Being the big gateway city to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg is quite naturally known as an excellent hiking destination. This mountain town is an excellent home base for hikers as an extensive network of some of the nation’s most beloved trails is just around the corner. In fact, there are so many excellent hiking trails here, that it’s not possible to visit them all on any given vacation. This is partly why we’ve condensed the very best of the hiking trails in this list. Continue reading to learn more about the most popular spots to hike near Gatlinburg, TN to help you find the very best one for your travel plans:
1. Alum Cave Trail to Mount LeConte
This popular hike is about 11 miles out and back, taking hikers through an impressive natural arch, along the classic Alum Cave Bluffs, and winds up to the summit of Mt. LeConte for some pretty spectacular panoramic views. Note that this is considered a fairly challenging route, especially towards that big highlight of hiking up Mt. Leconte, with an overall elevation gain of 3,061 feet.
2. Rainbow Fall Trail
Rainbow Falls Trail is an approximately 5.4-mile round-trip hike located within the Roaring Fork area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As its name suggests, this hiking trail leads up to an 80-foot-high waterfall named Rainbow Falls due to the beautiful colors that shine in its mist. It is known as one of the highest single-drop waterfalls in the state park and a good place to spot the elusive red and orange-cheeked Jordan’s salamander. If you do go on the hunt for this moderately difficult hike.
3. Laurel Falls Trail
Also located within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Laurel Falls Trail is known as one of the most accessible and all-ages-friendly trails in the park. This one features a nice, gently sloped paved path that meanders through the woods for 1.3 miles (making for a 2.6-mile round-trip hike) and ends at the iconic Laurel Falls. This is the only waterfall within the state park that is so readily accessible by a paved path. So while it may not be that long of a hike, it is a preferred choice for those with strollers.
4. Chimney Tops Trail
Chimney Tops Trail is just 3.3 miles but is known for being pretty challenging due to its steep climb up the double-capstone knob known as Chimney Tops. You’ll certainly want sturdy shoes for this one, and make sure to pack plenty of water as this hiking trail is mostly exposed without much shade. Yet, while such elements make it challenging, it is an engaging trek and the panoramic views of Chimney Tops and the surrounding mountainscapes are well worth the sweat equity.
5. Grotto Falls via Trillium Gap Trail
Some people like to have more expansive views of pretty locations, while others prefer to get up close and personal with them. If you fall into the latter category or are otherwise feeling like a more in-your-face hiking experience, then you want the Grotto Falls via Trillium Gap Trail. This 3-mile round-trip hike is the only hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that takes hikers on a route behind a beautiful crashing waterfall.
6. Gatlinburg Trail
Gatlinburg Trail is a great choice for those looking for an easy hike in town. At just under 4 miles long, this hiking trail winds along the Little Pigeon River and offers an easy, flat, stroll. Plus, it is one of the few hiking trails in this area that is expressly dog and bike-friendly.
7. Cataract Falls
The Cataract Falls Hike is possibly the shortest hike on this list, but still worth mentioning and certainly worth visiting thanks to it offering beautiful views of the 25-foot Cataract Falls. This well-kept hiking trail is less than a mile long round-trip and highly recommended for families with young children.
8. Peregrine Peak via Alum Cave Bluff Trail
This more challenging hiking trail is about an 8-mile round trip that winds up along a mountain and leads out to some pretty stunning overlooks. In fact, Peregrine Peak got its name due to its being a popular spot to catch sight of peregrine falcons and other native birds in flight. Just make sure to bring plenty of water and snacks for this trip as it generally takes people all day to make it out and back to the trailhead.
9. Charles Bunion via Appalachian Trail
Want to see what the cross-country Appalachian Trail is like but not ready to go all-in on the adventure? The 8-mile Charles Bunion part of the hike is a great way to experience a portion of this trail and enjoy this beautiful region.
10. Huskey Branch Falls via Little River Trail
The Huskey Branch Falls via Little River Trail is a fantastic summer hike as it meanders along the peaceful Little River and includes several points where hikers can easily take a dip into the river. It’s a fairly easy hike and incredibly popular among locals and visitors.
Don’t Forget to Stock Up Before Your Big Hike in Gatlinburg
We hope this list of top 10 hiking trails near Gatlinburg helps to showcase the incredible diversity and natural beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains. Here, you will find crashing waterfalls, unique geological formations, scenic panoramic views, and much more. But whichever of these hikes you choose, make sure to stop by one of Gatlinburg’s great shops to stock up on the right gear (like warm socks!) and good snacks to ensure you have the most comfortable and enjoyable hike. That’s true whether you go for a short hour hike or a full day one!
Not sure where to stock up on gear, food, and drinks in Gatlinburg? Make sure to check out our other pages to learn more about this mountain town and all of the great shops, restaurants, and other attractions Gatlinburg has to offer.