There’s over 800 miles of hiking trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, including 72 miles of the Appalachian Trail.
Most anyone in average health can hike 2-3 miles round-trip…but trips in the 5+ mile range require a certain level of fitness. Remember, for overnight hikes into the back country, one must first secure a permit.
We have free info of many “day-hikes” in the Park, but here’s 3 of the more popular:
- Laurel Falls—The most popular hike in the Park, here you’ll see an 80′ cascading waterfall (two-tiered). Considered an “moderate” hike @ 2.3 miles (round-trip), you’ll gain 314′ in elevation and top out at a total elevation of 2,677′. The hike takes about two hours.
- Middle Prong Trail—“If you love waterfalls, this trail is for you! Experience two waterfalls within the first 2/3 mile, on an “easy” ascension. Turn this into a “moderate-strenuous” hike, and treat yourself to a third gorgeous waterfall (Indian Flats Falls) another 3.3 miles up the trail (turn right at the junction). Located in the Tremont area of the Park.
- Chimney Tops—The first half of this 3.8 mile (round-trip) hike is fairly tame with multiple footbridges, but to reach the summit, one must climb 960′ the last mile (similar to elevation gains experienced in the Rockies). Chimney Tops is one of the few mountains in the Smokies with a bare rock summit. Total elevation gain during your hike is 1,487′, with a 4,753′ highest elevation. Consider this hike as “strenuous” in difficulty.
Did you know this about the Appalachian Trail?
1) Its almost 2,200 miles long and only 1 in 4 who attempt a “thru-hike” are successful.
2) Hiking the Trail straight through typically takes 5-7 months.
3) It runs through the campus of Dartmouth College (Hanover, NH) and crosses a road about every 4 miles on average, so you’re seldom too far from civilization.
4) The highest point on the Trail is 6,643′ at Clingman’s Dome (TN); the lowest elevation is 124′ in Bear Mountain State Park (New York).
5) It is said the hardest states to hike the Trail in are New Hampshire and Maine; the easiest Maryland and West Virginia.
10 “Day-Hiker” Essentials
- Daypack/Backpack & Trekking pole(s)
- Knife or Multipurpose Tool
- Compass, Map, Pen and Paper
- Safety Items – Waterproof matches/lighter/flint device/fire starter; Whistle; Signaling mirror; Duct Tape; Nylon cord; Flashlight; Bear Bell
- Emergency Items – First aid kit (with moleskin); Snake bite kit; Hand sanitizer and Safety pin
- Weather Items – Rain gear (poncho); Hat; Trash bag (large); Extra clothing
- Comfort Items – Insect repellent; Sunscreen; Sunglasses; Mosquito net head covering
- Extra Food (such as nuts, dried fruit, energy bars or jerky)
- Extra Water (and a way to purify it just in case you need to drink from natural sources)
- Let someone know your itinerary (or leave a note under your car seat) and take your ID. Remember your cell phone may not pick up in the wilderness, and of course, don’t forget the toilet paper (small packs of tissue in a zip-lock bag take up less space or purchase a pack from us)!