Gatlinburg Hiking Trails
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Trekking Through the Smokies: A Guide to Gatlinburg Hiking Trails

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Hello there, adventure-seekers! Are you tired of the same old, crowded hiking trails? Do you crave a new and exciting outdoor experience? Well, look no further. In this article, we will take you on a journey through the stunning and lesser-known Gatlinburg hiking trails. Get ready to explore the beauty of nature like never before.

Gatlinburg Hiking Trails 5

Nestled in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg, Tennessee, serves as the gateway to some of the most beautiful and accessible hiking trails in the Eastern United States. With its rich biodiversity, stunning vistas, and a range of trails suitable for all skill levels, Gatlinburg offers an unparalleled hiking experience. Whether you’re seeking serene walks through old-growth forests or challenging treks to lofty peaks, this guide will introduce you to Gatlinburg’s best hiking trails.

What Are the Best Hiking Trails in Gatlinburg?

Nestled in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg offers a plethora of stunning hiking trails for nature enthusiasts of all levels. With so many options to choose from, it can be overwhelming to decide which trails to explore. In this section, we will highlight the top five hiking trails in Gatlinburg, including the popular Abrams Falls Trail, the challenging Chimney Tops Trail, the scenic Alum Cave Trail, the majestic Rainbow Falls Trail, and the unique Grotto Falls Trail. Get ready to lace up your hiking boots and discover the best of Gatlinburg’s natural beauty.

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1. Abrams Falls Trail

  • Begin your hike from the trailhead near the Abrams Falls parking area.
  • Follow the trail, crossing several small bridges and passing through a pine-oak forest.
  • Reach Abrams Falls, a 20-foot waterfall that cascades into a large, deep pool.
  • Caution: The trail can be steep and rocky, so make sure to wear appropriate footwear.
  • Take in the sights and sounds of this stunning natural wonder.

The Abrams Falls Trail is renowned for its breathtaking waterfall, providing hikers with a refreshing and picturesque experience.

2. Chimney Tops Trail

  • Begin at the Chimney Tops trailhead, located along Newfound Gap Road in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
  • Ascend through a series of steep switchbacks, crossing several bridges over cascading streams.
  • Reach the first peak, offering stunning panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.
  • Continue the hike to the second peak of the Chimney Tops Trail, where hikers can enjoy breathtaking vistas of the Smokies.
  • Exercise caution as the trail becomes strenuous, requiring careful navigation over exposed rocks to reach the summit.

Get ready to cave in to the majestic beauty of Alum Cave Trail, but don’t worry, there’s no actual caving involved.

3. Alum Cave Trail

Overview: One of the most popular trails in the Smokies, the Alum Cave Trail offers a diverse hiking experience leading to Mount LeConte, one of the highest peaks in the national park. This moderately challenging trail showcases unique geological features, panoramic views, and lush forest landscapes.

Distance: 10 miles round trip
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous

  • Alum Cave Bluffs offers a stunning natural shelter.
  • Incredible views from Inspiration Point.
  • The opportunity to visit LeConte Lodge at the summit.


  1. Prepare for a moderate 5.5-mile round-trip hike.
  2. Start from the Alum Cave Trailhead in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
  3. Pass through Arch Rock, offering striking geological formations.
  4. Ascend to Alum Cave Bluffs, a large concave area, for a breathtaking view.
  5. Continue to Mount LeConte, featuring diverse landscapes and fascinating flora.

4. Rainbow Falls Trail

Overview: Named for the rainbow produced by mist from the falls on sunny afternoons, Rainbow Falls Trail is a rewarding hike that leads to the highest single-drop waterfall in the Smokies. The trail is challenging but offers a spectacular payoff.

Distance: 5.4 miles round trip
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous

  • The 80-foot tall Rainbow Falls.
  • Opportunities to see wildflowers in spring and summer.
  • Breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains on clear days.


  • Pack the essentials: Bring water, snacks, a map, and wear appropriate footwear.
  • Check the weather: Ensure safe conditions for hiking.
  • Start early: Begin the hike in the morning to avoid afternoon crowds.
  • Enjoy the scenery: Take in the breathtaking views of the Great Smoky Mountains.
  • Stay cautious: Watch your step around the falls, as rocks near waterfalls can be slippery.

The Rainbow Falls Trail, named after the rainbow that appears in the mist of the falls on sunny afternoons, has been a beloved destination for nature enthusiasts for decades. This trail offers a refreshing and rewarding experience for those seeking adventure and natural beauty.

