6 Best Hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains for Beginners

September 11, 2023

Are you new to the Smokies or just looking for beginner-friendly hikes? Then you’re at the right place! We have everything you need to know about the best hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains for beginners: 

1. The Gatlinburg Trail

gatlinburg trailDid you know you can access a Smoky Mountain hiking trail from downtown Gatlinburg? Well, now you know! The Gatlinburg Trail off of River Road takes you along the river and through the beautiful forest all the way to Sugarlands Visitor Center. This hike is nearly 4 miles long roundtrip, and it’s also a paved trail great for biking. Another bonus– it’s one of the only pet-friendly trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park!

2. Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail 

There are several trailheads around Sugarlands Visitor Center, including an ADA-accessible, half-mile loop called the Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail. It’s one of the best hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains for families with young kids in strollers, older adults, and beginner hikers. You’ll be able to enjoy a less-crowded nature walk and enjoy the fresh mountain air!

3. Clingmans Dome 

clingmans domeEasily one of the best hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains is Clingmans Dome. Not only is it beginner-friendly, but it’s also very rewarding with its panoramic views from the observation tower. Clingmans Dome is actually the tallest point in the national park, and it’s only a half-mile walk to the top! The trail itself is paved; however, it is fairly steep. As long as you take your time and pace yourself, you’ll be fine. The view from the top is well worth it!

4. Elkmont Nature Trail 

Another well-known trail for its calming forest and unique history is the Elkmont Nature Trail. Even though it’s less than a mile long, you can easily spend hours exploring the Troll Bridge and iconic Elkmont Ghost Town. You’ll find this area is a popular spot for the kids to enjoy, but it’s also perfect for those wanting to find a bit of solitude in the Smokies without a strenuous, steep hike.

5. Laurel Falls

laurel fallsA fantastic waterfall hike that falls into the easy category is Laurel Falls. Just over 2 miles roundtrip, this Smoky Mountain hike is also paved, but definitely more uneven and narrow than other paved trails. The falls itself is 80 feet tall and features two tiers, making it a popular spot for photos. 

6. Abrams Falls 

Another waterfall hike we recommend is Abrams Falls, located in Cades Cove. It’s a 5-mile roundtrip hike that walks the line between easy and moderate in difficulty. If you feel ready to push yourself a little, this hike is definitely one you should try. While Abrams Falls is only 20 feet high, the large volume of water rushing down makes up for the lack of height. So if you’re already planning to explore Cades Cove, go ahead and add this hike to your itinerary!

Now you know a few of the best hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains for beginners, families, and kids! Take a look at these easy hiking trails in the Smokies for more beginner-friendly hikes.