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Kristi Parsons | 08.12.2021

This articles has been updated. It was originally published in February 2018.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a 522,427-acre natural playground that lies on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina southern Appalachian Mountains. The park is one of the most visited national parks in the country showcasing an incredible amount of biodiversity, rivers, decidious forest and what appears like an endless sea of ridgelines and mountains. Within the park boundaries you'll find close to 800 miles of hiking trails, including more than 70 miles of the Appalachian Trail, the LeConte Lodge,  front and backcountry camping, an abundance of wildlife and wildflowers, history in every corner, and 2,100 miles of rivers and streams.

Below you'll find a list of some of the best hikes within the park and a dash of information and highlights to help you plan your Smoky Mountain adventures. 

1. Appalachian Trail: Newfound Gap to Charlies Bunion

An 8-mile round-trip hike on the infamous Appalachian Trail with some of the best views in the park at Charlies Bunion. A taste of the AT that may leave you dreaming about a thru-hike journey to Maine. 

2. Clingmans Dome

Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the park, making it one of the most visited spots as well. The views are absolutely endless, the sunrises often breathtaking, and the sunsets reveal the Blue Ridge Mountains in a way that will leave you wanting to come back for more time after time. Take the 1-mile round-trip walk up to the top of the observation tower. On your way back down the road, stop in and explore the Clingmans Dome Nature Trail and say hello to the gnomes. 

3. Mount Cammerer

The hike to Mount Cammerer is by far one of the top three hikes in the park. Once you reach your destination, you'll not only be welcomed by an ocean of views but also a lookout tower on the summit. The tower was built by the CCC in 1937, and to this day it is open for exploring or maybe just taking a break from the wind, rain or snow - some even nap before heading back down the mountain. 

If you are looking for a great day pack, check out our review of the 5 best women's day packs of 2018.

4. Alum Cave Trail

Views, views, and more views. That's what you'll find on the Alum Cave Trail. Along with tranquil cascades, the Alum Cave Bluffs offer the shortest access to Mount LeConte. 

5. Cades Cove Loop

Hike it, bike it, or run it. While you can drive it, you'll miss out on a true Cades Cove experience. Go for the full 11-mile loop to get a taste of the historic building sites and enjoy your best opportunities for spotting wildlife.

6. Ramsey Cascades

The hike to the tallest waterfall in the park is 8-miles round trip. Soak up the journey, not just the destination, because on this hike you'll be passing through the park's largest old-growth forest. 

7. Thunderhead Mountain + Rocky Top

The song lyrics "Rocky Top, you'll always be home sweet home to me" are possibly some of the most popular lyrics in Tennessee. Once you reach the Rocky Top of the Smokies - you'll be singing the same. A challenging hike with amazing views. 

8. Gregory Bald + Shuckstack Firetower

An awe-inspiring summit hike with 360-degree views and even 78 stairs up an almost 100-year-old fire tower to test your feeling on heights. 

9. Mount Sterling via Big Creek Loop

One of the hardest hikes in the park, but with a panoramic pay off waiting for you at the top. If you're not up for the full 17-mile loop, there is a 2.7-mile trail that leads directly to the summit of Mount Sterling.


10. Mount LeConte Via Trillium Gap and Boulevard

Experience it all with this hike. A waterfall, views, LeConte Lodge, and the Appalachian Trail. This hike will require shuttling unless you're up for a really long day. 

11. Abrams Falls Trail

A waterfall hike that can be combined with the Cades Cove Loop or a weekend adventure at the Cades Cove Campground.

12. Andrews Bald

A great destination to add some miles and views when you're visiting Clingmans Dome.  The Forney Ridge Trail leaves directly from the parking lot, and you can continue on the trail from the bald.

13. Chimney Tops

A short hike, but one that will get your heart pumping and leave you in awe. The 2-mile approach gains 1,375 feet, which is enough to earn you some spectacular views from the top. 

14. Middle Prong Trail

A great beginner hike that is filled with history and waterfalls. Bonus points if you find the 100-year-old Cadillac left behind by the Civilian Conservation Corps. 

15. Deep Creek Loop

The Deep Creek Loop will take you to three of the park's waterfalls. In the summer months, cool of with a lazy tubing trip down the river. 

16. Little River Trail

An easy riverside trail that is perfect for a stroll in the mountains. Bring the kids along to hunt for a few of the park's famous salamanders near the creek!

There are many great options for lodging around Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Rental homes, B&Bs and hotels, are readily available outside of the national park in GatlinburgCherokee, and a bit further away in Asheville and Knoxville.


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