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Hiking Trails

Smoky_Mountain_Waterfall_istockphoto.jpgThe Great Smoky Mountains National Park spans over 500,000 acres and offers over 800 miles of hiking trails. We encourage all of our guests to enjoy the stunning natural beauty, scenic mountain views and rushing mountain waterfalls that make this area one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Below is a list of some of our favorite hiking trails in the Smokies. We hope that you enjoy your time with us in the mountains!

For more information about the national park, visit www.nps.gov/grsm/

 

ABRAMS FALLS – 5 miles round trip 

Directions to Trailhead

The hike to Abrams Falls begins from a field, at stop number ten, on the Cades Cove Loop Rd. To reach the Abrams Falls trailhead, drive five miles on the Cades Cove Loop Road. After crossing Abrams Creek, turn right on a gravel road which runs through a grassy field. Park at the back of the field where there are signs, and a marvelous wooden bridge, that mark the beginning of the trail.

Description

The 5 mile roundtrip hike to Abrams Falls is relatively short and is considered to be moderate in difficulty, as attested by the trails popularity which attracts nearly 1000 visitors per day during peak season. Although Abrams Falls is only 20 feet high, the large volume of water rushing over the cliff more than makes up for its lack of height. In fact, Abrams Falls is the most voluminous waterfall in the park. The long, deep pool at its base is very picturesque; however, due to strong currents and an undertow, swimming here is extremely dangerous.

 

ALUM CAVE – 4.4 miles round trip

Directions to Trailhead

From the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, drive 8.7 miles south along Newfound Gap Road to the Alum Cave Trailhead. The parking lot will be on your left. Due to the popularity of the Alum Cave Trail, there are two parking lots for this trailhead. To ensure a parking spot, you may want to get here early on nice weekends and in the summer.

Description

This moderately difficult hike is 4.6 miles round-trip or 5.1 miles on to LeConte Lodge. The round-trip to the cave bluff takes about 2 and 1/2 hours, but allow about 3 and 1/2 hours to LeConte Lodge. The Alum Cave Trail is the most popular and well-known route to Mount LeConte 

 

ANDREWS BALD – 3.5 miles round trip

Directions to Trailhead

Kids_Hiking_istockphoto.jpg

From the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, drive 13.2 miles south along Newfound Gap Road to Clingmans Dome Road. Turn right onto Clingmans Dome Road and drive 7 miles all the way to the end of the road. Because of the popularity of this area, theparking lot is very large. The Andrews Bald trailhead is at the very end of the parking lot.

Description

Purported to be one of the Smokies finest hikes, a trek to Andrews Bald promises a scenic passageway through an extraordinary spruce-fir forest to the hike's prize, a grassy field upon a bald where you receive an unobstructed view of the Great Smoky Mountains.

 

BASKINS CREEK FALLS – 3 miles round trip

Directions to Trailhead

Starting from Light 8 in Gatlinburg, turn onto Historic Nature Trail / Airport Road. At 0.7 miles, veer right onto Cherokee Orchard Road. After driving another 2.2 miles, you will enter the one-way Cherokee Orchard Loop. Drive 0.9 miles on the loop before turning right onto the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. The trailhead for Baskin Creek Falls Trail will be on the left after driving about 0.2 miles on this one-way loop.

Description

The Baskin Creek Falls trail begins with a short easy climb. At roughly a quarter of a mile into the hike, the trail levels off and you'll have some decent views of the mountains to the west of you as well as a few glimpses of Gatlinburg, if you're hiking in the winter or early spring. These views, however, will more than likely be obstructed by summer foliage.

 

BULLHEAD TRAIL – 5.9 miles round trip

Directions to Trailhead

Starting from Light 8 in Gatlinburg, turn onto Historic Nature Trail / Airport Road. At 0.7 miles, veer right onto Cherokee Orchard Road, upon which you will enter into Great Smoky Mountain National Park. After driving another 2.2 miles, you will enter the one-way Cherokee Orchard Loop. After driving about 0.6 miles on the loop, the Bullhead trailhead will be on your right.

Description

This hike offers great views of Bullhead and a heath bald. Note red spruce and balsam firs along the way and the Bullhead Heath for spring blooms. The Bullhead Trail offers magnificent autumn scenery.

 

CHARLIES BUNION – 8.1 miles round trip

Directions to Trailhead

From the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, drive 13 miles south on Newfound Gap Road to reach the Newfound Gap parking lot. You'll be hiking eastward on the Appalachian Trail to reach Charlies Bunion.

Description

Charlies Bunion offers stunning views of the mountains to the north of you, Mt. Kephart and the Jump Off to your west, and Mount Guyot towards the east.

 

CHIMNEY TOPS – 4 miles round trip

Directions to Trailhead

The trailhead for Chimney Tops is located roughly 6.7 miles south of the Sugarlands Visitor Center.

