If you’re a nature enthusiast looking for an adventure in Gatlinburg, you’re probably wondering where you can find the best hiking trails in Gatlinburg. Luckily for you, Gatlinburg is a hiker’s paradise, boasting a plethora of trails that cater to all levels of experience. From scenic paths that wind through lush forests to challenging climbs that offer breathtaking views, there is something for everyone. So, lace up your hiking boots, grab a trail map, and get ready to explore the natural beauty that Gatlinburg has to offer.
Best Hiking Trails In Gatlinburg – Great Smoky Mountains National Park
One of the most iconic landmarks in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is Clingmans Dome. As the highest point in the park, this majestic peak offers sweeping views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. To reach the summit, you’ll embark on a half-mile hike along a paved trail that gradually ascends to an elevation of 6,643 feet. Once at the top, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking panoramic vistas that make it well worth the effort.
If you’re up for a challenging trek with stunning views, set your sights on Charlies Bunion. This popular trail starts at Newfound Gap and winds its way along the Appalachian Trail. As you make your way to Charlies Bunion, which is a prominent rock outcrop, you’ll be treated to scenic overlooks that showcase the park’s natural beauty. Be prepared for a strenuous hike, as the trail is steep at times, but the breathtaking vistas will make every step worth it.
Alum Cave Trail
For a hike that combines natural beauty with fascinating geological features, look no further than the Alum Cave Trail. This 5.5-mile round trip trail takes you through lush forests, across rushing streams, and ultimately to the imposing Alum Cave Bluffs. The bluffs themselves are a sight to behold, with towering rock formations that have been sculpted by centuries of erosion. Don’t forget to stop at Inspiration Point, where you can pause and admire the stunning vistas that stretch as far as the eye can see.
If you’re on the hunt for a family-friendly hike with a rewarding destination, Grotto Falls is the perfect choice. This easy 2.6-mile round trip trail leads you through a lush hemlock forest and eventually to the mesmerizing Grotto Falls. What sets this waterfall apart is the unique opportunity to walk behind it, immersing yourself in nature and feeling the refreshing mist on your skin. Grotto Falls is a must-visit spot for nature lovers of all ages.
Prepare to be enchanted by the beauty of Rainbow Falls. As one of the tallest waterfalls in the park, this majestic cascade plunges down for nearly 80 feet, creating a mesmerizing display. The trail to Rainbow Falls is a moderately strenuous 5.4-mile round trip, but the sight of the sparkling waters and the lovely rainbow that often forms in the mist make it an unforgettable experience. Keep an eye out for the colorful salamanders that inhabit the area, adding an extra touch of magic to your journey.
A hike to Abrams Falls is a must for those seeking a combination of natural beauty and tranquility. The trail is a moderate 5.2-mile round trip that navigates through dense forests, alongside the rushing waters of Abrams Creek. Upon reaching the falls, you’ll be greeted by the sight of cascading water that plummets into a picturesque pool. Take a moment to relax and soak in the peaceful atmosphere before heading back, knowing that you’ve experienced one of the most iconic features of the Great Smoky Mountains.
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
As mentioned earlier, Grotto Falls is a popular destination that can be accessed from both the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and the Trillium Gap Trail. Since we’ve already covered this spectacular waterfall in the previous section, let’s move on to the other hidden gems waiting to be discovered along Roaring Fork.
Baskins Creek Falls
For those seeking a bit of tranquility away from the crowds, Baskins Creek Falls is a beautiful option. This moderately strenuous 3-mile round trip trail leads you through a peaceful forest, eventually revealing a stunning waterfall that cascades 40 feet into a pristine pool. The secluded setting and the soothing sound of rushing water make Baskins Creek Falls a hidden oasis.
Nestled amidst a serene woodland, Cataract Falls is a hidden gem that can be found along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. A short 0.1-mile walk from the parking area will lead you to this picturesque waterfall, where the cascading waters create a mesmerizing display. This easy-access spot is perfect for a quick stop to enjoy nature’s beauty.
Place of a Thousand Drips
True to its name, the Place of a Thousand Drips is a unique section of the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail where water trickles down through the rocks, creating a magical mosaic of miniature waterfalls. This enchanting spot is a photographer’s paradise, as the play of light against the flowing water creates a truly captivating sight. Be sure to explore this hidden treasure along the trail for an up-close experience with nature’s artistry.
Mount LeConte via the Alum Cave Trail
Alum Cave Bluffs
As mentioned earlier, the Alum Cave Trail is a stunning hike that leads to various points of interest. One of the highlights along the trail is the Alum Cave Bluffs. These towering rock formations captivate hikers as they pass through, providing shade and a sense of awe. The unique geological features and the cool breeze make this spot a perfect place to rest and recharge before continuing the ascent to Mount LeConte.
Located about 2.7 miles from the trailhead, Inspiration Point lives up to its name by offering breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. This scenic overlook allows hikers to pause and take in the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains, providing a truly inspiring experience. From this vantage point, you can observe the changing colors of the landscape and marvel at the vastness of the wilderness.
