Best Hiking Trails In Gatlinburg: Our Favorite Hikes

Hiking is an activity almost everyone can enjoy, whether you go on paved nature trails, campground walks, mountainous terrain, or backcountry territory. There are more than 800 miles of trails leading to cascading waterfalls, beautiful vistas, and quiet meadows. The trails wind through deep forests, on high ridge tops, and along rushing streams.

Trail heading up to Mt. LeConte

Trail heading up to Mt. LeConte

One of the organizations that helps protect and preserve the beauty we enjoy in the Great Smoky Mountains is Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Friends help raise funds for public awareness projects, volunteer efforts, and educational programs. You can learn more about the Friends’ organization, buy a Smokies license plate, and find out how to donate time or money to the Smokies through the Web site www.friendsofthesmokies.org

When you hike in the Smokies, Park officials advise hiking during daylight hours only and caution hikers to always stay on designated trails. During summer months, be sure to take along plenty of water, and in any season, a sturdy pair of hiking shoes is helpful. You can choose from self-guided trails, waterfalls, back country trails, and balds.

Self-Guided trails are ideal places to explore the Smokies’ forests and learn about the area’s rich natural -and cultural heritage. Numbered stakes found along the trail are keyed to leaflets available at trailheads, which describe points of interest along the way. Waterfalls are popular destinations for day hikes, especially on hot summer days. The trails range from easy to strenuous, but no matter what the effort required, the reward justifies the endeavor. The Back Country trails are for the more experienced, adventurous hiker. They offer an in-depth, backwoods experience. Finally, the Balds are mysterious treeless areas high in the mountains. Some speculate that they were caused by ice storms, insects, woolly mammoths, dry wind or fire.

Hiking is definitely a great way to keep in shape while enjoying the breath-taking scenery here in the Smoky Mountains.

Self-Guided Trails:

Cosby
1 Mile Round Trip — Easy Hike
Introduction to the Smoky Mountains Natural History

Elkmount
3/4 Mile Round Trip — Easy Hike
Second growth forest.

Sugarlands
1 Mile Round Trip — Easy Hike
A paved trail built in 1993 to accommodate visitors with disabilities. The level trail leads to distinct forest life zones, a river and the remains of pre-park dwellings. Special communications media assist in interpreting nature and is available at the Sugarlands Visitor Center. The trail is a favorite with visitors with mobility and sensory impairments as well as with older visitors and families with children in strollers.

Alum Cave
4.4 Mile Round Trip — Moderate Hike
It includes Arch Rock, a natural arch, Inspiration Point, and the Alum Cave Bluff. Inspiration Point offers a spectacular view of the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River’s upper basin. The bluff resulted from Confederate mining of saltpeter during the Civil War. This trail continues to Mt. LeConte, and its beautiful viewpoints. Roundtrip distance from the parking area to LeConte is 10 miles.

Cove Hardwood
3/4 Mile Round Trip — Easy Hike
A grove of old-growth deciduous trees.

Albright Grove –¬†Maddron Bald
7 Mile Round Trip — Easy Hike
This trail follows a portion of Maddron Bald trail to the Albright Grove loop, which passes through one of the largest and most impressive stands of virgin poplar in Eastern Tennessee.

Anthony Creek Trail
12.8 Mile Round Trip — Moderate Hike
This is Cades Cove’s easternmost trail. It begins in the Cades Cove picnic area. The trail follows Anthony Creek to its headwaters. After three miles the trail reaches backcountry campsite #9. After another mile the path merges with Bote Mountain Trail. Destinations include Spence Field, the Appalachian Trail, and Rocky Top. Rocky Top holds one of the Park’s best vistas.

Cades Cove Nature Trail
2 Mile Round Trip — Easy Hike
This is a great trail for families. It is less than one mile past the Cades Cove Visitor Center, and begins along the loop road. The two mile loop hike takes about an hour. A brochure explains more about the Cove’s cultural and natural history.


Back Country Trails:

Boogerman Trail
7.5 Mile Round Trip – Moderate Hike
This trail takes you by some old growth forest, picturesque streams and falls, and the remains of early settler’s homesites.

Charlie’s Bunion
8 Mile Round Trip – Strenuous Hike
Following the Appalachian Trail, this hike goes out to rocky crags along the state-line ridge. It has excellent views.

Chimney Tops
4 Mile Round Trip – Strenuous Hike
It is a steep climb to two rock spires 4,730 feet in elevation. From the top they provide a spectacular 360-degree view.

Mt. Sterling
12 Mile Round Trip – Strenuous Hike
Climb this trail through the changing forest of Spruce Fir, Fraser Fir, and Red Spruce. The Mt. Sterling trail will emerge atop a truly magnificent pinnacle where a park fire tower stands.

Shuckstack
6.8 Mile Round Trip – Strenuous Hike
The steep terrain can be slick in snow or rain, or on fallen leaves. However, the excellent views of the Fontana Lake and the Smokies are worth it.

Smokemont Loop
5.7 Mile Round Trip – Moderate Hike
Enjoy mountain streams and wildflowers while hiking on this trail.


Balds:

Andrews Bald
3.6 Mile Round Trip – Moderate Hike
This hike heads down slope to a bald. Excellent views open to the south, toward Fontana Lake, and in spring the azalea explode with color. This trailhead is not accessible by car from 12/1 to 4/1.

Gregory Bald
9 Mile Round Trip – Strenuous Hike
The Cove’s most scenic, but strenuous, hike is the Gregory Bald Ridge Trail. The trailhead is on Forge Creek Road. Follow Forge Creek Road two miles. It ends as a parking lot. The trail to Gregory Bald begins here. This tough trip gains 3,000 feet in elevation. Old growth forest, with eight-foot diameter tulip poplars, and the 10acre bald highlights this trail.

Spence Field
11 Mile Round Trip – Moderate Hike
This trail features Bote Mountain trail, Spence Field and outstanding views.

Thunderhead
14 Mile Round Trip – Strenuous Hike
This steep and strenuous trail feature Rocky top and panoramic views.