Be amazed by the beauty of Grotto Falls – just be careful not to slip and fall, we don’t want to have to rename it Grotto Falls and Falls Again trail.

5. Grotto Falls Trail

Overview: Trillium Gap Trail gently meanders through old-growth hemlock forests and rhododendron thickets, leading hikers to Grotto Falls, the only waterfall in the park that you can walk behind.

Distance: 2.6 miles round trip
Difficulty: Moderate

  • Walking behind the 25-foot high Grotto Falls.
  • Possible sightings of llamas carrying supplies up to LeConte Lodge on certain days.
  • Beautiful displays of trillium flowers in the spring.

The Grotto Falls Trail is a well-known 3-mile round trip hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Follow these steps to fully enjoy this beautiful trail:

  1. Begin at the Trillium Gap Trailhead off Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.
  2. Trek through a lush forest, crossing several small streams.
  3. Reach the 25-foot high Grotto Falls, the only waterfall in the park that allows visitors to walk behind it.
  4. Be cautious while walking behind the falls as the rocks can be slippery.
  5. Return via the same trail, taking in the scenery from a different perspective.

Grotto Falls was once a part of a popular farmstead, and remnants of the old homesite can still be seen, providing a glimpse into the area’s past.

What Are the Easiest Hiking Trails in Gatlinburg?

With its stunning views and diverse terrain, Gatlinburg is a popular destination for hikers of all levels. If you’re looking for a leisurely hike that still offers plenty of natural beauty, then you may be wondering which trails are the easiest in this area. In this section, we will highlight five of the most accessible hiking trails in Gatlinburg, including the tranquil Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail, the scenic Gatlinburg Trail, and the picturesque Porters Creek Trail. So grab your hiking shoes and get ready to explore the great outdoors!

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The official website can be found here.

1. Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail

  • Begin your journey at the Sugarlands Valley Nature Trailhead, conveniently located near the Sugarlands Visitor Center.
  • Follow the trail through a tranquil forest, keeping an eye out for various plant and animal species.
  • Relax to the soothing sounds of the flowing river as you stroll along the trail.
  • Take in the breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and lush greenery.
  • Discover historical sites such as the John Ownby Cabin, providing valuable insight into the area’s past.

Looking for an easy hike? The Gatlinburg Trail is perfect for anyone who prefers a leisurely stroll surrounded by nature, or as I like to call it, the lazy person’s version of hiking.

2. Gatlinburg Trail

Overview: One of the only pet-friendly trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Gatlinburg Trail is perfect for families looking for an easy and scenic hike. The trail runs along the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River, offering beautiful views and a chance to explore the Smokies without the strenuous climb.

Distance: 3.8 miles round trip
Difficulty: Easy

  • River views and access to quiet spots for picnics.
  • Historical buildings along the route.
  • Wildflowers and abundant birdlife.

The Gatlinburg Trail is a picturesque 1.9-mile trail that winds alongside the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River. When venturing on the Gatlinburg Trail, keep in mind the following:

  1. Start: Begin at the Sugarlands Visitor Center and venture through a serene, wooded area.
  2. Points of Interest: Encounter remnants of history, such as the Noah “Bud” Ogle homestead, and admire the diverse flora and fauna.
  3. Accessibility: This trail is wheelchair accessible and perfect for leisurely walks or bike rides.
  4. Seasonal Delights: Take in the breathtaking fall foliage and blooming wildflowers during spring.

One hiker once described the Gatlinburg Trail as a charming path that offers a peaceful escape amidst the beauty of nature, making it a perfect choice for nature enthusiasts of all ages.

3. Cataract Falls Trail

  • Begin your journey at the Sugarlands Visitor Center and follow the scenic Fighting Creek Nature Trail.
  • After 0.3 miles, turn left onto the Cataract Falls Trail.
  • Continue for 0.1 miles until you reach the stunning 25-foot Cataract Falls.
  • Take in the peaceful atmosphere and lush surroundings before retracing your steps back to the Visitor Center.

Get ready for a scenic stroll through Porters Creek Trail, or as I like to call it, a nature walk with benefits – aka a great Instagram photo op.

4. Porters Creek Trail

The Porters Creek Trail, spanning 4 miles round trip, offers a picturesque hike through an old-growth forest, with a plethora of wildflowers in the spring and a historic farm site along the way.

  1. Begin your journey at the Porters Creek trailhead, located in the Greenbrier area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
  2. Follow the gravel path, passing several stream crossings and a 60-foot footbridge.
  3. Explore the John Messer Farm site, featuring a cantilever barn and springhouse dating back to the 1870s.
  4. Admire the diverse flora, including towering Eastern Hemlocks and the renowned Smoky Mountain wildflowers.
  5. Take in the tranquil surroundings and the stunning beauty of Fern Branch Falls, a 60-foot waterfall.

