known as Fern Branch Falls.
- Chimneys Picnic Area. Featuring wonderful river views, this is the perfect place for a lazy picnic with friends and family. Chimneys Picnic Area is located on Newfound Gap Road (US-441) approximately 4.5 miles south of the Sugarlands Visitor Center.
- Big Creek / Mouse Creek Falls. This trail for novice hikers is relatively smooth and features a gradual climb of only 580 feet over the two miles it takes to get to 45-foot high Mouse Creek Falls. The Big Creek Trail follows an old railroad built by a logging company in the early 1900s during a logging boom. Improved by the Civilian Conservation Corp in the 1930s, the trail is well maintained, a breeze of a trail.
- The Gatlinburg Trail goes to the park from town, and you can take your dog on a leash along this trail, and bicycle.
For more ideas and destinations that aren’t always hikes but offer a great way for the whole family to get outdoors, see our guides to Easy Outdoor Adventures: Fun Places for Everyone and also Easy Walks in the Smoky Mountains.
For a little more energetic adventures, see our Hiking in the Smokies guide for a Great Smoky Mountains National Park map that shows all the trails, with our listing of some of the best Smoky Mountains hiking trails. It’s all free to explore.
You can find even more outdoor ideas in our Smoky Mountains Activities guide. Also check out our Things to Do in the Smoky Mountains guide as well, and Things to Do in Gatlinburg With Kids.
We have cabins all over the area, so you can plan your stay in our Wears Valley cabins, our Pigeon Forge rental cabins or our Gatlinburg cabins – and if you want to bring the family pet along, check our latest list of pet friendly cabins in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.