Are you planning to go hiking in the Smokies? Check out my hiking tips, plus some of the best trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a massive park and is filled with mile after mile of hiking trails.
If you're going hiking in the Smokies and are trying to plan your trip-- I can help!
Check out my Smoky Mountain tips below, and then a list of my favorite hikes in the Smokies.
Do I Need a Parking Permit in the Smokies?
Yes! As of spring 2023, this is a new requirement if you're going to be parked somewhere for more than 15 minutes.
Buy your parking permit online or on site.
Do I Need Bear Spray While Hiking in the Smokies?
And better safe than sorry, right?
Will I Have A Cell Phone Signal for GPS While Hiking in the Smokies?
If you're like me, and typically rely on cellphone GPS to find your trail locations, no cell phone service can be a problem!
I recommend carrying a map.
We used this Smoky Mountains Trail Map from National Geographic, and it was much better than the park's free trail map.
WiFi Tip: I was also able to connect to WiFi in some of the Visitor's Centers!
Need a Phone Signal? Drive into a nearby town (like Gatlinburg, Townsend, or Cherokee).
Do I Need My Trekking Poles While Hiking in the Smokies?
If you typically hike with trekking poles, I'd say yes.
I was SO HAPPY that I had my trekking pole.
A lot of the trails we hiked included stairs, roots and loose rocks on the trail, and elevation changes.
The pole helped.
Do the Park Campgrounds Have Showers?
Nope, they definitely do not.
We've stayed at both the Cades Cove and Elkmont campgrounds, but definitely found the nearby KOAs to be more comfortable.
BUT, if you're planning on visiting the Smokies to see synchronized fireflies in early summer, try to stay at Elkmont campground.
What Are Some Easy Hiking Trails?
Most of the best trails listed below are moderate or strenuous hikes.
If you prefer easier trails, or you want to let your legs rest in between harder hikes, try hiking to Laurel Falls, visit the Mingus Mill, or check out the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower.
What Else Is There to Do Besides Hike in the Smokies?
So many things!
Visit nearby Gatlinburg. Take a day trip to the North Carolina side of the park, or drive on as far as Asheville and tour tour Sierra Nevada Brewery and New Belgium Brewery. Check out great local eateries like DaLaya Thai Cuisine in Sylva, North Carolina.
Or simply relax and enjoy the views.
The Best Hiking Trails in the Smokies
Deep Creek Trails: Three Waterfalls Loop
(Moderately) Easy Waterfall Trail.
2.2 miles, easy to moderate, over 400 feet elevation gain
Deep Creek, near Bryson City, North Carolina, is an area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park known for scenic waterfall trails. There's a campground nearby.
There are multiple trails at Deep Creek, and you can more or less create your own loop depending on how far you want to go.
On the Three Waterfalls Loop, you'll see Juney Whank Falls, Indian Creek Falls, and Tom Branch Falls in the course of 2.2 miles.
They're all beautiful! The hike has easy sections and steep sections, and there are benches along part of it if you want to stop for a break.
Read our full guide to the Deep Creek Three Waterfalls Loop!
Abrams Falls: Most Popular Waterfall Trail
5 miles, Moderate Difficulty, 629 feet Elevation Change
This extra popular waterfall trail is located just off the Cades Cove Scenic Loop and is gorgeous even during dry seasons!
You have to drive the scenic loop on the way to and from the trail, giving you a built-in time to look for bears!
The trail itself is well maintained, but is rocky in places. It follows a creek at first, and then pulls away from the creek and gains elevation.
Note that the road to the trailhead is closed to motor vehicles until 10am on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Read our full trail guide for Abrams Falls.
Andrews Bald: Prettiest Journey
3.6 miles, Moderately Difficult, 1200 feet Elevation Change
This trail is located next to the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower path and takes you straight down the mountain to a meadow.
The path itself is beautiful, with mossy logs, tall pine trees, and wildflowers lining your way.
Read our full trail guide for Andrews Bald.
Charlies Bunion and the Jump off: Best Views
9.5 miles (8.5 without the Jump Off), Strenuous, 2,000 feet Elevation Change
This day hike along the Appalachian Trail takes you to some of the best views in the Smoky Mountains!
Start your journey at the Newfound Gap Parking Area, and follow signs for the Appalachian Trail and Icewater Spring.
Keep going until you reach Charlies Bunion. At the bunion, keep an eye on small children, because there are steep drop-offs with no railing.
On your way back to the parking lot, take the brief detour to the Jump Off for some extra views!
Alum Cave Trail: Best Overall Hike
12 miles (If you do the whole trail), Strenuous, 3,000 feet Elevation Change
The hike along the Alum Cave Trail goes all the way to the top of Mount LeConte. Don't let the length scare you away from this trail-- it's got something for everyone!
Make this trail as short or long as you prefer, because the entire trail is beautiful, and there are lots of obvious stopping points.
If you make it all the way to the top of Mount LeConte, you'll be rewarded with sweeping views of the Smoky Mountains.
Tip: Break this hike into a 2-day journey, and stay at LeConte Lodge on the top of the mountain!
Read our full trail guide for the Alum Cave Trail.