Description

Chimney Tops Trail is one of the most popular trails off of Newfound Gap Road. The trail owes much of its popularity to its short length and its outstanding panoramic views at the summit. The length, only 2 miles, however, makes for a very steep hike - so much so that many hikers don't even reach the top. The first half of the trail is fairly tame. However, to reach the summit, hikers have to climb more than 1000 feet over the course of the last mile!

 

GREGORY BALD – 8.8 miles round trip

Directions to Trailhead

From the Townsend "Y" intersection, go west on Laurel Creek Road towards Cades Cove. To reach Gregory Bald via the Gregory Ridge Trail, drive 7.5 miles to Cades Cove. You’ll pass the main parking lot and enter the one-way loop. At 13.2 miles from Townsend, the loop road makes a sharp left. Continue going straight at this junction onto Forge Creek Road (this also leads to Parson Branch Road). Drive for another 2.2 miles to

reach the Gregory Ridge Trailhead. Just before reaching the parking lot the one-way Parson Branch Road forks off to the right, continue on the two-way Forge Creek Road for a short distance to reach the Gregory Ridge Trail parking area.

Description

As stunning as the year-round views are, Gregory Bald is most famous for the spectacular flame azaleas that bloom on the summit from mid to late June.Azalea lovers from all over the world come here to visit perhaps the finest display of flame azaleas anywhere on the planet.

 

GROTTO FALLS – 2.6 miles round trip

Directions to Trailhead

river_and_bridge_istockphoto.jpgStarting from Light 8 in Gatlinburg, turn onto Historic Nature Trail / Airport Road. At 0.7 miles, veer right onto Cherokee Orchard Road, upon which you will enter into Great Smoky Mountain National Park. After driving another 2.2 miles, you'll enter the one-way Cherokee Orchard Loop. Drive 0.9 miles on the loop before turning right onto the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. The parking lot for the trail to Grotto Falls will be on the left side of the road after driving roughly 1.6 miles on this one-way loop. The trailhead is just beyond the parking lot on the opposite side of the road. Because of the extreme popularity of this trail, there are additional parking spaces beyond the trailhead. Your best bet is to get there early during the peak visitor season.

Description

The most distinctive feature of Grotto Falls is that it's the only waterfall in the park that a person can actually walk behind. The 25-foot high waterfall offers a cool, shady, and moist retreat for summer hikers. This same environment also provides an ideal habitat for salamanders as well. As you walk behind the falls you can hear and feel the thunderous power of the water plunging into the pool in front of you. Watch your step here, especially in the winter - the area around the falls is always wet and slick.

 

LAUREL FALLS – 2.3 miles round trip

Directions to Trailhead

From the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, drive 3.8 miles to the top of Fighting Creek Gap. The Laurel Falls parking lot will be on your right.

Description

Laurel Falls is an extremely popular destination within the park. Parking can be a problem during peak season. If you're looking to avoid crowds, you may want to begin your hike early in the morning, during the early evening, on a weekday, or during the off-season. Due to the extreme popularity, the Park Service realized at some point that they needed to pave the trail to Laurel Falls. You'll find a lot of families with young children on this trail. If you do plan to hike with young children, we highly suggest keeping a close eye on them at all times. The trail passes next to some very steep drop-offs, especially as you get closer to the falls.

 

RAINBOW FALLS – 5.4 miles round trip

Directions to Trailhead

Starting from Light 8 in Gatlinburg, turn onto Historic Nature Trail / Airport Road. At 0.7 miles, veer right onto Cherokee Orchard Road, upon which you'll enter into Great Smoky Mountain National Park. After driving another 2.2 miles, you'll enter the one-way Cherokee Orchard Loop. After driving about 0.6 miles on the loop, the Rainbow Falls trailhead will be on your right.

Description

Rainbow Falls is the highest single-drop waterfall in the Smokies. The name given for these waterfalls is a result of the rainbow that is produced by mist that becomes visible on sunny afternoons. During extended winter cold spells an impressive ice formation builds around the falls. You may notice a little bit of ice just to the right of the falls in the picture above.

 

RAMSEY CASCADES – 8 miles round trip

Directions to Trailhead

At the junction of 441 and 321 in Gatlinburg (Light 3), turn right onto 321. Drive 6 miles and turn right into Greenbrier (look for the Smoky Mountain National Park entrance sign on the right). This road will turn into a gravel road in a short distance. Drive 3.1 miles to the fork in the road. Turn left and drive across the bridge to reach the Ramsay Cascades trailhead. The parking lot will be another 1.5 miles from this junction.

Description

Ramsey Cascades is the tallest waterfall in the park as well as one of the most spectacular. Water drops 100 feet over rock outcroppings and collects in a small pool where numerous salamanders can be found.

 

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