Smoky Mountain Solitude

Secluded Vacation Getaways in the Smokies

Great Smoky Mountain Hikes

Secluded Smoky Mountain Vacations

Getaway to the Smokies for a Relaxing Smoky Mountain Vacation

If you want to see the hidden treasures of the Smokies, hiking should rank high on your to-do list.   In the Great Smoky Mountains, more than 800 miles of trails await. Trails in the national park range from flat and easy to steep and strenuous.   But several are suitable for families as well.

Even if you're in the Smokies for a short visit, be sure to take at least one hike. No matter what your physical ability -- there's a great Smoky Mountain hike for you ...



Hikes in the Smokies

The following are some of the most popular hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park ...

Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail

  • Round Trip Distance:   .5 mile
  • Challenge:   Easy
  • Elevation Change:   None

The Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail is short and easy. It's paved surface is ideal for wheelchairs and strollers. The trail meanders through a grove of tulip and pine trees.

A century ago, this river valley was home to over 100 families living the several towns. Some of the names were ...

  • Bullhead,
  • Goober Farm, and
  • Forks-of-the-River.

The valley floor was cleared for fields, churches and schools. But by the 1920's, loggers cut trees on the hillsides, for summer cottages.

When the park was formed, most of the buildings were removed, but you can still see some standing chimneys.

An illustrated brochure is available at the trailhead or at any Smoky Mountain Visitor Center.


Alum Cave Bluffs

  • Round Trip Distance:   4.5 mile
  • Duration:  3 Hours
  • Challenge:   Moderate - Difficult
  • Elevation Change:   1,360 feet

The Alum Cave Bluff hike is very popular and some say it's the best hike in the Smokies.

The trail passes through old-growth forest and follows several streams as it climbs the southern slope of Mt. Le Conte.   But it's a steady uphill trek -- all the way from the parking lot to the top.

The trail head is on the Newfound Gap Road. Initially it follows Alum Cave Creek, 1.4 miles, then after a number of log bridges, it climbs through dense rhododendron thickets. If you're hiking in June, they should be in full bloom.

Afterwards, you'll come to Arch Rock, an impressive stone arch. After the arch, you'll face a very steep ascent.

Next comes Heath Bald, where the mountain laurel and blueberry bushes grow abundantly.

After more huffing and puffing, you'll reach Alum Cave Bluff, but you won't find a cave, just a rock overhang.

The bluffs are also home to the Peregrine Falcons. In fact, it was here that the first recorded nesting of the falcons occurred in the park. That was in 1997, after their successful re-introduction.

After catching your breath and taking some pictures, you can head back or if you want more of a grueling hike ... continue to the summit of Mt. Le Conte, just 2.7 more miles.


Chimney Tops

  • Round Trip Distance:   4 mile
  • Duration:  4 Hours
  • Challenge:   Difficult
  • Elevation Change:   1,250 feet

Here's another favorite hike. Although it's steep and difficult, it's fairly short and there's easy access from Newfound Gap Road. Also, the view from the twin peaks is breathtaking, so don't forget your camera.

The trailhead is on Newfound Gap Road and the trail initially descends to the Walker Camp Prong -- a popular river spot with picturesque cascades and many boulders.

After several stream crossings, and several log bridges, your steep climb begins.   The trail passes through rhododendron thickets and a forest of buckeye trees. Eventually, you'll come to a metal culvert and a good resting spot.

After catching your breath, you're ready for the tough slog -- a half mile of steep trail with no switchbacks. Eventually, you'll come to a switchback, so take another rest -- the steepest part of the hike is done.

From here, the trail climbs gradually ( Whew! ) along Sugarland Mountain.   When you reach the next ridge, you'll see an opening with a view of Mt. Le Conte.

After passing the top of a narrow ridge, you'll see the Chimney Tops.

We hope you have your camera, because you're in for a prime Smoky Mountain view. To the northeast are the peaks of Mt. Le Conte and Mt. Mingus.


Smokemont Loop

  • Round Trip Distance:   6.1 mile
  • Duration:  4 Hours
  • Challenge:   Moderate - Difficult
  • Elevation Change:   1,350 feet

Here's a great hike for anyone looking for a workout in a beautiful Smoky Mountain setting. The trailhead can be found in the far end of Smokemont Campground, section D.

You'll follow the gravel road along Bradley Fork Creek. After a mile, the Cashteen Creek Trail forks to the right and leads to Campsite 50-- one of the most accessible backcountry campsites in the Smokies. But instead of taking the right fork trail, stay left along the creek and then, you'll come to the Smokemont Loop Trail.

Next, you'll cross one of the park's longest and bounciest log bridges. Further on you'll pass through a mixed hardwood forest known for its wildflowers.

At 2.5 miles, you'll come to a more open area with some decent view of Newton Bald. A mile or so later, the trail turns west and descends through a lovely forest.

Two miles later, look to your right -- you'll see the Bradley Cemetery through the trees.

If you care to get a closer look, don't take one of the eroded trails. Instead, continue ahead for about .2 miles to the service road. Turn right, then right again on an old road. After 100 yards or so, you'll see the cemetery path.

