TOP 3 HIKES IN THE SMOKY MOUNTAINS
This year is the National Park Service’s centennial – and what better way to celebrate than by hiking in America’s most visited national park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With more than 800 miles of maintained trails in the Great Smoky Mountains, there is plenty of hiking to do. We’ve selected our favorite Smoky Mountains hikes to help you start planning your Sevierville adventure.
Length: 8 miles round-trip
What You’ll See: The tallest waterfall in the park (and the one typically considered most spectacular), Ramsey Cascades is named in honor of the Ramsey family who once lived in close proximity. The falls drops nearly one hundred feet over ancient boulders and collects in a pool where salamanders swim. The Ramsey Cascades trail gains almost 2,200 feet in elevation. The beginning of the trail follows an old gravel roadbed. At 1.5 miles from the trailhead is the junction with the old Greenbrier Pinnacle Trail, which used to lead hikers to the top of Greenbrier Pinnacle where an old fire tower once stood. From here a narrow, rugged footpath leads to Ramsey Cascades. Some of the largest trees in the park are located on this trail, including the tallest red maple, second tallest white oak, and the tallest black cherry in the park. Over the course of the last two miles hikers will encounter very large tulip trees, eastern hemlocks, basswoods, silver bells, and yellow birches.
Directions to Trailhead: At the junction of 441 and 321 in Gatlinburg (Light # 3) turn left onto eastbound 321. Drive six miles and turn right into Greenbrier Cove at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park entrance sign on the right. After one mile this road turns into a rough gravel road. At the fork (2. 1 miles after you leave the pavement) turn left and cross the bridge. Then drive another 1.5 miles to the Ramsey Cascades Trailhead.
Looking for a water fall hike that’s a little less strenuous? Try Grotto Falls.
Length: 11.1 miles round-trip
What You’ll See: At 4,928 feet in elevation, the summit of Mt. Cammerer sits on the edge of a rocky outcropping overlooking the Pigeon River Gorge. On a clear day the views are simply stunning; some say the stone-based fire tower offers the best. This “western style” tower, which was fully restored in 1995, provides hikers with outstanding 360-degree views. Using hand-cut stone, CCC labors built the lookout atop the summit of Mt. Cammerer in the late 1930s. The men who built the lookout drilled and blocked the stone from a quarry about one hundred yards downhill from the tower. Some of these stones weighed as much as six hundred pounds. The mountain is named after Arno Cammerer, the Director of the National Park Service in the 1930s. Cammerer was an instrumental figure in the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With the help of Col. David Chapman of Knoxville, Cammerer convinced John D. Rockefeller Jr. to contribute five million dollars to purchase property that would become a major part of the park.
Directions to Trailhead: At the junction of 441 and 321 in Gatlinburg (Light # 3) turn left onto 321/73 for 18.2 miles until the road dead-ends into Highway 32. Turn right towards Cosby and drive 1.2 miles to the park entrance. Turn right into the park and drive another 2.1 miles to Cosby Campground entrance station. At the entrance station you’ll be directed to turn left into a large parking area for the Low Gap Trailhead.
Looking for a hike with views that’s a little less strenuous? Try The Jump Off trail.
Length: 8.8 miles
What You’ll See: Gregory Bald is a ten-acre meadow, and is one of two balds maintained by the park. It’s not clear whether this high mountain meadow was created by nature, or was cleared by early settlers. Without periodic maintenance from the park service the meadow would soon be reclaimed by natural forest growth. The bald is named after Russell Gregory, an early homesteader in Cade’s Cove. He and other farmers used the grassy meadow for cattle grazing during the spring and summer when their fields were used for growing crops. Like most of his neighbors, Gregory supported the Union during the Civil War. He was ambushed and murdered by Confederate guerrillas from North Carolina in 1863. In mid-June, the flame azaleas for which Gregory Bald is best known blooms. According to the Great Smoky Mountains Natural History Association, the various hybrids of azaleas on Gregory Bald are so impressive and unique that the British Museum of Natural History has collected samples of them. On a clear day hikers will be able to see Cade’s Cove and Rich Mountain towards the north, Fontana Lake towards the southeast, and Thunderhead Mountain and Clingman’s Dome towards the east.
Directions to Trailhead: From the Townsend “Y’ intersection, travel west 7.5 miles on Laurel Creek Road to Cade's Cove. Enter the one-way loop road. At the junction just past Cable Mill the loop makes a sharp turn to the left. At this junction, drive straight onto Forge Creek Road for another 2.2 miles to reach the Gregory Ridge Trailhead.
Looking for an adventurous hike that is a little less strenuous? Try Porter’s Creek.