Lodge at Mount LeConte
For those seeking a unique overnight experience, the Lodge at Mount LeConte is a hidden gem nestled on the summit of Mount LeConte. This rustic lodge can only be reached by hiking, making it a true adventure for outdoor enthusiasts. Stay in one of the cozy cabins and wake up to panoramic views of the sunrise over the mountains. The Lodge at Mount LeConte offers an unforgettable getaway immersed in nature.
Looking to witness an unforgettable sunrise or sunset? Myrtle Point is the place to be. Located near the summit of Mount LeConte, this overlook offers unparalleled views of the surrounding peaks as they are bathed in the golden hues of dawn or dusk. Bring your camera and capture the magic of the Great Smoky Mountains as the colors dance across the sky. Myrtle Point is a tranquil spot that will leave you with memories to last a lifetime.
Chimney Tops Trail
One of the most famous landmarks in the Great Smoky Mountains, the Chimney Tops are a pair of towering rock formations that resemble chimneys. The trail to reach the Chimney Tops is a challenging one, with steep sections that require careful navigation. However, the reward at the summit is well worth the effort. From the rocky outcrop, you’ll be treated to stunning panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, making it an ideal spot for photographers and nature enthusiasts alike.
For those seeking a longer and more secluded hike, venture onto the Bullhead Trail. This 5.9-mile trail takes you away from the crowds and immerses you in a peaceful forest setting. As you navigate through the trail, keep an eye out for various wildlife species that call this area home. Bullhead Trail offers a peaceful retreat for those looking to connect with nature and enjoy a more secluded hiking experience.
Cades Cove Loop Road
As mentioned previously, Abrams Falls is a must-visit destination in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. However, if you prefer a more leisurely approach, you can reach Abrams Falls via the Cades Cove Loop Road. This scenic road allows you to drive through the picturesque Cades Cove valley while enjoying views of the surrounding mountains. Once you’ve arrived, take a short 2.5-mile round trip hike to Abrams Falls and revel in its beauty.
Cades Cove Nature Trail
For a family-friendly hike that showcases the diversity of the park, head to the Cades Cove Nature Trail. This easy 0.6-mile loop takes you through fields, near a picturesque creek, and into a serene forest. Along the way, interpretive signs provide information about the flora and fauna you’ll encounter. This trail is perfect for those who want to learn more about the natural history of the area while enjoying a relaxed stroll.
Rich Mountain Loop Trail
For a longer and more challenging hike within the Cades Cove area, the Rich Mountain Loop Trail offers a rewarding adventure. This 8.5-mile loop takes you through a dense forest, along a ridge, and offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. The trail is steep at times but offers a glimpse into the park’s diverse ecosystems and abundant wildlife. Be prepared for an all-day adventure as you navigate this trail, but the sense of accomplishment and the beauty of the scenery will make it all worthwhile.
Laurel Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and for good reason. This picturesque cascade is easily accessible via a paved trail that stretches for 2.6 miles round trip. As you make your way to the falls, you’ll be surrounded by vibrant flora and towering trees. Once you arrive, you’ll be greeted by the stunning sight of water cascading down for 80 feet, creating a postcard-worthy scene.
As you hike along the trail to Laurel Falls, you’ll come across the Hiker’s Bridge. This picturesque bridge spans a rushing creek and offers a great vantage point for observing the surrounding natural beauty. Take a moment to pause, listen to the soothing sounds of the water, and soak in the tranquility of the forest. The Hiker’s Bridge provides a serene spot to reflect and appreciate the wonders of nature.
Old Settlers Trail
For those seeking a longer and less crowded hike, the Old Settlers Trail is a hidden gem. This 15.2-mile trail winds its way through thick forests, past peaceful streams, and offers glimpses into the historical heritage of the area. As you traverse the trail, keep an eye out for remnants of old homesteads and imagine the lives of the early settlers who once called this place home. The Old Settlers Trail provides a unique opportunity to connect with the park’s past while immersing yourself in its natural beauty.
Porters Creek Trail
Fern Branch Falls
A magical waterfall, Fern Branch Falls is a hidden gem along the Porters Creek Trail. This 1.5-mile trail meanders through lush forests and along a picturesque creek, leading you to this stunning cascade. Fern Branch Falls features a delicate and beautiful water flow that tumbles down from above, surrounded by vibrant green ferns. The tranquil atmosphere and the soothing sound of flowing water make this waterfall a perfect spot for contemplation and relaxation.
As you hike along Porters Creek Trail, you’ll be accompanied by the gentle babbling of Porters Creek. This serene creek weaves its way through the forest, creating a peaceful ambiance that enhances the hiking experience. Take a moment to dip your feet in the cool water or simply sit on the banks and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. Porters Creek offers a refreshing respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Backcountry Campsite 31
For those looking to immerse themselves in the wilderness and spend a night under the stars, Backcountry Campsite 31 along Porters Creek Trail offers a secluded and serene camping experience. Set up your tent amidst the towering trees, and fall asleep to the soothing sounds of nature. Wake up refreshed and ready to continue your exploration of the park. Backcountry camping allows you to truly connect with the Great Smoky Mountains and create lasting memories.