At the cemetery, you'll find 30 or so weathered graves dating from the late 1800's to 1925.

Once you return to the trail, the Smokemont Campground is just ahead and your loop is complete.


Charlie's Bunion Trail

  • Round Trip Distance:   8 mile
  • Duration:  5 Hours 30 Minutes
  • Challenge:   Moderate
  • Elevation Change:   1,000 feet

Just in case you were wondering, this trail was named for a real - life bunion, on a real - life man named -- Charlie.

The trailhead is off of Newfound Gap parking area. It's part of the Appalachian Trail, along the border with North Carolina and Tennessee.

The first 3 miles are a steep uphill climb. Along the way, you'll see the Boulevard Trail, leading to the summit of Mt. Le Conte.

If you lie side-trips, take the Boulevard Trail and the immediate right turn on the narrow Jump Off Trail. The Jump Off Trail is steep, narrow and rocky, so please be careful.

The trail continues along a ridge and takes you to a sheer cliff, with soaring view of the Smokies -- definitely a Kodak moment. Also, keep your eyes peeled for a Peregrine Falcon, floating on the rising thermal drafts.

Back on the AT towards Charlie's Bunion, you'll see a backcountry shelter. It's a good place to rest and chat with other hikers.

Charlie's Bunion is less than a mile more -- it's a stone outcropping of pinkish rock angling towards the sky.


Clingman's Dome

  • Round Trip Distance:   1.5 mile
  • Duration:  1 Hour
  • Challenge:   Moderate - Difficult
  • Elevation Change:   300 feet

Clingmans Dome, 6,643 feet, is the highest mountain in the Smokies and the 3rd highest east of the Mississippi.

This paved trail leads to an observation tower offering stunning panoramic views of the Smoky Mountains.

The trailhead is off of Newfound Gap Road and Clingmans Dome Road. Stay on the Clingmans Dome Road for 7 miles until you reach the parking lot.

Once reaching the observation tower, many folks feel the effects of the high altitude -- dizziness or shortness of breath. Please rest when needed and drink plenty of water.

The views from Clingmans Dome are spectacular even from the base of the tower, but from the top, especially on a clear day, you can see for miles in every direction.

Finally, please note that temperatures at Clingmans Dome can be 10 degrees colder that in Cherokee or Gatlinburg. The winds can be biting as well, so please dress accordingly.


Andrews Bald

  • Round Trip Distance:   3.6 mile
  • Duration:  2 Hours 30 Minutes
  • Challenge:   Easy
  • Elevation Change:   700 feet

Here's an easy hike to one of the Great Smokies balds.

The first section of the trail is a very steep and rocky descent, but then you'll pass through a spruce fir forest and then the bald.

  • In the springtime on Andrews Bald, the wildflowers show their splendor,
  • in mid - June, the azaleas and rhododendron put on a show, and from
  • late August to September, you'll find plentiful blueberries.

Andres Bald is a sunny delightful spot. The views of the Smoky Mountains are superb, so ...

  • pack a picnic,
  • bring a good book, and
  • make an afternoon of it.

Cades Cove Nature Trail

  • Round Trip Distance:   .75 mile
  • Duration:  1 Hour
  • Challenge:   Easy
  • Elevation Change:   300 feet

This short trail passes through a pine and oak forest in the heart of Cades Cove. You'll find the trailhead on Cades Cove Loop Road, just past Forge Creek Road.

This hike is great for kids, so get the Self - Guiding Nature Trail Brochure and learn how the early settlers used the trees and plants to survive --

  • The white pine trees were cut and used for furniture,
  • yellow poplar was used to build cabins,
  • sugar maple wood was used in making rifle stocks,
  • the bark of chestnut oak was used to tan leather,
  • strips of white oak were used to make baskets, and
  • lichens were used to dye wool yarn.

Besides enjoying the beautiful scenery, you'll gain an appreciation of the challenges faced by the early settlers of Cades Cove.


Steve Woody Place

  • Round Trip Distance:   2 miles
  • Duration:  1 Hour 30 Minutes
  • Challenge:   Easy
  • Elevation Change:   150 feet

In the park's isolated eastern edge, this short, easy hike leads to a preserved, early 20th Century homestead.

Getting to the trailhead is also a delight. You'll drive an exceedingly scenic valley with ...

  • historic homes,
  • country churches, and
  • an old-fashioned schoolhouse.

Once you get toe parking area, the Steve Woody Place is just a mile away.

The house was originally a log cabin, but as the Woody family grew, he enlarged the home with framed additions including several bedrooms, porches and a kitchen.

If you want to avoid the Smoky Mountain crowds, the Steve Woody Place and Cataloochee, NC are a quiet alternative.


Useful Books on Smoky Mountain Hikes

Here's a few books that are worth a look as well ...

50 Hikes in the Mountains of North Carolina:   Second Edition

The Best Short Hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Pocket Guide


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Getaway to the Smokies for a Secluded Smoky Mountain Vacation