By Darryl Payne
Posted on September 15, 2018
Did you know there are more than 800 miles of maintained hiking trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park? What's more, they range from easy to rigorous, so there's something for every ability level. Many are located just minutes from the Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge area. And all offer memorable sights, ranging from sparkling streams and waterfalls to majestic mountain vistas.
The Tennessee Smokies offer plenty of relatively easy hiking trails including:
If you're up for a bit of a challenge, the Smoky Mountains give you plenty of options.
Try the hike to popular Abrams Falls, for starters – a moderately difficult 5.2-mile trek with a total elevation gain of 675 feet. At the 2.6-mile mark, you'll reach a short trail that leads to the scenic waterfall, a 20-foot-high cascade famous for its massive volume of frothy, foaming water.
This awe-inspiring torrent spills into a beautiful pool, but resist the urge to swim: Strong currents and an undertow pose a very real drowning hazard. Also resist the urge to climb the rocks right around the falls: Algae and mist make them dangerously slippery.
It takes three to four hours to hike the round-trip trail, so start early. Be sure to wear hiking shoes with plenty of traction. And don't forget your camera or camera-equipped phone. You'll want to get plenty of pics of the stunning scenery.
The Abrams Fall trailhead is located in Cades Cove, west of Gatlinburg. To reach it, turn right onto the gravel road just past stop #10 along Cades Cove Loop Road. (You'll see signs for the falls.)
Other moderately strenuous hiking trails include Porters Creek Trail (four miles long and loaded with history); Andrews Bald Trail (3.5 miles long, with spectacular views); and the Alum Cave Trail (with a total elevation gain of 1,125 feet and panoramic views along the way). All are conveniently located close to Gatlinburg.
If you're a veteran hiker – and physically fit – you may want to tackle some of the more difficult trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
For a real workout, hike the Anthony Creek and Bote Mountain trails up Thunderhead Mountain. The steep, grueling climb takes you to the Appalachian Trail and eventually to iconic Rocky Top, where you'll enjoy magnificent views of Cades Cove, Clingman's Dome, and Mount LeConte. The entire round-trip trek covers 13.9 miles, with an elevation gain of 3,665 feet. Yikes!
For an even tougher challenge, try Rainbow Falls Trail, offering a rigorous ascent to the summit of Mount LeConte. At 13.8 miles round-trip – with a total elevation gain of 3,993 feet – this trail is not for the faint of heart. But experienced hikers say its impressive waterfall and sweeping views are more than worth the effort.
As always when you hike, wear appropriate footwear. (No flip-flops!) Plus, be sure to carry a water bottle, charged phone, and first-aid kit.
Hiking isn't the only way to savor the scenery in the Smoky Mountain area. At Wears Valley Zipline Adventures (1911 Wears Valley Road, Sevierville), you and your family can soar on zip lines – 250 feet high in the air – over miles of unspoiled forest, with eye-popping views of Mount LeConte and the National Park.
Don't miss out. Take your family to the Tennessee Smokies for the outdoor adventure of a lifetime!
About Darryl Payne
Darryl Payne is a native of East Tennessee in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. He is a web developer with a passion for building great websites. As a local, he can offer a unique perspective on where to stay and things to do while on vacation in the Smokies. To read his latest recommendations, please click the Google+ follow button.