Sugarlands Visitor Center
As the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Sugarlands Visitor Center is a must-visit spot for any traveler. Here, you can gather information about the park, obtain maps, and immerse yourself in the fascinating history and heritage of the area. Take some time to explore the exhibits and learn about the diverse ecosystems and wildlife that call the park home. The Sugarlands Visitor Center is the perfect starting point for your adventure into the Smokies.
Oconaluftee River Trail
For a leisurely stroll that offers both natural beauty and a glimpse into the park’s cultural history, the Oconaluftee River Trail is a perfect choice. This 1.5-mile trail follows the course of the Oconaluftee River and showcases the symbiotic relationship between the natural environment and the local community. Along the way, you can explore historic buildings, learn about the area’s rich heritage, and enjoy the serene beauty of the river. The Oconaluftee River Trail offers a unique blend of nature and culture.
One of the highlights of the Gatlinburg Trail is its abundance of wildlife. As you hike along the trail, keep your eyes peeled for various species that call the area home. From black bears and white-tailed deer to the elusive river otters, the trail offers numerous opportunities for wildlife viewing. Make sure to bring your binoculars and camera to capture these incredible creatures in their natural habitat.
Old Sugarlands Trail
For a hike that takes you off the beaten path and into the heart of the forest, the Old Sugarlands Trail is a hidden gem. This 3.9-mile trail offers a more secluded experience, away from the crowds. As you navigate the trail, you’ll be surrounded by peaceful woods and the soothing sounds of nature. The Old Sugarlands Trail is a tranquil escape that provides a sense of solitude and serenity.
Little River Trail
Elkmont is a historic area within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that offers a glimpse into the past. Once a thriving logging and resort community, Elkmont is now a ghost town with remnants of old cabins and a sense of nostalgia. Start your journey on the Little River Trail from Elkmont and immerse yourself in the park’s rich history. As you hike along the trail, you’ll pass by abandoned structures and witness the regrowth of nature reclaiming its place. Elkmont is a fascinating destination for history buffs and those seeking a unique hiking experience.
For those seeking a more strenuous adventure, the Huskey Gap Trail is a challenging option. This 4.6-mile trail gains elevation quickly and rewards hikers with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. The trail takes you through a dense forest, across rocky terrain, and ultimately to Huskey Gap, where you can catch your breath and revel in the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains. Huskey Gap offers a sense of accomplishment and a well-deserved vista that will leave you in awe.
Cucumber Gap Trail is a picturesque 5.6-mile loop that takes you through varying landscapes and offers a diverse hiking experience. As you traverse the trail, you’ll pass through peaceful woods, lush meadows, and alongside a gentle stream. The changing scenery provides a refreshing perspective and showcases the park’s natural beauty. Cucumber Gap Trail is a hidden gem that offers a little bit of everything for hikers looking for a well-rounded adventure.
Hiking and Picnicking
The Little River Trail is not only a great hiking trail, but it’s also the perfect spot for a relaxing picnic. Pack a picnic lunch or some snacks, find a scenic spot along the trail or near the river, and take a break from your hike to enjoy the peaceful surroundings. The gentle sound of the river and the soothing atmosphere make for a delightful picnic setting. Whether you’re traveling with family, friends, or simply enjoying some solitude, a picnic on the Little River Trail is a fantastic way to recharge and refuel.
Mt. Cammerer via Low Gap Trail
Low Gap Trail
The Low Gap Trail is a challenging 11.8-mile hike that leads to the iconic Mount Cammerer Tower. This trail takes you through a variety of landscapes, from dense forests to open meadows, and rewards hikers with breathtaking views along the way. As you ascend the trail, the canopy opens up, offering glimpses of the surrounding mountain ranges. The Low Gap Trail is a strenuous but rewarding adventure for those seeking panoramic vistas and a sense of accomplishment.
Mt. Cammerer Tower
At the summit of Mount Cammerer, you’ll find the historical Mount Cammerer Tower. Built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, this stone lookout tower offers 360-degree views of the Great Smoky Mountains. With the Appalachian Trail visible in the distance, the tower serves as a reminder of the park’s rich history and the efforts to preserve its natural beauty. Climb to the top of the tower, and you’ll be rewarded with stunning vistas that extend as far as the eye can see.
Throughout the entire hike up the Low Gap Trail to Mount Cammerer, you’ll be treated to incredible panoramic views. The endless expanse of mountains and valleys stretches out before you, providing a sense of awe and appreciation for the grandeur of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. These sweeping vistas make the challenging hike well worth it and offer a unique perspective on the park’s natural splendor.
In conclusion, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers a multitude of hiking trails that cater to all levels of ability and interests. From iconic landmarks like Clingmans Dome to hidden gems like Fern Branch Falls, each trail provides a unique opportunity to connect with nature and immerse yourself in the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains. So lace up your hiking boots, pack some snacks, and embark on an adventure through the trails of the Great Smoky Mountains. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a beginner, there’s a trail waiting for you in Gatlinburg. You can find even more great information about the trails, including difficulty ratings at AllTrails.