As one of the highest visited national parks in the United States, the Smoky Moutain hosts nearly 11 million people.
It’s no wonder. With its stunning views, tourist-friendly environment, and over 500,000 acres of land, there’s a luscious landscape to explore and admire.
The Smoky Mountain hiking trails are some of the most picturesque, and with mountains that seem to stretch on forever, they offer some of the most incredible adventures that nature holds. If your looking to up your hiking game, these trails will give you the challenge you seek.
How to Hike Properly Without Injury
While hiking provides a great amount of exercise, there are some precautions to consider before venturing out like a pioneer.
Understand Your Fitness Level
You may want to conquer some of the more rigorous trails in the Smokies, but if your health is a concern there are plenty of lighter trails to consider. Don’t put your health at risk!
Check the Weather
Staying up to date on the weather helps you know how to dress. If the weather is bad, you can plan for another time.
Proper shoes for hiking and wool socks are recommended for hiking. Dress for the weather, wearing layers if you become hot. Avoid cotton as it stays damp if you’re sweating.
Don’t overpack, but be sure to bring along these essential items:
- light snacks and water
- a small tube of sunscreen
- flashlight, if you’ll be out after dark
- first-aid kit
- phone with an emergency number
- emergency shelter (tent) in case you get lost
Let Someone Know Your Location
Even though there are horror stories about lost hikers, most people do well. But if you’re traveling alone, inform a family member or friend where you’ll be in case of an emergency.
Remember, a hike is not a sprint. If you begin quickly, you’ll lose energy and depending on the difficulty of the trail and you don’t want that.
8 Smoky Mountain Hiking Trails to Try
800 miles of trails run throughout the Smoky Mountains, yet some of the most difficult ones can provide a sense of accomplishment and memorable views. Before heading out, check out the safety tips given by the national park.
1. Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian Trail is not for the faint of heart and without a doubt the most challenging.
This famous trail stretches over 2,000 miles, but the portion in the Smokies is 72 miles. It’s covered with rocks and hills that will test even the most advanced hiker.
Be sure to seriously plan for this hike as it’s not your average afternoon trip. For average hikers, it could take a week or more to complete.
2. Baxter Creek to Mt. Sterling
The 6.2 trip one-way up to Mt. Sterling via Baxter Creek will take you to an elevation of 4200 ft. To return to the bottom the trip is more than 12 miles.
Baxter Creek is thought to be one of toughest trails in the park, although it’s dotted with wildflowers along the way. The view from the top is filled with greenery and spruces. Take a trip up the 60-foot fire tower to experience the panoramic view.
3. Mt. Cammerer
This trail begins in the Cosby area of the Smokies. At 11 miles long (round trip), it’s incredibly demanding with an elevation of over 5,000 feet. Even with its laborious climb, the forest is lush, woven with streams in between.
Head up to the stone tower for a history lesson about the tower itself and bask in the amazing view.
4. Ramsey Cascades
If you’re interested in seeing the tallest waterfall you can reach by trail in these mountains, you need to trek Ramsey Cascades.
Ramsey Cascades can be found in Greenbrier and at 8 miles round trip, this trail is a challenge hiking up to over 4,000 feet. The view of the waterfall is a spectacle if you can push through the steepest last mile!
5. Gregory Ridge Trail
Hike to Gregory Bald via Gregory Ridge Trail and witness some of the most stunning azaleas and trees in the summertime, preferably in June. Even with the brightly colored landscape, this trail takes effort because of its uphill structure.
At the top, you take in a view of Cades Cove and peek in the North Carolina. The elevation of Gregory Ridge Trail is 11 miles round trip and over 3,000 feet elevation.
6. Rocky Top to Thunderhead
Any trail that uses the words ‘rocky’ and ‘thunderhead’ is probably not a piece of cake, and this trail attests to that with an elevation of 3,600 feet and 13 miles round trip and is very strenuous. Rocky Top is one of the peaks of Thunderhead.
Starting at Anthony Creek Trail in the Cades Cove Picnic Area, hikers will need to navigate narrow trails even crossing in the Appalachian Trail to a place called Spence Field. Head farther to reach Rocky Top summit and soak in the view of Cades Cove and vast mountain ranges.
7. Silers Bald
Silers Bald begins at Clingman’s Dome and the 9-mile hike takes you to over 2,000 feet elevation. This is an extremely popular hike in the summertime despite its rocky path. It follows the Appalachian Trail for an incredible view of the surrounding mountains full of colorful wildflowers.
8. Rainbow Falls Trail to Mt LeConte
If you’re looking for a strenuous hike, you’ve met your match. With an impressive 13-mile round trip hike and over 6,500 feet of elevation, you’re in for a major challenge. Mt. LeConte is the third highest peak in the Smokies and hugs the city of Gatlinburg.
There are other trails on Mt. LeConte, but Rainbow Falls Trail takes you through to a splendid waterfall that creates a rainbow on the opposite side. Paired with the stunning views at the summit, this rocky trail is worth the climb.
Hiking should be an enjoyable experience and these Smoky Mountain Hiking Trails give you that plus a little extra. Remember to never go on a trail alone, and do not attempt a trail that seems above your fitness level.
However, if you’re an advanced hiker, you will gain a grand adventure and breathtaking views, not to mention a sense of accomplishment when hiking in the rolling ranges of the Smoky Mountains.
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