Best Hiking Trails in the Great Smokey Mountains
HAPPY 2018! I am so happy it's the start to a new year and I am very excited to see where this year goes!
After much-needed time off, I was invited to join my boyfriend's family on their family trip to North Carolina. This automatically meant I started researching all sorts of trails and spots to visit in the area where we stayed. I think it's fair to say that hikers will enjoy the Smoky Mountains during all months of the year because each season will offer something different. Because we visited in December, it meant that most of the leaves had fallen so the views were clear and quite amazing!.
One of the most daunting tasks facing hikers when visiting a new National Park is choosing a trail. I think a good way to start is deciding on what you would like to see. Most importantly, determine how much time you have to spend and then decide how far you would like to hike. If you haven't hiked much recently, also keep that in mind.
I put together a list of the trails that I recommend at the Great Smokeys!
CHARLIE'S BUNION TRAIL
Distance: 8 miles round trip (Part of the Appalachian trail )
Driving to the Trailhead: Drive on Newfound Gap Road to Newfound Gap parking lot which is 13.2 miles from Sugarlands Visitor Center or 16 miles from Oconaluftee Visitor Center. The trailhead is to the left of the overlook, at the end of the parking lot near the restrooms.
During this trial, you will enjoy breathtaking views along the world-famous Appalachian Trail. You will make it to a picturesque stone outcrop known as Charlies Bunion.
Distance: 4 miles round trip
Trailhead: Drive 6.7 miles south from Sugarlands Visitor Center on Newfound Gap Road (or 22 miles north of Oconaluftee Visitor Center). Look for a large parking area on the west side of the road between the lower tunnel and "the loop".
The Chimney Tops Trail is one of the most popular trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park because of its length and spectacular views. The trail gains 1,400 feet in 2 miles which makes for a steep climb, so be sure to wear sturdy shoes and bring plenty of water.
ALUM CAVE TRAIL
Distance: 4.6 miles roundtrip (Part of the Alum Cave trail)
Driving to the Trailhead: Drive 8.6 miles on Newfound Gap Road from Sugarlands Visitor Center or 20 miles from Oconaluftee Visitor Center. There is a sign and two large parking areas marking the trailhead.
Hiking through the narrow tunnel of Arch Rock is a highlight of the hike. As the trail climbs up Peregrine Peak, it approaches an area full of mountain laurel and rhododendron, finally reaching a rocky outcrop known as Inspiration Point after 2 miles. This is a good place to view the valley surrounded by mountains.
Distance: 5.4 miles roundtrip (part of the Rainbow falls trail)
Driving to the Trailhead: Take Historic Nature Trail Drive (traffic light #8 in Gatlinburg) into the park. At mile 3.4, just after the road becomes one-way, turn right into the Rainbow Falls Parking Area.
A log footbridge crosses the creek about 2 miles from the trailhead, and and the trail then crosses LeConte Creek. After another two bridges, the falls appear, named for the rainbows seen in the mist that is caused by the afternoon sun.
Distance: 5.2 miles round trip
Trailhead: From Sugarlands Visitor Center, turn toward Cades Cove on Little River Road and drive 3.5 miles to the trailhead where there are parking areas on both sides of the road.
The waterfall consists of an upper and a lower section, divided by a walkway which crosses the stream at the base of the upper falls. Laurel Falls is one of the most popular destinations in the park and parking at the trailhead is limited. Try to arrive early!
You can download a copy of the park's trails here.
Do you have a favorite hike in the Great Smokey's? Tell me in the comments!