With its natural beauty, temperate weather, and variety of paved and unpaved trails, the Smoky Mountains and its surrounding towns are a jogger’s dream.
Whether you’ve never run more than a couple of miles or you’ve got so many 26.2 stickers on your trunk that it’s hard to tell what kind of car you drive, we’re outlining our favorite spots to feed your soul with a scenery-packed jog (afterward, feed your face at one of the area’s many tasty down-home restaurants).
Want to see an 80-foot rushing waterfall at the halfway point of your morning run? Look no further than Laurel Falls, where you’ll see blooming mountain laurel and other lush vegetation. At 2.6 miles, it’s the longest paved trail in the park, making it perfect for fitting in an easy jog in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park before you head into Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge for the day’s itinerary. If you’re lucky, you just might spy a black bear. Tip: Get there early (or late); Laurel Falls is a popular trail, and the parking lot fills up early.
Deep Creek Trail
This easy-to-moderate run of 3.4 miles attracts joggers for its view of the beautiful Tom Branch Falls where you’ll cross a bridge with tubers floating by on the waters below. You’ll follow the gravel trail as it rises in grade to another bridge, where you’ll see a natural pool of water. You’re getting the best of both worlds with this trail that features beautiful land and water scenes.
Cades Cove Loop
From the second week in May until the last Saturday in October, the beautiful Cades Cove Loop is closed to traffic on Wednesday and Saturday mornings before 10 a.m. That makes this 11-mile trail popular with runners and cyclists, who come in droves to see the fields of wildflowers and possibly spot a big-horn sheep or two. Along the gentle winding road, you’ll have the chance to see ample wildlife (deer, coyote, elk, bears) as well as historic buildings (cantilevered barns, a working mill).
Experienced trail runners will dig running in the Greenbrier Area, which includes vistas of wildflowers in the spring and sporadic wildlife viewing. Follow the gravel road along the river for 6 miles up to Ramsey Cascades trailhead. Optional: Continue another 4 miles up the rugged trail; see the cascades.
Visitor Center to Newfound Gap
In the mood to log a marathon before hitting the Dixie Stampede? Experienced runners and long-distance enthusiasts will be tempted by the Gatlinburg to Newfound Gap loop, which starts at the Sugarland Visitor Center and climbs to the North Carolina/Tennessee state line just past Newfound Gap (that’s your turnaround point) for a round trip of approximately 26.2 miles. You’ll be sharing the road with traffic, so make sure to wear reflective gear and stay alert; even better, begin the run before dawn to avoid heavy traffic.
Looking for a place to stretch out your weary legs? Browse our list of Smoky Mountain condos, cabins, and mountain houses!