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Hiking in Great Smoky

A strong argument could be made that hiking is what the Appalachian Mountains were designed for. Just look at those mountains! They're steep and rumpled, creased by valleys, cut by streams, and thickly forested.

Despite their appearance, in Great Smoky you’ll find gentle paths for short family strolls, as well as long-distance routes that will satisfy backpackers for days on end.

While the park currently has 803 miles of maintained trail, there once were closer to 900 miles of trails stitched over the mountains and up and down the drainages. So treasured are those hundreds of miles by local hardcore hikers that they came up with a club, the 900 Miler Association, that hands out patches to those who can demonstrate they've covered all those miles.

Fortunately, you don't have to make the entire circuit in one season.

Hiking trail, Great Smoky Mountains NP
There are many great trails in Great Smoky.

Kurt Repanshek photo

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail might be the most well-known of the park’s hiking trails. The footpath that meanders from northern Maine to Georgia roams the spine of Great Smoky, crossing grassing balds and heavily vegetated mountain flanks.

Beyond the AT, though, dozens of other trails have earned favoritism with hikers who are fortunate enough to live close enough for regular hikes in the Smokies.

Hikes Featured In the Traveler

Mountain Farm Museum and Oconaluftee River Trail

* The Mountain Farm Museum is a half-mile wander through an awesome collection of backcountry barns, cabins and other structures with living history activities and great signing. The Oconaluftee River Trail adjoins it, providing a great riverside stroll (bikes and leashed dogs allowed) where insightful plaques tell Cherokee tales and beliefs. The combination is one of the park's best interpretive hiking experiences. Read our "Trails I've Hiked" guide article.

The Mayna Avent Cabin

* While much is known and obvious to national park visitors, there are somethings that are not well-known and often remain secret unless you either stumble upon them or learn of them from a local. Such just might be the case with the Mayna Avent cabin in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Read more of this story on this page.

Spruce Flat Falls Trail

* Spruce Flat Falls is one of the hidden gems of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The hike is about a mile each way, not too rugged, but with a bit of a climb. The trail passes through a thicket of Mountain Laurel, which will be in bloom the first week or two in May. It's also a wonderful spot for photography.

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The Smokemont Loop Trail

The Smokemont Loop in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a great winter hiker. The hike offers streams, a cascade, and plenty of history.

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Deep Creek/Martins Gap/Indian Creek Loop

This low-altitude hike in the Deep Creek section of Great Smoky Mountains National Park can be done any time of the year, but it shines in the fall when trees change color along the creek. The loop is also popular in winter once snow and ice close sections of the park that are much higher.

You can read more of this story on this page.

Anthony Creek Trail to Spence Field

As with so many of the footpaths in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Anthony Creek Trail doesn’t hesitate much before pulling you up into that landscape.

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The Hike to LeConte Lodge

I am a social hiker. For me, one of the highlights of hiking is meeting friendly and energetic people on the trail. That’s why I love the camaraderie at LeConte Lodge in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The lodge, which can only be reached by foot, is luxurious considering it’s located a hundred or so feet below the 6,593 foot top of Mt. LeConte. Groups come here for family reunions and some people train for weeks before attempting the trip because it’s the only hiking they do all year.

Watch our video and read about the LeConte Lodge experience. Read another story on this page.

For information on backpacking in the park, check out this page.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide