America’s most visited national park, the Great Smoky Mountains are free to enter and enjoy. From hiking, auto touring, and educational opportunities to historic structures, fishing, and picnicking, the Smoky Mountains offer plenty to do for everyone.
HIKING IN THE GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS
With every step you reconnect. With nature. With life. With yourself. Step on the trail and step back into your soul. The real you is out there.
Nearly 800 miles of maintained trails weave throughout Great Smoky Mountains National Park, located just 13 miles from Sevierville, and the vistas prove that the best views truly are yours.
The ‘great’ outdoors got their name from the Great Smoky Mountains. Well, maybe not really, but they should have. The Great Smoky Mountains are Sevierville’s backyard and America’s most visited national park.
Come on over and play. With 800 miles of maintained trails, Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers hikes for everyone from strenuous all day and overnight hikes to quick and scenic “stretch your legs” walks. Don’t like to hike? The Great Smoky Mountains offers ample opportunities for scenic auto tours, picnicking, fishing and horseback riding.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park also offers educational programs for children and adults that let you learn even more about the bio-diversity of this International Bio Sphere Reserve.
MOST POPULAR HIKING TRAILS
5 miles(roundtrip) | 340' climb | Moderate-Difficult | Total Estimated Time: 3-4 hours
You’ll find the Abrams Falls Trailhead just past stop #10 on the Cades Cove Loop Road. This trail follows Abrams Creek through a pine-oak forest to Abrams Falls – a 20’ tall waterfall that cascades over a sandstone cliff. Although it’s not the tallest waterfall in the park, it is the most voluminous – with more rushing water than any other in the Great Smoky Mountains. For this reason, it is important not to swim in the deep pool below, which has strong currents and the presence of an undertow. The Abrams Falls trail is one of the most popular and beautiful waterfall hikes in the Smokies. Hikers will also enjoy viewing the rhododendron along the creek – especially in late spring when it is in bloom.
Alum Cave Bluffs
5 miles (roundtrip) | 1200’ climb | Moderate-Difficult | Total Estimated Time: 3-4 hours
The Alum Cave Bluffs trailhead is just over 8 miles from the Sugarlands Visitor Center on Highway 441. This is one of the most interesting hiking trails in the Great Smoky Mountains with scenic overlooks and picturesque sections of trail – such as the stone stairway ascending Arch Rock. Alum Cave Bluffs trail passes through an old-growth hardwood forest and across log foot bridges, offering beautiful views along the way. Not really a traditional cave, Alum Cave is actually a concave rocky bluff that was mined by the Epsom Salts Manufacturing Company from 1838 until 1854 and then mined by the Army for saltpeter to make gunpowder during the Civil War. Enjoy the history and scenery of this trail or choose to continue on to the summit of Mount LeConte (an additional 3.3 mile hike up the mountain).
2.5 miles (roundtrip) | 400' climb | Easy-Moderate | Total Estimated Time: 2 hours
Arch Rock is accessible from the Alum Cave Bluffs trailhead - just over 8 miles from the Sugarlands Visitor Center on Highway 441 (Newfound Gap Road). The trail is picturesque and leads to an erosion-created slate tunnel. Curved rock steps provide a path to climb through the rock to the top. Hikers may then continue on the Alum Cave Bluffs or further still to the summit of Mt. LeConte.
4 miles (roundtrip) | 1,400' climb | Difficult | Total Estimated Time: 3-4 hours
The Chimney Tops trailhead is 6.7 miles south of Sugarlands Visitor Center on Highway 441 (Newfound Gap Road). This is one of the most popular hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains and features a steep climb through a virgin forest culminating in a rock scramble to reach the Chimney Top pinnacles.
Hen Wallow Falls
4.4 miles (roundtrip) | 900' climb | Moderate | Total Estimated Time: 3-4 hours
This hike is accessible from the Gabes Mountain Trail head which is found at the Cosby Picnic Area (near the entrance to Cosby Campground). The trail winds through hemlock and rhododendron forest to Hen Wallow Creek – which is only two feet wide when it crosses the rocky ledge to create the 90’ tall waterfall. The water spreads out to create a falls that is 20 feet wide at its base. The water at the base of the falls is home to salamanders and offers an interesting place to view them in the park.
Trail Safety: No matter what trail you may choose to hike in the Great Smoky Mountains, a few planning and safety tips apply universally. As a rule of thumb, hikers travel about 1.5 miles per hour. Be sure and leave plenty of time to complete your hike before dark. Wear sturdy hiking shoes. Do not attempt to hike the trails in flip flops, slick-soled shoes, or shoes without proper support. Pack water and snacks in your backpack – even if you’re only planning a short hike. Take a flashlight with you. Be mindful of bear activity throughout the park and consider bringing along pepper spray. Find more trail safety tips here.
SELF-GUIDED NATURE TRAILS
Sometimes, it’s nice to enjoy a leisurely nature walk – and learn along the way. These trails are great ways to relax and experience the Great Smoky Mountains.
Cades Cove Nature Trail
2 miles | Easy | 1-2 hours
This trail begins about one mile from the Cade Cove Visitor Center (which is located midway around the 11-mile Cades Cove loop). This trail is relatively flat with great scenery – including beautiful dogwoods and other blooms in the spring.
Fighting Creek Nature Trail
1.2 miles | Easy | 1 hour
This trail is located just outside the Sugarlands Visitor Center and makes a great first adventure in the Smoky Mountains. Enjoy a gentle climb on this trail that follows Fighting Creek and see two historic properties, including the Noah McCarter cabin and the John Ownby cabin.
3.8 miles | Easy | 2 hours
The Gatlinburg Trail trailhead is also accessible from Sugarlands Visitor Center and is one of the only trails within Great Smoky Mountains National Park that allows dogs and bicycles.
1 mile | Easy | 1 hour
One of three trails which begin and end at Sugarlands Visitor Center, the Cataract Falls trail features streams, bridges, and plenty of trees on the roughly one mile walk to the 25-foot-tall Cataract Falls.
Noah “Bud” Ogle Nature Trail
0.8 miles | Easy | 1 hour
Find the Noah “Bud” Ogle Nature Trail trailhead just off Cherokee Orchard Road. Turn at traffic light #8 in Gatlinburg onto Airport Road and then onto Cherokee Orchard Road. Follow Cherokee Orchard Road for 2.1 miles and look for the parking area on the right). Follow this trail to Mr. Ogle’s original log cabin, barn, and gristmill.
FISHING IN THE GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS
It’s no fish tale – you can cast a line in the Great Smoky Mountains. Fishing is permitted year-round in all streams within the park from 30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset.
A wide variety of fish swim the waters in Sevierville and the Smoky Mountains, including two of the most popular sport fish - bass and trout.
Bass fishing is best in Sevierville – where the Little Pigeon River is full of large smallmouth bass in the spring. The city even hosts an annual tournament in June called the Smallmouth King Bass Tournament. Nearby Douglas Lake is also known for its bass population as well as several varieties of crappie.
Not sure about hitting the waters on your own? Book a guide, like Smoky Mountain Angler, to show you the best fishing spots of all in Sevierville and in the national park. Whether you want to fish for trout or bass, try out fly fishing, or even learn a newer fishing technique called European Nymphing, these helpful guides can make sure you have a great experience on the water.
Those age 13 & older must have a valid license purchased from the state government of Tennessee or North Carolina to fish within the national park boundaries. See nps.gov/grsm for additional information regarding limits.
What else can I do in the Great Smoky Mountains?
Ranger Led Activities
See nps.gov/grsm for more information.