5. Little River Trail

  • Begin your journey at the Elkmont Campground.
  • Take a leisurely 4.9-mile round trip along the Little River Trail.
  • Immerse yourself in the peaceful sounds of the river and the lush forest scenery.
  • Spot wildflowers and a variety of bird species along the way.
  • Finally, arrive at the beautiful Huskey Branch Falls, a picturesque reward for your hike.

Get ready to break a sweat and have an existential crisis on these intense Gatlinburg hiking trails.

Great maps can be found on AllTrails!

What Are the Most Challenging Hiking Trails in Gatlinburg?

For those seeking a more strenuous hiking experience, Gatlinburg offers several challenging trails that will put your endurance and skills to the test. From steep inclines to rocky terrain, these trails are not for the faint of heart. In this section, we will discuss the top five most challenging hiking trails in Gatlinburg, including the popular Mount LeConte via Alum Cave Trail and lesser-known trails such as Rocky Top Trail and Andrews Bald Trail. Get ready to push yourself to new heights and discover the beauty of the Smoky Mountains.

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1. Mount LeConte via Alum Cave Trail

  1. Begin your journey at the Alum Cave Trailhead.
  2. Hike 5.5 miles to reach Alum Cave Bluffs.
  3. Continue another 2.5 miles to reach the Mount LeConte Lodge.
  4. Take in the stunning views from Myrtle Point and Cliff Top.
  5. Return via the same trail, covering a total of 11 miles, to complete your journey to Mount LeConte via Alum Cave Trail.

The only thing higher than the altitude on this trail is the chance of getting a killer workout.

2. Mount Cammerer via Low Gap Trail

  1. Begin your journey at the Low Gap Trailhead in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
  2. Follow the trail for 5.1 miles, taking in the diverse flora and fauna.
  3. Arrive at the summit of Mount Cammerer, accessible via the historic fire tower, where you can enjoy breathtaking panoramic views.
  4. Discover the unique architectural design of the fire tower, offering a glimpse into the past.
  5. Descend back via the same trail, taking in the natural beauty along the way.

3. Ramsey Cascades Trail

  • Start your journey at the Ramsey Cascades Trailhead.
  • Follow the trail along rivers, crossing footbridges, and passing old-growth trees.
  • Encounter the stunning Ramsey Cascades, the highest waterfall that can be reached by trail in the park.
  • Take in the breathtaking views and diverse plant and animal life during your hike.
  • Be ready for a challenging trek with rugged and steep terrain.

Get ready to channel your inner Rocky Balboa on this challenging trail, minus the boxing gloves and training montage.

4. Rocky Top Trail

  • Begin your hike at the Rocky Top Trail starting at the Newfound Gap parking area.
  • Follow the Appalachian Trail southbound and enjoy stunning panoramic views as you ascend towards the Rocky Top summit.
  • Pass through diverse flora and fauna along the way before reaching the iconic Rocky Top summit, featured in a popular song.
  • Descend via the same trail or loop back using other connecting trails.

Challenge yourself to reach new heights and bald heads on the Andrews Bald trail – just don’t forget your sunscreen for the bald spot!

5. Andrews Bald Trail

  • Prepare adequately with water, snacks, and appropriate clothing.
  • Start at Clingmans Dome, following the Forney Ridge Trail.
  • Enjoy diverse flora along the trail, including Fraser fir trees.
  • Reach the bald, a grassy summit offering panoramic mountain views.
  • Respect the fragile ecosystem and wildlife in this area.

The Andrews Bald Trail, named after Andres Thompson, who grazed his cattle on the grassy summit in the mid-19th century, offers hikers a unique experience of a high-elevation grassy bald in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

From waterfalls to wildlife and everything in between, these hikes offer more than just a workout – they’re a feast for the senses.

What Are the Must-See Sights on Gatlinburg Hiking Trails?

If you’re planning a trip to the beautiful town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, then you must make time for a hike on its many scenic trails. But with so many options to choose from, which sights should you prioritize? In this section, we’ll take a closer look at the must-see sights on Gatlinburg hiking trails. From breathtaking waterfalls to stunning mountain views, fascinating wildlife to historical landmarks, and unique features that will leave you in awe, we’ve got you covered. So tie up your hiking boots and let’s hit the trails!

