No matter what the calendar says, hiking in the Smoky Mountains National Park remains nearly everyone’s favorite activity. Even when the occasional snow falls in winter, most of the trails that crisscross the park remain open. So even if you are planning a winter visit to the area, a hike can remain on your list of must-do’s.
The best Smoky Mountain hiking trails aren’t necessarily the toughest or the longest. If you’re looking for a hike that suits any fitness level, you certainly won’t have trouble finding several that will still afford outstanding picture-worthy scenery. Consider these seven options when you want to go on trek suitable for everyone.
7 of the best Smoky Mountain hiking trails for all skill levels
On this quick but breath-stealing 1.8-mile hike, you’ll begin at the Clingman’s Dome parking lot. It also is a bit deceptive – you’ll begin by descending on the trail, crossing a ridge, then climbing the final portion to get to the “bald,” or open meadow. The trail itself is also a bit rugged with small boulders and rain runoff. But once you get to the top, take a moment to rest and absorb the beautiful mountain views surrounding you.
One of the most family-friendly Smoky Mountain hiking trails, Kephart Prong runs approximately 2.0 miles to a shelter. It crosses the creek four times over sturdy log bridges and offers several fascinating historic sites along the way. In addition to the shelter at the trail’s end, you’ll also notice what remains of the Civilian Conservation Corps’ Depression era camp and old fish hatchery.
Another picturesque smoky mountain hiking trail for all ages and abilities, Porters Creek shares a similar settlement history to Cades Cove. The difference here is you’ll see mostly remnants of homesteads as well as an old cemetery. The brief 1.0-mile trail begins at the Greenbriar Cove and winds through the cove hardwood forest and ends at a cantilevered barn and cabin, giving visitors a good representation of how life was in the 19th century.
Part of the famed Appalachian Trail, this trek begins with an immediate ascent from the Newfound Gap parking lot. About 4.0 miles later, it ends up along a high elevation ridge that takes you to a distinctive rocky outcropping named after an actual man named Charlie Conner who had a real bunion that looked like the rocks. His companion made sure that the area formerly known as Fodderstack could be rechristened in his friend’s honor.
Another trail that eventually leads to Mt. LeConte, you’ll find what’s almost the rainbow’s end here, or at least its waterfall equivalent. Crossing several bridges over LeConte Creek, it then ascends through a series of switchbacks and an elevation gain of 1,700 feet. While that may sound daunting, the view of the 80-foot falls will be worth the effort. In winter, they may also take on an hourglass shape when frozen.
Chimney Tops Hiking Trail
The “chimneys” here are pinnacle rocks that are the reward for a steep 2.0-mile climb with clear view of Mt. LeConte. The trail head is located about 6.7 miles from the Sugarlands Visitor Center. After crossing some fast-moving streams several times, you’ll climb a total of 1,400 feet to the aforementioned view. Be sure to take caution on the trail, which can be slippery when icy conditions exist.
Alum Cave Trail
This trail represents the beginning of the more difficult Mt. LeConte trail and runs 2.5 miles from the trail head to the Arch Rock and the famous cave bluffs. If you visit this popular destination during the winter, you’ll probably witness some spectacular icicle formations draped on the bluff’s ledges. However, take caution that these icicles can fall at anytime. Be sure to bring a camera along to capture the fabulous view at Inspiration Point.
After any of these hikes, relax back with us at Christopher Place Resort, a romantic getaway in the Smoky Mountains. We offer a luxury bed and breakfast resort setting, delectable gourmet meal at our Gatlinburg fine dining restaurant, and full amenities for any style.
Also, learn more about great hiking, white water rafting, horse back riding, and more for your next romantic getaway with our Free Guide to a Smoky Mountain Romantic Getaway.
Great photo of the Alum Cave Trail from daveynin on Flickr.