There is no question that the Great Smoky Mountains offer some of the most scenic views and beautiful landscapes in the United States. The best way to see these amazing surroundings during your visit is definitely on a hike—just you and the woods, with nothing to take away from the purity of the experience. There are many hikes to choose from, but here are some of the best, in varying degrees of difficulty.
- Check out the Sugarlands, located on the Tennessee side of the park, so named because of their history as a maple grove. Hike the one-mile loop from Sugarlands Visitor Center to the John Ownby cabin and check out the remnants of the area’s original Scotch-Irish, English and German settlers. Difficulty: Easy
- The Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail is a perfect hike for a group with small children. The trail is paved and level, and is only 3,000 feet long. Be sure to check out the bear footprints in the concrete toward the back of the loop! Difficulty: Easy
- Just outside of Gatlinburg is Greenbrier, Tennessee, the starting point for the Porter’s Creek Trail. This trail offers streams, forests, ruins from early settlers, a waterfall, and seasonally, some beautiful wildflowers. All this in just four miles roundtrip. Difficulty: Easy
- Rainbow Falls Trail is one of the best hikes on the Tennessee side of the park and part of the Cherokee Orchard/Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. You’ll pass Rainbow Falls, a portion of LeConte Creek that pours for 80 feet over a rock cliff. It earns its name from the rainbow that the afternoon sun reveals when it hits the water at the right angle. The hike is 2.6 miles each direction, but there is a great break around the 2.5 mile mark, where you can see the entire valley. Difficulty: Moderate
- If you feel up to it, don’t miss hikes that pass Grotto Falls. On your way, you’ll pass through the Trillium Gap, an amazing scene in springtime when all of the region’s wildflowers are in full bloom. All trails cross the Roaring Fork River in their gentle ascent. At the 1.1 mile mark, a creek deepens into a pool and you will enter a narrow defile while the Roaring Fork River hurtles downward in the Grotto Falls. You will pass behind the waterfall, so be careful as you walk on the wet rocks. The hike is about 1.2 miles each way. Difficulty: Moderate
- The Andrews Bald Trail will take you to a beautiful Smoky Mountains landmark: Walk through ancient boreal rainforest at the high elevation. This view is unmatched, though the 3.6 mile hike can be busy on pretty days. Difficulty: Moderate
- Want to learn a little bit of history? Visit the Walker Sister’s homesite. Be sure to check out the Little Greenbrier School House, where you parked, before heading out on your way. This gentle walk takes place on an old roadbed and will give your family a taste of life from years gone by. The Walker Sisters were granted a lifetime lease by the National Park Service in 1934. The five unmarried sisters lived in this very simple home until the time of their deaths. The last Walker Sister passed away in 1964. 3 miles round trip. Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
- On a clear day, pick the hike from the Low Gap Trailhead. On your way to the top of Mt. Cammerer, you will hike up to 4,928 feet. Although this is the shortest route, it is still 12 miles round trip and relatively steep. Difficulty: Strenuous
- The Chimney Tops Trail is one of the Smoky Mountain’s most popular hikes for a reason. Get up early to beat the crowds to see the incredible views unfettered. This trail is the site of arson in 2016, and is the starting point of the devastating wildfire which tore through the park and the town of Gatlinburg. Though the hike is just two miles to the top, it is a steep two miles. Due to fire damage, always follow signs and never stray off trail or climb the delicate chimneys. Difficulty: Strenuous
- If a big waterfall is your favorite destination, try the Ramsey Cascades Trail. At eight miles round trip, the incline of the trail steady increases as you approach the magnificent Ramsey Cascades – the largest waterfall you can reach on a maintained trail in the park. Be sure to bring some water for this half to full day hike. Difficulty: Strenuous
Be sure the hike you choose is appropriate for your skill level, pack an adequate amount of water and snacks, and first aid supplies. Follow these guidelines, choose the hike that sounds best for you and your family, and get going! After your hike, you’ll be ready to rest up and maybe even soothe those tired muscles. Lucky for you our cabins in Gatlinburg and in Pigeon Forge offer hot tubs, jacuzzi tubs, and sometimes even hydrotherapy showers! Pick your perfect cabin now and get ready to plan the trip of a lifetime.