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hiking in the smokies

The Ultimate Guide to Hiking in the Smokies This Summer

DATE : May 3, 2024

There is nothing like crisp mountain air, green trees, and meandering mountain streams to re-energize the spirit! If you hike high enough on the trails, you can see the clouds that linger in the valleys, giving the mountains their “smoky” appearance. Hiking in the Smokies is the best way to get out and explore the Great Outdoors, whether you’re a seasoned backpacking hiker seeking solitude or simply a nature enthusiast enjoying the scenic beauty of the mountains, here’s a helpful guide to experiencing national park trails this summer!

Wildflower Hikes

Schoolhouse Gap, Porters Creek, and Middle Prong are 3 incredible Smoky Mountain wildflower hikes that are easy to moderate in difficulty. A 4-mile one-way hike, Charlies Bunion includes a portion of the Appalachian Trail and opportunities to view wildflowers in higher elevations, such as spring beauty, trout lilies, and violets. Do you want to walk through a natural rock archway? Then Alum Cave trail is perfect for you. Log bridges over a creek, bluffs to stand under, and a narrow tunnel- what's not to love about this trail? The path to Alum Cave Bluffs is 2.5 miles and fairly steep and rugged. Another 2.5 miles will take you to the summit of Mt. LeConte. There is a beautiful bald where rhododendrons and mountain laurels bloom near Peregrine Peak.

Challenging Treks With A View

gregory Bald in great Smoky mountainsWe suggest the Chimney Tops Trail if you feel adventurous and want to give those leg muscles a workout. Imagine trekking up 1,400 ft in 2 miles. Whew! But the rocky trail and dozens of steps pay off when you see the summit of Mt. LeConte at the end! Another tremendous view while hiking in the Smokies can be found at Gregory Bald. This day hike is over 11 miles roundtrip, but the panoramic view of Rich Mountain and the blooming flame azaleas make this trail one to remember. For these more challenging journeys, be sure to have sturdy walking shoes and plenty of water! 

Smoky Mountain Waterfall Hikes

Of course, waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountains are plentiful if you’re willing to look for them. Rainbow Falls is one of the most popular due to the mesmerizing rainbows occasionally visible in its mists. This fall drops 80' to the creek below. From the parking area to the falls is a 2.7-mile hike, or you can hike past the falls to Mt. LeConte summit for  6.7 miles total. The easy hikes to Cataract Falls and Spruce Flat Falls are ideal for beginners or families. Grotto Falls and Ramsey Cascades are more difficult hikes, but worth it to see the beautiful falls with your own eyes! 

Hiking in Cades Cove

Abrams Falls Cades Cove is a great area to explore for those who want a gentle hike with lovely views and historic structures. The 11-mile scenic loop road will take you through the valley where you can walk around old homesteads where people lived in the rugged mountains in simplistic solitude. The best part? The loop is open only to foot traffic and bikes on Vehicle Free Wednesdays from May until September. Some trailheads originating from Cades Cove include hikes that lead to the famous Rocky Top/Thunderhead Mountain and the iconic Abrams Falls.

Now you have the ultimate guide to hiking in the Smokies. So dig out your hiking boots and gear and get ready for another outdoor adventure in the national park this summer! Get more hiking info, maps, and safety tips to be extra prepared!