Backpacking is a unique hiking experience you can have in the Smoky Mountains National Park. Not only does this outdoor adventure introduce you to a whole new side of the national park, it also encourages you to push beyond your current boundaries and comfort levels. To get started on your next outdoor journey, read below to discover our favorite Smoky Mountains National Park backpacking trails!
1. Mount LeConte (12.6 miles)
Mount LeConte is one of the most popular Smoky Mountains National Park backpacking trails. It is also one of the most scenic.
Along this hike, you will experience many obstacles and challenges that make this hike worthwhile. From the rocky terrain to steep ridgetop turns, this almost 13-mile hike is perfect for any adventure seeker.
Trust us when we say that the hike is well worth it when you reach the summit! One of the fun and unique features found at the top of Mount LeConte is that there is a mini hotel of sorts, as well as a place where you can pick up a picnic-style lunch to celebrate your accomplishment.
Before you head back down the mountain, don’t forget to check out the llamas that transport goods to and from the base of this hiking trail.
Reservations are required to stay at the Mount LeConte Lodge.
2. Spence Field Loop (12.5 miles)
The Spence Field Loop is perfect for backpack hikers looking to enjoy a full day of exploring the natural beauty of the Smoky Mountains National Park. At just over 12 miles, you can easily hike this trail in a long one-day trek, or you can stretch it out to a two or three-day adventure.
With a total elevation gain of roughly 3,000 feet, this trail is pretty strenuous. We definitely recommend that you pack plenty of water and snacks in your backpack to stay hydrated and fueled during your hike.
Once you reach Spence Field, you will encounter stunning views of the North Carolina side of the national park. This view is particularly scenic during the springtime because you will also find soft white and pink Mountain Laurel wildflowers covering the bald.
3. Appalachian Trail: Davenport Gap to Max Patch Road (18.7 miles)
If you love Smoky Mountain National Park backpacking trails that are both challenging and scenic, you are sure to love this section of the Appalachian Trial. Not only will you hike past several old homesteads and logging camps, you will also experience a nearly 3,000-foot increase in elevation. That is quite a climb.
Because this trail is so long, we definitely recommend that you consider breaking this up into a two or three-day excursion. Not only will this help make sure that you are well-rested to finish the hike, it will also give you enough time to enjoy all the scenic beauty found along the trail.
In your backpack, we recommend you not only pack plenty of water, but you also consider packing a few water-purifying tablets to make sure that you have enough fluids to stay hydrated.
Keep in mind, this is not a loop trail, so if you don’t want to hike the full stretch, you can turn back at any time.
4. Albright Grove Loop (7 miles)
The Albright Grove Loop is one of the easier Smoky Mountains National Park backpacking trails found on our list. With an elevation gain of about 1,500 feet, this trail is moderate in difficulty, thus perfect for beginning backpack hikers.
Aside from being kind of easy, this trail is also known for the abundance of historical structures and old growth forest found along its sidelines. This means that you will almost feel as if you are stepping back in time and exploring the Smoky Mountains of yesteryear during your adventure.
5. Chimney Tops via Newfound Gap (10.5 miles)
Beginning at the parking lot on Newfound Gap Road, this exciting hike to the Chimney Tops is fun for hikers of all skill levels. Because the elevation is not too steep, this is good if you are just getting started with backpacking or you are looking for a challenging day hike.
During this hike, you will have the unique experience to explore both the Tennessee and the North Carolina side of the national park. Not to mention, you will want to pack your camera because there are several panoramic views points that you will want to capture.
The best time to experience this hike is between the months of April and May because that is when the wildflowers found along the trail will be at their peak. This means that you can enjoy your hike while surrounded by hundreds of vibrantly colored leaves and wildflowers.
This hike is also fun to hike in the fall when the leaves have reached their peak fall colors in mid-October.
Map to Our Favorite Smoky Mountains National Park Backpacking Trails
For driving directions to any of the exciting backpacking trails we previously mentioned, use the map below!
Tips For Backpacking in the Smoky Mountains National Park
Now that you know all of the fun and exciting places to go backpacking, here are a few tips to help you make sure that your journey is both fun and memorable.
- A permit is required for camping in the backcountry. To request a backcountry camping permit through the National Park Service, call 865-436-1297.
- Backpacking is physically challenging, so please be aware of your physical condition before starting the hike.
- Remember, anything you bring into the park, you are also responsible for removing.
- Always bring a hiking map or guide with you when backpacking.
- Make sure you break in your hiking boots BEFORE beginning the trail.
- Always make sure someone knows where and when you will be hiking.
- If possible, never hike alone.
- Plan which campsites you will stay in before starting your journey.
- Dress for both comfort and utility. Convertible pants, base layers, extra socks, hats and outerwear are always important.
Don’t forget to check out the list of all of our Smoky Mountains hiking trails to discover more fun and unique outdoor adventures!