1. Waterfalls

  1. Waterfalls add natural beauty to Gatlinburg’s hiking trails, such as the stunning 25-foot Grotto Falls.
  2. Enjoy the picturesque scenery of 80-foot Laurel Falls, easily accessible with a paved path.
  3. Witness the majestic 30-foot Cataract Falls, surrounded by lush greenery.
  4. Admire the serene and secluded 80-foot Hen Wallow Falls, a hidden gem for hikers.
  5. Explore the 70-foot Rainbow Falls, a captivating display of nature’s wonders.

Gatlinburg’s waterfalls have been cherished for centuries, attracting explorers and nature enthusiasts seeking the mesmerizing allure of these cascading wonders.

2. Mountain Views

Overview: For those seeking a challenging hike with rewarding views, Chimney Tops Trail offers a steep ascent to one of the most iconic peaks in the Great Smoky Mountains. Recent trail renovations have improved safety and accessibility to the summit.

Distance: 4 miles round trip
Difficulty: Strenuous

  • One of the park’s most loved viewpoints.
  • Unique geological formations at the summit.
  • Panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.

Mountain views are a must-see on Gatlinburg hiking trails, offering breathtaking panoramas of the Great Smoky Mountains. Trails such as Chimney Tops and Mount LeConte provide stunning vantage points, while the Andrews Bald trail offers a unique grassy summit. These majestic mountain views are a highlight for hikers, showcasing the natural beauty of the area.

3. Wildlife

Wildlife is abundant on Gatlinburg hiking trails, with black bears, white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, and various bird species being commonly spotted. It is crucial to respect their natural habitat and maintain a safe distance while observing them.

Fun fact: did you know that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the few places in the eastern United States where black bears can still be found in their natural habitat?

These trails have more history than your ex’s Facebook timeline.

4. Historical Sites

Exploring Gatlinburg’s hiking trails offers a chance to encounter historical sites such as old settlements, homesteads, and architectural remnants, providing a glimpse into the area’s past.

Pro-tip: Research the historical significance of the trails beforehand to gain a deeper appreciation for the sites you’ll encounter.

5. Unique Features

  • Natural Bridge on Alum Cave Trail: A unique arch formed by nature, providing a picturesque spot for hikers to rest and take in the surroundings.
  • Historic Sites on Little River Trail: Hikers can explore remnants of old settlements, such as the Walker Sisters Cabin, offering a glimpse into the region’s past.
  • Rich Biodiversity on Porters Creek Trail: This trail showcases a diverse range of flora, including wildflowers and old-growth forests, creating a captivating environment for nature enthusiasts.
  • Rocky Top Summit on Rocky Top Trail: Hikers can enjoy panoramic views of the Great Smoky Mountains and the surrounding landscapes from this prominent summit.
  • Unique Caves on Grotto Falls Trail: This trail features a distinctive opportunity to hike behind a waterfall and explore the enchanting grotto area.

Gatlinburg’s hiking trails are not only rich in natural beauty but also hold historical significance, with remnants of early settlements and Native American heritage scattered throughout the region. The trails also offer unique features such as the natural bridge, historic sites, diverse biodiversity, and the opportunity to hike behind a waterfall.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some popular hiking trails in Gatlinburg?

Some popular hiking trails in Gatlinburg include the Grotto Falls Trail, the Alum Cave Trail, and the Laurel Falls Trail.

Are there any easy hiking trails in Gatlinburg?

Yes, there are several easy hiking trails in Gatlinburg such as the Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail and the Chimney Tops Trail.

What are some challenging hiking trails in Gatlinburg?

If you’re looking for a challenging hike, you can try the Mount LeConte Via Alum Cave Trail or the Porters Creek Trail. These trails offer steep inclines and longer distances.

Are there any family-friendly hiking trails in Gatlinburg?

Yes, there are many family-friendly hiking trails in Gatlinburg, such as the Cataract Falls Trail and the Twin Creeks Trail. These trails are shorter and offer easier terrain, making them perfect for families with young children.

Do I need a permit to hike in Gatlinburg?

No, you do not need a permit to hike in Gatlinburg. However, some trails may require a permit for camping or backcountry use. It’s best to check with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park website for specific trail regulations.

What should I bring on a hike in Gatlinburg?

It’s important to be prepared when hiking in Gatlinburg. Make sure to bring plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, and bug spray. It’s also a good idea to wear sturdy hiking shoes and bring a map or GPS device in case of getting lost.

Trekking Through the Smokies: A Guide to Gatlinburg Hiking Trails
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Trekking Through the Smokies: A Guide to Gatlinburg Hiking Trails
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Joey Journeys
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