The Top Trails for Hiking in the Smoky Mountains On Your Next Trip

May 20, 2020

Our favorite way to explore the Smoky Mountains is hiking! With more than 850 miles of trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you’ll have plenty of trails to choose from when you visit. To help you decide where to hike when you visit soon, we’ve made a list of the top trails for hiking in the Smoky Mountains on your next tip.

What Trails are Open?

One of the most-asked questions lately has been “What trails are open?” In Phase 2 of the national park’s reopening plan, which begins May 23, all hiking trails are open! Most secondary roads will be open as well, including Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and Greenbrier Road to the Ramsey Cascades Trailhead. However, we recommend deciding which trail you want to hike beforehand and double-checking that the road to the trailhead is open before arriving at the park.

Less Crowded Hikes

Hoping to stay away from all the crowds on your visit to the Smoky Mountains? While it can be almost impossible to avoid everyone who visits the park, there are less crowded areas you can explore! Here are some of the best less crowded trails for hiking in the Smoky Mountains:

Middle Prong Trail

Middle Prong Trail in the Smoky MountainsThe Middle Prong Trail is one of the most rewarding hikes in the Smoky Mountains that’s typically less crowded than others. The roundtrip distance is 8.3 miles. Along the way, you’ll get to see 3 major waterfalls, as well as many cascades. There’s Lower Lynn Camp Falls, Lynn Camp Falls, and Indian Flats Falls. All are gorgeous sights to be seen! You’ll also see an old rusting Cadillac, a chimney from an old homestead and more.

Hen Wallow Falls

Hen Wallow Falls is a pleasant hike that travels through a hemlock and rhododendron forest. The distance to the waterfall and back is 4.4 miles. Hen Wallow Falls is 90 feet high! If you look carefully in the water around the falls, you might just see some salamanders. It typically takes about 3 to 4 hours to hike to the waterfall and back.

Easy Hikes

Do you want an easy hike that the whole family can do? You’ll have several trail options in the Smoky Mountains. Here are two of our favorite easy trails for hiking in the Smoky Mountains:

Gatlinburg Trail

The Gatlinburg Trail travels 1.9 miles one way from the Sugarlands Visitor Center to the outskirts of Gatlinburg. It’s a popular hike for families and is one of only two hikes in the park that allows dogs! Along the hike, you’ll see views of the Little Pigeon River, foundations and chimneys of old homesites and more. It’s a popular trail for joggers, walkers and bicyclists.

Grotto Falls

Grotto FallsTo get to Grotto Falls, you’ll hike the Trillium Gap Trail. The hike to the waterfall and back is 3 miles and takes you through an old-growth hemlock forest. Grotto Falls is a 25 foot waterfall, and the trail actually runs behind it! The cool, moist environment around the waterfall creates a perfect environment for summer hikers.

Challenging Hikes

Some of the most challenging hikes in the Smokies have some of the most rewarding views! If you’re looking for a longer and more difficult trail, you’ll love these hikes:

Charlies Bunion

The climb to Charlies Bunion has a roundtrip length of 8 miles. The views you’ll have at the top make it worth every step! Throughout several portions of the trail, you’ll be traveling at elevations around 6,000 feet. Charlies Bunion is a rock outcropping that offers panoramic views of the mountains. From the west, you can see Mt. Kephart. From the east, you can see Mt. Guyot. The views you’ll have every step of the way are what make this hike so special.

Alum Cave to Mount LeConte

alum cave bluffsThe Alum Cave Trail is not only challenging, but it’s one of the most popular trails in the Smoky Mountains! The trail takes you underneath Arch Rock and up to Inspiration Point, where you’ll have breathtaking views. About 2.2 miles into the trail, you’ll reach Alum Cave. The bluffs stand about 80 feet high and 500 feet long. During warmer months, water drips off from the ledges above. Many people turn around once they reach Alum Cave, but the trail continues to the summit of Mount LeConte. At 6,593 feet, Mount LeConte is the third highest peak in the Smokies. The roundtrip length of the hike to Mount LeConte is 11 miles.

Tips for Hiking in the Smoky Mountains

To help you have the best time hiking in the Smoky Mountains, we’ve put together a list of tips for you to keep in mind:

  • Wear proper clothes
  • Don’t cross high water
  • Pack a first-aid kit
  • Don’t hike alone
  • Visit early in the morning to avoid crowds
  • Stay 50 yards away from wildlife at all times
  • Practice social distancing on trails and within the park

More Great Trails for Hiking in the Smoky Mountains

The trails listed above are just some of the best trails for you to hike when you visit soon. For more ideas of where to go hiking in the Smoky Mountains, check out these 10 Smoky Mountain trails sorted by difficulty.