The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is nestled in the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains. As part of the Appalachian range, the Appalachian Trail bisects this breathtaking park of rolling hills and spectacular views. The trails goes directly through the park for 72 miles. The park offers 150 hiking trails, countless fun activities, ten developed campgrounds, and great opportunities to see wildlife.
Depending on which way you enter the park, Sugarlands Visitor Center is reached by passing through the beautiful touristy town of Gatlinburg. The vibrant city Asheville is an hour drive from Oconaluftee entrance.
Must do Hikes in Great Smoky Mountains NP
Clingmans Dome is the most iconic view and highest point of the entire park at 6643 feet. It is a steep one mile round trip hike to the top. Keep in mind that the trail is not wheelchair accessible and it is closed during winter (December 1st – March 31st) due to adverse weather conditions. The hike is worth it as you can enjoy a 360 degree view of the park.
Newfound Gap is the perfect stop by car for panoramic views across the Great Smokey Mountains below. Being one of the highest points accesible by car year round, there is often fog covering the view. Make sure to check the weather before heading to this overlook.
Hiking to Rainbow Falls is moderate to difficult 5.4 mile roundtrip hike. Wind your way through the beautiful green forests while passing over a handful of small mossy waterfalls and flowing creeks. When you reach Rainbow Falls you are greeted with a 80 foot waterfall that shows a rainbow almost every afternoon when the sun hits it right.
The steep hike up to Alum Cave brings you up nearly 1200 feet in just 2.2 miles. The first highlight is Arch Rock, where the path takes you through the arch and upwards! When you finally reach Alum Cave you will find a massive concave bluff, with a cool shade to enjoy a snack.
For a full day hike, the Alum Cave trail is directly connected to the Rainbow Falls trail by passing up and over Mt LeConte in between the two.
Do not miss out on the Ramsey Cascades, the tallest waterfall in the park at 100 feet. It is a difficult 8-mile roundtrip hike, but the views are completely worth the trek. Along the way you pass many rushing rivers and pass through old growth forest.
Walk the trail along Abrams Creek to reach the powerful Abraham Falls. This small but mighty waterfall ends a moderate 5.2-mile roundtrip hike. Along the path you have the opportunity to spot many wildlife, including deer. This picturesque hike is well worth the effort.
Cades’s Cove Scenic Route
The one-way 11-mile scenic road takes you through lush meadows, historic buildings including mills, stables, homes and churches, beautiful mountain views and the possibility to see many wildlife. We saw white tail deers, and unfortunately it was not the season to see black bears, but along this scenic route you have higher chances to see bears. The scenic route has several pullovers and parking areas for you to explore each historic building or go for a hike.
Gregory Ridge Trail
The 17-mile Gregory Ridge hike is the best for wildlife viewing. Remember to stay a safe distance from all wildlife for both your safety and the animals. It is recommend to stay at least 150 feet (50 yards) from all wildlife.
What to pack for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Hiking Shoes
- Waterproof Jacket
- Thick socks
- Day bag
- Energy bars
- 3 Litters of water per day
- Lightweight pants
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