When it comes to hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains, the experience is much more than a casual stroll through the woods. No, here is where you and your family or group will discover an abundance of new and exciting sights and adventures that you never knew existed before.
How do you narrow down these experiences to find out just what you can expect to find when you spend the day exploring the Smoky Mountains National Park best hikes? The answer is easy. All you have to do is read through our favorite hiking discoveries below!
1. Scenic Views
It almost goes without saying, but it is hard to talk about all the amazing things you see when experiencing the Smoky Mountains National Park best hikes without mentioned the scenic views these trails offer. Whether you are on top of a mountain or relaxing in a bald, we can guarantee that you will not be disappointed in the natural beauty found along these trails.
Our favorite hiking trails that feature scenic views include:
- Andrews Bald: A pretty easy 1.7 mile hike, Andrews Bald starts at the Clingmans Dome parking lot. The trail itself is very steep with a total gain in elevation at 900 feet. However, your hard work will pay off when you reach the end of the trail and get to experience the acres upon acres of grassy meadows and spectacular views found at the bald. We recommend you bring a blanket because this is the perfect place to enjoy a picnic.
- The Jump-Off: The Jump-Off refers to the 1,000-foot cliff that the trail runs along. This hiking trail also features a pretty steep climb from start to finish. But, like Andrews Bald, the effort will be well worth it when you see the beautiful scenery at the top of the trail.
Waterfalls always make for a fun and relaxing hiking adventure. Not only do you get to spend much of your time walking along the flowing creek that leads up to the falls, but you also get to sit back and unwind as you watch the water cascade down the side of the mountain. Thus, making the perfect picnic spot or swimming hole, depending on the trail.
We also love when we discover waterfalls along our favorite Smoky Mountains National Park best hikes because we know that there will be a ton of photo opportunities found along the trail. Whether you are posing in front of the falls or just capturing pictures of the scenery leading up to them, we promise you will not be at a loss of photogenic opportunities.
A few of the most popular Smoky Mountain hiking trails with a waterfall are:
- Abrams Falls: Considered a moderately strenuous hike, Abrams Falls is a total of 5.2 miles roundtrip. In addition to taking you to the most voluminous waterfall in the Smokies, this trail also features a peaceful walk through an old-growth forest. Do be careful when you are near the waterfall on this trail as the current and falling water can be hazardous if you aren’t paying attention.
- Baskins Creek Falls: Baskins Creek Falls is an easier waterfall hike in the Smoky Mountains. At exactly 3 miles, this hike is perfect for beginner hikers wanting to build up their experience. The waterfall itself found on this trail is quite impressive at a total of 40-feet tall split between two tiers.
3. Historic Buildings
If you love the Smoky Mountains, then you probably know all about the rich history and culture of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and people who once lived within the park’s boundaries. These fields were once home to farmers, families, church congregations, and more! Now, although the families have moved on, you can still see bits of their history scattered throughout the park thanks to the historic buildings and homesites they left behind.
For us, we love these historical structures because it allows us to feel as if we are traveling back in time when we are on our favorite hiking trails and come across one of these old buildings. Not only does this give us a peek into what life was like for the early settlers, but it also allows us to examine how far the area’s culture has come over the last 80 years.
To experience this history for yourself, add one of these hiking trails to your next outdoor adventure in the Smoky Mountains:
- Porters Creek: The Porters Creek Trail has just about everything you can ask for in a hiking trail. It offers scenic views, runs along a creek, explore an old-growth forest, beautiful wildflowers, and the remains of several old home sites, all before reaching a small waterfall. The historic structures found along this trail include the Elbert Cantrell farmstead, the Ownby Cemetery, and the John Messer farm site.
- Rich Mountain Loop Trail: moderately difficult trail, the Rich Mountain Loop is about 2.5 miles in length and will take anywhere from 1-3 hours to complete, depending on how fast you hike. However, we suggest you take your time because you will not want to rush the chance to explore the history found along this trail, including the John Oliver Cabin. Keep your eyes peeled during this hike, this trail is known to host the occasional black bear from time to time.
We love spring in the Smoky Mountains because it is the one time of year where vibrantly colored flowers cover the area, as far as the eyes can see. From azaleas to white trillium, there is no shortage of beautiful foliage during this time of year.
To get you started, here are a couple of our favorite hikes to see the wildflowers:
- Rocky Top: Although Rocky Top is considered to be a very challenging hiking trail, we still recommend you try it during your next trip to the mountains because the scenic beauty is unmatched. This trail offers panoramic views as well as an abundance of Mountain Laurel.
- Gregory Bald Trail: Although the Gregory Bald Trail is a lot shorter than Rocky Top, it is also a pretty strenuous hike. At 8.8 miles in length, this hiking trail still poses a challenge for both beginner and expert hikers. Yet, don’t let that discourage you from experience the breathtaking Flame Azaleas and panoramic views found along this trail.
To prepare yourself for the next time you go exploring the Smoky Mountains National park best hikes, read our Smoky Mountain hiking tips.