Can’t-Miss Hiking Trails Near Gatlinburg
A trip to Gatlinburg isn’t complete without setting aside some time to hit a trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With over 150 official trails in the park, hikers will find something suited to every skill level. Set on a waterfall hike? Hoping for panoramic mountain views? Check out our list of the best hiking trails near Gatlinburg for every adventure.
Best Hiking Trails With Waterfalls
Who doesn’t love to cool off at the base of a waterfall after an uphill trek? Check out these photo-worthy waterfall hikes in Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
- Grotto Falls, located just up the road from the resort via Trillium Gap Trail, is a moderate 3-mile, out-and-back trail. Trek through old-growth forests, trickling streams, and an abundance of wildflowers in spring along this moderately difficult trail in the Smokies.
- One of the more popular waterfall hikes in the Smokies, Laurel Falls drops a jaw-dropping 80 feet over two sections. The falls is just a 2.3-mile round trip, and the pathway is almost entirely paved making it a great pick for those with little ones.
- For a more challenging waterfall hike, take the 5.4-mile round trip trail to Rainbow Falls. As the tallest waterfall in the park, dropping 80 feet in a single section, Rainbow Falls is an excellent pick, especially if you’re hoping to continue on the trail to the 6,593-foot summit of Mount LeConte.
Best Easy Hiking Trails
Whether you’ve got a little one in tow or you’re hoping for a more leisurely hiking adventure, plan on taking one of these easier hikes:
- For a relatively flat hike, take The Gatlinburg Trail from the Sugarlands Visitors Center. Follow a gently wooded path along its 1.9-mile length to the outer portion of downtown Gatlinburg and enjoy lovely views of the Little Pigeon River along the way.
- Just six miles east of Gatlinburg, Porters Creek Trail is a 2-mile round trip hike. The setting of a 19th century community, hikers will find the remains of homesteads, fences, and a cemetery along the trail. Porters Creek Trail is also home to several different types of wildflowers that make the trail a great pick during the spring when they are in full bloom.
Best Hiking Trails With A View
Odds are that if you’re headed to the Smokies, you’re hoping for some of the jaw-dropping mountain views they are so well known for. For hiking trails with views to motivate your uphill climb, consider one of the following:
- Charlies Bunion is an 8-mile hike along the Appalachian Trail with an elevation gain of 1,600 feet. Sounds daunting? The hike is well worth it with lush vegetation and mountain streams along the way and awe-inspiring, panoramic mountain views at the summit of the rock outcropping known as Charlies Bunion.
- Famous as the epicenter of the 2016 wildfire, the Chimney Tops Trail in the national park was closed for several months following the incident, but is now reopened to the public. Although the trail is only 3.5 miles round trip, hikers will experience 1,200 feet of elevation gain point to point. Today, hikers are unable to reach the rocky outcropping at the summit following the wildfire; however, the trail offers plenty of stunning views along the way.
- Another scenic trail in the national park, the hike to Andrews Bald begins at the Clingman’s Dome parking lot and starts off with a 1.8-mile descent. Once there, you can spread out a blanket on the grassy knoll or pick wild blackberries or raspberries—all while enjoying sprawling views of the Smokies.
- It would stand to reason that some of the best views in the Smokies are from its tallest mountains. To reach the iconic community of cabins at the peak of Mount LeConte, the national park’s 3rd tallest mountain, take the 11-mile round trip Alum Cave Trail. The fascinating geological formations and breathtaking wild rhododendrons will keep you motivated along the way, along with sweeping mountain views.