You don’t need sunny weather to enjoy a great hike through the Smokies. In fact, the mountainside is almost more beautiful in the rain. Plus, the wet weather minimizes the crowds, so you can feel like you have the whole landscape to yourself. But how can you get the most out of your rainy day hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains? Use this guide to learn what to bring and where to go for a fantastic day out.

How to Gear Up for Your Great Smoky Mountains Rainy Day Hike

With the right clothing and gear, you can stay dry and surefooted on your hikes, despite the rain falling all around you. When you dress for the conditions, you can withstand whatever the weather throws your way and avoid having to call off your adventures early.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Waterproof boots or shoes

  • Layers of wool, nylon, or polyester clothing

  • Warm jacket with synthetic insulation

  • Rain hat with a large brim

  • Trekking poles Headlamp for gloomy areas

  • Extra set of dry clothes

Also, put all your items in lightweight dry sacks to keep your smartphone, snacks, and other items from getting soggy. Then, cover your backpack in a pack rain cover for an extra layer of protection. Bring a multi-towel, trash bags, and sandwich bags for drying off and storing your wet items.  

As you journey through the GSM trails, you’ll find where your gear falls short. Make sure to take note of any issues you experience and correct them before your next trip out. Your due diligence will go a long way in making sure that you can get the most out of every rainy day hike.

Three Excellent Places to Hike Through the Rain

Now that you’re all geared up and ready to go, here are the top spots to get your hike on during rainy days in the Smokies:

Alum Cave

The Alum Cave trail goes on for 4.4 miles round trip, taking you through the rock arch and into the cave. You’ll start your journey with a low-key walk along the creekside, which features rosebay rhododendron bushes all around. Plan a hike during the early summer to see their white to pink blooms out in full force.

Whenever you visit this trail, expect to see Arch Rock awaiting your arrival at the 1.2-mile mark. This beautiful landmark serves as the perfect point for a brief break and a chance to take tons of excellent photos. From there, it’s a bit of a climb to Alum Cave. Take a minute to check out the view from Inspiration Point along the way.

Once you reach the cave, you’ll see that it’s actually an enormous concave bluff extending 500 feet long by 80 feet tall. While standing in its impressive expanse, take some time to soak in the views, which are always an absolute delight.

Ramsey Cascades

To see the tallest multi-drop waterfall in the Smokies, hike along the Ramsey Cascades Trail. This is a difficult hike as it is eight miles in total and boasts a 2,000-foot elevation change. With each glimpse of the rivers and streams alongside the trail, you’ll feel even more motivated to get to the falls and see the rushing waters in all their glory.

The trails are endlessly rocky and often slippery, so wear ankle-height hiking boots for this trip. Despite the sturdiness of your boots, never climb the rocks around the waterfall. Although it might look accessible, the rocks are endlessly slippery with algae.

The view from the bottom of the waterfall is wondrous enough, however, letting you soak in the magic of the Smokies at first glance. Take a long break at the waterfall before heading back, so you have enough energy for the tough trails ahead.

Rainbow Falls

For a 5.4-mile trip through old-growth forests and boulder fields to a gorgeous waterfall, take a trip down the Rainbow Falls trail. You’ll want to bring your trekking poles for sure since the first portion is a steep climb to the top. Then, the trail will take you back down the mountain alongside LeConte Creek.

The whole way is rocky, but work crews put in elevated trail surfaces and steps to help. The side trails are gone now, too, so you can stay safe on the right path. Just take your time to work through the main trail and you’ll likely find it easy enough to traverse.

After crossing two footbridges, you’ll hit the waterfall at the 2.7-mile mark. As the tallest single-drop waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountains, this water feature serves as the perfect place to stop and take it all in before heading back to the trailhead.

Finish Off Your Experience with the Roaring Forks Trail

Although rainy day hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains are a delight, you likely won’t stay out as long as when the sun is out. To ensure you get your fill of amazing sights, take a trip around the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail before you head home. If you’re already at Rainbow Falls, you’ll already be at the perfect spot to experience all this trail has to offer.

Designed for vehicles, this trail takes you on a chill trip through the forest, so you can better appreciate the gorgeous landscape all around. Grab a booklet at the start of the trail, so you know where to look for all the most impressive landmarks.

Don’t worry about taking it slow since all the other travelers will do so as well to avoid missing a thing. Be sure to take some time to check out the place of a Thousand Drips waterfall at the end of the trail.

As you gain experience navigating the national park trails, expect to build up endurance that takes you on even more challenging adventures. Just be sure to check the weather before you go and never head out in stormy conditions, especially not during heavy rains and thunderstorms.