Don't let the short distance of this hike fool you: this 4-mile round-trip hike is far from an easy stroll through the woods. In the 2 miles it takes to reach the summit you gain about 1,375 feet in elevation, about 960 feet gained in the last mile. Despite the strenuousness, Chimney Tops is one of the most popular trails in Great Smoky Mountain National Park due to its short length and astounding 360-degree vistas.
The first mile of the hike gains relatively little elevation and follows the cascading Road Prong Creek, which requires footbridges to cross. The peaceful stream crossings turn into a purely uphill trek until you reach the base of the summit. The climb to the top is very unique because Chimney Tops has one of the only bare rock summits in the park. Reaching the summit requires a very steep scramble up the rocks. Although you don't need gear for the climb to the top, the climb should be avoided if you have a strong fear of heights or if there are wet conditions (the rocks tend to get very slippery).
Along this last mile of the trail hikers will be surrounded by a stunning old-growth forest filled with yellow buckeye trees, including one of the oldest yellow buckeyes in the entire Smoky Mountain area. In springtime the forest is littered with wildflowers, mainly trillium and hepatica, that increase the scenic appeal and popularity of this trail even more.
The scenic trail filled with creeks, old-growth forests and wildflowers combined with the amazing views at the top make this a must-do hike on any visit to the Smoky Mountains.