8 Best Hiking Trails in the Smoky Mountains National Park

October 09, 2023

With over 800 miles worth of hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains National Park, it’s hard to decide which ones are the best to try! We’ve narrowed down 8 Smoky Mountain hikes that vary in difficulty, but all have rewarding views to admire and peaceful walks to enjoy.

1. Rocky Top/ Thunderhead Mountain

view from thunderhead mountain in the smoky mountains national parkThe day hike to Thunderhead Mountain, more commonly known as Rocky Top, is not easy but beautiful and rewarding! Once you hike this trail, you’ll understand why the Osborne Brothers wished they were on ole Rocky Top! The hike is over 13 miles round trip and gains over 3,600 feet in elevation! Once you’ve hiked 5 miles and reached Spence Field, you’ll go left for another mile and finally reach Rocky Top! From here, you will be treated to stunning panoramic views of Smokies! Many even call this view the best view in the Smoky Mountains!

2. Mount LeConte via Rainbow Falls

Mt. LeConte can be accessed by several trails, but getting to it via Rainbow Falls is a pretty way to go. The hike to Rainbow Falls is almost 3 miles, and from there, it’s another 4.2 to Mt. LeConte. Reaching Rainbow Falls is a sweet treat along the way to Leconte. The 80-foot waterfall is beautiful! The rest of the climb is peaceful and quiet, perfect if you are looking to enjoy that one-on-one time with nature. Once you reach Mt. LeConte, you will be on the third-highest peak in the Smokies and get to take in some breathtaking mountain views!

3. Charlies Bunion

Charlies Bunion is one of the best hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains National Park. The hike is 8 miles round trip and takes you partially along the Appalachian Trail. During your trek, you’ll be treated to views of the North Carolina Smokies and lots of wildflowers during the spring and summer. Along the trail is a campsite and shelter for campers and a natural spring for water. The endpoint of Charlies Bunion looks down a valley-like area between Mt. Kephart and Mt. Guyot and is stunning any time of the year.

4. Laurel Falls

laurel fallsThe hike to Laurel Falls is very popular since it’s only 2.3 miles round trip and paved, another great option for the kids! Laurel Falls is a stunning two-tiered waterfall. Thanks to a footbridge, you can pass from one side of the waterfall to the other, which also makes for a great photo opportunity!

5. Andrews Bald

Andrews Bald is a fantastic, family-friendly hike! This hiking trail in the Smoky Mountains National Park is only 3.5 miles round trip, and for two-thirds of the way there, it’s all downhill! Once you reach Andrews Bald, you’ll be rewarded with great views of the North Carolina Smokies and even Fontana Lake on clear days. 

6. Porters Creek

The Porters Creek Trail is relatively flat and is 4 miles round trip. This is one of the easiest hiking trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and takes you past several historic structures, including the Ownby Cemetery and the Messer farm. It’s also a great place to see wildflowers in the spring and early summer.

7. Alum Cave

alum caveAlum Cave is another popular trail that’s about 3 miles long, but along the way, you’ll follow along a river, cross up and through a cave, and get to see some incredible mountain views! Arch Rock is visible after a mile or so, then Inspiration Point another mile from the trailhead. Finally, you’ll reach Alum Cave Bluffs, where you can either turn back or continue the steep incline to the top of Mt. LeConte.

8. Gatlinburg Trail

The Gatlinburg Trail is a 1.9-mile scenic walk that travels from the edge of downtown Gatlinburg to Sugarland Visitor Center in the national park. The trail is flat and follows the river which you can cross over on a picturesque bridge. You’ll see beautiful woodlands and even some local wildlife like chipmunks, turkeys, and maybe even deer!

There’s no better way to experience the natural beauty of the Smokies than experiencing one of these hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains National Park! Interested in more hiking information and tips? Take a look at the top hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains for beginners. Get out there and start exploring!