When it comes to choosing which hike to go on, so many options are available and will pop up when you search. When it comes to the best, however, how hard is it to determine those? Incredible views, mountain top luxury, an abundance of nature’s natural beauty? How about all of that and more?
The Great Smoky Mountains has many hikes and trails to choose from, but here are our top ten favorites.
Number One: Mt. Leconte
This hike takes 11.0 miles roundtrip (via Alum Cave -- varies for different trails) for sweeping views you won’t be able to get out of your head. There are many different ways to reach the top of this summit; via Alum Cave Trail, The Boulevard Trail, Bullhead Trail, Rainbow Falls Trail, and Trillium Gap Trail. This hike is definitely known to be one of the more strenuous hikes, reaching an elevation gain of 2,763 feet. It is important to wear the right shoes during this hike, as some stepping ways can be dangerous -- and be aware of steep fall-offs as well. Mount Leconte is the third highest peak in the Smoky Mountains, with the top at 6,593 feet!
Number Two: Mt. Cammerer
Begin at the Low Gap Trailhead to reach this 11.1-mile hike roundtrip. Although this hike is also a little bit more on the challenging side, it is a more popular one because of its shortness in length. This hike is pretty steep, with an elevation gain of 3,045 feet. The top of Mt Cammerer overlooks the Pigeon River George, with incredible views for miles making all of the extra challenges completely worth it.
Number 3: Charlies Bunion
This trailhead begins at the parking area found at Newfound Gap. Hike along the Appalachian Trail to enjoy rocky panoramic views of the mountains. Charlies Bunion is 8.1 miles roundtrip, but watch your step because the drop-offs are extremely steep as you hike towards this beauty. With an elevation gain of 1,640 feet -- this hike can be a little tricky, but with sights on the west and the east it is the perfect hike to add to the list.
Number Four: Andrews Bald
Only moderately difficult, this hike has a roundtrip length of 3.5 miles. Andrews Bald used to be one of the more rocky trails, but needed improvements were made and now it’s become a little bit more on the safer side (but still not the easiest to get through.) With an elevation gain of 899 feet, this hike is the one to do if you want to experience the wildflowers blooming beside you and walk between the leaves of the grassy meadow. This hike is extremely popular, so get there early and give yourself a few hours to truly enjoy it.
Number Five: Chimney Tops Trail
One of the most popular hiking trails in the national park, Chimney Tops Trail is roughly 3.3 miles roundtrip. An extremely steep hike, hikers should note that to reach the summit they have to climb more than 960 feet in the last mile. One of the few mountains that has a bare rock summit, with an elevation gain of 1,487 feet. This trail is popular given the right month, so plan accordingly and try to beat the crowd.
Number Six: Rocky Top/Thunderhead Mountain
An exceedingly difficult hike, Rocky Top/Thunderhead mountain is roughly 13.9 miles roundtrip in length with an elevation gain of 3,665 feet. Pass by grassy meadows, views of North Carolina, and wildflowers. Hike along the Appalachian Trail and enjoy the three summit Thunderhead Mountain as you hit the first summit known as Rocky Top. Hikers then have the option to continue on to the other two summits with other views to be seen. Set aside roughly 8 hours to complete, as this is a lengthy and difficult climb -- giving yourself time with the sunlight.
Number Seven: Gregory Bald
This 11.3-mile roundtrip hike is famously known for its stunning azaleas that bloom in the month of June. With an elevation gain of 3,020 feet, this hike is not an easy one. Even though it levels in difficulty, the Gregory Bald trail is still one of the more popular ones -- with people coming from all over to view the azaleas and wild blueberries in their prime.
Number Eight: Clingmans Dome Trail
Short and sweet, the Clingman’s Dome Trail is perfect for an early morning run or casual stroll. 360-degree views of the Smoky Mountains, this trail is one of the more popular ones in the National Park. At 6,643 feet, this is the highest point in the park -- with an observation tower allowing you to oversee acres of forestry. It is said that because of its high elevation, this hike isn’t the safest for elders wanting to take their try at it. Pets nor bicycles are allowed on this trail as well.
Number Nine: Ramsey Cascades
Great hikes can include many things: flowers, animals, and -- of course -- waterfalls. Ramsey Cascades is 8.0 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 2,190 feet. Ranging in the more difficult level of hiking, for the waterfalls, it is well worth it. Take an old gravel road and walk through old forestry as you reach the view of the water tier dropping for 100 feet. Definitely for water lovers and those who truly want to find peace in nature.
Number Ten: Middle Prong Trail
8.3 miles roundtrip, the Middle Prong Trail is great for water viewing action. This trail includes three different waterfalls -- added bonuses such as cascades and smaller falls. With an elevation gain of 1,140 feet, this hike is somewhat challenging. Begin the trail at Lynn Camp Prong and Thunderhead Prong, and continue on your journey. There’s an old rusted Cadillac along this trail as well -- so if you’re up for an adventure try to find this old sitting beauty.
If you think the above hikes are too long or too strenuous, check out our list of the Best Easy Hikes in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
While planning your visit, be sure to visit our accommodations page for a variety of lodging options in the Great Smoky Mountains area.