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Hiker on Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains

Hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains

Hiking across the Smokies is an American tradition that extends back to the era of hunters, trappers, and Wild West explorers. For those looking to explore ancient landmarks of the Smoky Mountains, here is a list of the region’s most beautiful and popular trails.

Laurel Falls

Destination: Laurel, a sixty-foot waterfall that topples down the side of the Smokies’ gray stones, is one of the briefest but most beautiful hikes in the park. Laurel Falls represents an especially lovely trail for family groups with young children.

Distance: 2.5 miles (loop)

Difficulty: Casual

Cades Cove Loop

Destination: While the final destination of Cades Cove features a valley overgrown with wild green, the entire loop will guide you through some of the park’s most scenic regions. The Cades Cover loop is also your best opportunity to spot local wildlife, including white-tailed deer, ground hogs, and even black bears.

Distance: 10.1 miles (loop)

Difficulty: Beginner

Alum Cave

Destination: The Alum Cave Bluff includes the Alum Cave rock formation, the Arch Rock natural arch, and the Inspiration Point viewpoint (where you will get a panoramic view of the region’s landscape).

This bluff was formed by a mining operation conducted by Confederate troops during the civil war, which adds a nice dash of history to the scenic views. You can extend your trek by following the trail on to Mt. LeConte (see below).

Distance: 4.4 miles (out and back)

Difficulty: Intermediate

Rich Mountain Loop Trail

Destination: This trail provides a beautiful alternative for those who want to see the sights of Cades Cove but want to do so in a shorter time or away from the crowd. This path will also take you to the John Oliver Cabin.

Distance: 2.5 miles (loop)

Difficulty: Intermediate

Chestnut Top Trail

Destination: During the early spring, the trail is surrounded by wildflowers. During the fall, it’s not uncommon to spot black bears in the area around the trail. Throughout the year, however, you can use this trail to explore the flora and fauna of the region.

Distance: 4.3 miles (loop)

Difficulty: Moderate

Mt. LeConte

Destination: Mt. LeConte offers some of the most beautiful views of the region, with multiple viewpoints as you move upward toward the peak. The truly adventurous can stay in one of the log cabins that can be found at the end of the trail.

Distance: 11.4 miles (out and back), including the distance to Alum Cave.

Difficulty: Strenuous

Beyond these popular hikes, additional trails are available in the region. Check in at the visitors’ center of the national park for a full map of the local trails.




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