Best Hikes in the Smokies (Smoky Mountains National Park)

If you’re visiting the Great Smoky Mountains or Gatlinburg area, going on a hike is of course THE main attraction! These are (in my opinion) the best hikes in the Smokies:

Having visited nearby Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg on many separate occasions, these are the hikes that stand out to me most! Check the park website for trail conditions and closure notices before setting out.

Some links in this post are affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these, I may earn a small commission (at no additional cost to you!).

Cades Cove: If you aren’t a big hiker, you can drive this famous scenic loop for stunning valley vistas.
While it’s not technically a “hike”, I’m still including it here because to me, it is a quintessential Smoky Mountain activity. However, be aware that nobody follows the “pull over to stop” rule, and everyone seems to drive incredibly slow…

cades cove gatlinburg, best hikes smoky mountains, best hikes smokies

Laurel Falls: Great for beginners or families with small children. This is a short, paved trail, but still has a beautiful end point.
I’ve done this multiple times with big groups. Pro tip- don’t just stay under the waterfall with the crowds, climb down into the level below for even better views!
Difficulty: Easy, 2.3 miles round-trip

laurel falls, tennessee, hiking


Abrams Falls: This trail is usually not too crowded, and is probably my favorite waterfall in the park. I’ve seen bears two separate times on this trail though, so be wary! Make sure to follow all recommendations for bear sightings.
Difficulty: Moderate, 4.9 miles round-trip
abrams falls, black bear, best hikes smoky mountains, best hikes in the smokies
I saw this bear, took a photo, and quickly moved on!
abrams falls smoky mountains
Romantic times at the falls

Charlie’s Bunion If you are an advanced hiker and looking to get some cardio in, the view at the end of this trail is one I highly recommend. It will definitely take you some time to complete the round trip, and most of it is straight uphill. The view, however, is incredible! Best Hikes in the Smokies. 
Difficulty: Hard, 8 miles round-trip
gatlinburg smoky mountains hike
My husband- I was too scared to climb out there 🙂
charlies bunion, gatlinburg, best hikes smoky mountains

Chimney Tops– Another stunning view, but just make sure you are in good shape before setting out to conquer this trail! It has great views of Mount LeConte, but be sure to check the weather as it can get crazy windy!
Difficulty: Hard, 3.3 miles round-trip

chimney tops hike. best hikes in the smokies. tennessee.

Rainbow Falls– Beautiful, but a lot of uphill climbing. I wasn’t in the best of shape for this hike, and admittedly I struggled! However, it was of course #worthit.
On sunny days, the mist near the falls creates a rainbow and well, its magic. It takes about 3-5 hours to hike this round-trip, and there is a substantial elevation gain. Best hikes in the Smokies
Difficulty: Moderate, 5.4 miles round-trip

rainbow falls hiking

rainbow falls. best hikes in the smokies. hikes for families.
Image via

Clingman’s Dome– Incredibly popular, this place can get quite crowded, so make sure to start early! The trail to the summit is paved, but be aware it’s also very steep. There is also an observation tower, and it’s the highest point in Tennessee! Best hikes in the Smoky Mountains. 
Difficulty: Moderate, 1.2 miles round-trip
best hikes smoky mountains
Image via

Pin it for Later!

Best hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee. Includes distance of hike, difficulty level, and map pins


  • Reply Bryson Fico April 6, 2021 at 2:55 pm

    The views from Charlie’s Bunion and Chimney Top are amazing! Rainbow falls look like a great opportunity for amazing photographs. I like the way the wat pours over the squared-off blocks of rock.

    • Reply Michelle W. April 7, 2021 at 7:40 am

      We love it there- so many beautiful options. Thanks for the comment!

    Leave a Reply