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Hiking Trails in Great Smoky Mountains

The park has over 800 miles of trails and it would take years of constant hiking to cover it all. There are routes for all levels of abilities, from short paved trails to steep, backcountry routes of several days. Cascading streams, waterfalls, old growth forest, and mountain vistas can all be seen from the trails. Hiking distances given below are total, roundtrip distances unless otherwise stated. Difficulties are only a general guideline, for an adult in good condition, and do not take into account trail length. We strongly recommend you also have a good Great Smoky Mountains Trail Map with you.

Abrams Falls

  • Trail Length: 5.0 miles out and back
  • Trail Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Traffic: Heavy
  • Finding the Trailhead: This hike begins from the Abrams Falls parking area, which is at the end of a short gravel side road off the Cades Cove Loop Road 5 miles from the beginning.

The Hike: As with everything in the Cades Cove area. this hike is very popular, and the parking area may be full. Since five miles must be driven on the loop road to get there, it is advisable to start this very early in the morning, or in the winter or early spring. The trail leads through the forest, going up and down several times, staying close to Abrams Creek most of the way until it reaches the waterfall.

Alum Cave Bluffs

  • Trail Length: 4.4 miles out and back
  • Trail Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Traffic: Very Heavy
  • Finding the Trailhead: This hike begins from the large parking area located along Newfound Gap Road, 10.2 miles from the Gatlinburg Entrance.

The Hike: This hike is popular in the extreme, even by Great Smoky Mountains standards, and the parking area is likely to be full at almost any time except winter. This is a very scenic trail all the way to the bluffs themselves, with one notable stop on the way being Arch Rock, shown below. There are great views of various streams all along the trail right from the start.

Deep Creek to Indian Creek Falls

  • Trail Length: 1.6 miles out and back
  • Trail Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Traffic: Heavy
  • Finding the Trailhead: This hike begins from the end of the short road into the Deep Creek area, at the waterfalls parking area.

The Hike: This hike is popular. In the summer, this area can be overrun on any day of the week, and on the weekend you may not be able to get in at all. Floating Deep Creek on inner tubes is an insanely popular summer activity here. At other times of the year, it is usually a pleasant, relatively uncrowded hike. The hike leads along the Deep Creek Trail (actually a gravel road closed to motor vehicles) until a right turn on the Indian Creek Trail just before the falls. A sharp, steep side trail to the left leads near the base. Tom Branch Falls is seen along the way.

Grotto Falls

  • Trail Length: 2.6 miles out and back
  • Trail Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Traffic: Heavy
  • Finding the Trailhead: This hike begins from its parking area along the one-way Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, almost 2 miles from its beginning.

The Hike: The parking area for this trailhead is small, and this hike is extremely popular, so parking can be quite difficult. Those who manage to park will find a hike that is uphill for most of its distance, although it is never especially steep. The trail is in good shape. The falls itself is in a beautiful setting, as Roaring Fork falls over a small cliff with an area, or grotto, behind it. The trail in fact goes behind the falls and continues on, eventually reaching the summit of Mount LeConte.

Laurel Falls

  • Trail Length: 2.6 miles out and back
  • Trail Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Traffic: Very Heavy
  • Finding the Trailhead: The hike to Laurel Falls begins from a large parking area along the Little River Road 3.7 miles from the junction with Newfound Gap Road.

The Hike: This is probably the most popular hike in the most visited national park in the world. To call it crowded at any time of the year other than winter is an understatement. Due to its popularity, the entire route to the falls is paved. The trail is uphill almost the entire way, but the incline is never overly steep, just steady. Use caution at the falls area, the rock around the steep dropoff is very slippery.

Spruce Flats Falls

  • Trail Length: 2.0 miles out and back
  • Trail Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Traffic: Light to Moderate
  • Finding the Trailhead: This hike begins from the parking area of the Great Smoky Mountains Institute. It is located 2 miles down the Tremont Road, which is off of Laurel Creek Road just 0.2 miles west of the Townsend Wye.

The Hike: The hike heads up a short gravel road before going left of a building and climbing briefly. The Spruce Flats Falls Trail shortly heads off to the right. This hike may be only a mile, but it is very steep in places, and is very rocky. This trail is less maintained than most in the park, and can lead to injury for the careless. Young children do not belong on this hike. Those who do make it to the falls will be rewarded with perhaps the most beautiful falls in the park.

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