The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most popular national park in the United States. It boasts some of the best scenery of the Appalachian Mountains and is located in Western North Carolina and over the state line taking up a bit of Eastern Tennessee.

Hikers can enjoy the Smoky Mountain year-round with every season offering its own unique sights and experience. The smokies are considered one of the top hiking designations in the East.

When to Go And What To Expect

In the winter, the deciduous leaves have long since disappeared, and while the forest itself may be less appealing, the new vistas opened up are incredibly rewarding. The Spring is a time of rejuvenation and one can take in a parade of wildflowers and flowering trees decorating the park.

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  • Designated: The Smokies Were Designated As A UNESCO World Heritage Site In 1983

In summer the leaves are mature and out in full, in these months one can enjoy a dip in the roaring streams. In the Autumn one can gaze upon the stunning foliage of the Great Smoky Mountains and enjoy the crisp dry air of that time of year.

While in the park, one can see an incredible amount of biodiversity and what seems like an endless sea of ridgelines and mountains.

About Hiking In the Smoky Mountains

Some of the most popular destinations hikes in the park include Charlies Bunion, Alum Cave Bluffs, Andrews Bald, Rainbow Falls, and Chimney Tops.

The Great Smoky Mountains have a plethora of options when it comes to hiking trails. One can choose from trails leading to waterfalls, through old-growth forests, and trails with endless views. If one is planning on a multi-day backpacking trip, then reservations and permits are required for all overnight stays in the backcountry.

Tip: The NPS Warnings Of Parking Lot Thieves Breaking Into Cars Parked At the Trailheads. Avoid Leaving Valuables In The Car

  • Pepper Spray: Bear Pepper Spray May Be Carried by Hikers For Protections Against Aggressive Wildlife
  • Hiking Trails: The Park Boasts Close To 800 Miles Of Hiking Trails
  • Appalachian Trail: It Includes Over 70 Miles Of The Appalachian Trail
If one would like an exhaustive guide to all the 150 official trails in the park, then the National Park Service recommends the book " Hiking Trails of The Smokies ".Another source of information on the numerous trails in the Smokies is Outdoor Project and they have information on 16 must-do hikes. These hikes cover everything from easy strolls near Gatlinburg to epic hikes deep into the backcountry. Some of the best hikes in the park according to Outdoor Project are listed below. Related: Hiking In The Smokies? Don't Read These Ghost Stories Before You Go

Appalachian Trail: Newfound Gap to Charlies Bunion

This is an 8-mile round trip hike on the famous Appalachian Trail and one that boasts some of the best views of the park at Charlies Bunion. The Appalachian Trail in its entirety is some 2,190 miles long stretching from Maine to Georgia.It is one of the longest hiking-only trails in the world. Perhaps if one hikes on the trail here in the park for long enough it will whet one's appetite to do a full AT-Through hike.
  • Start: Hike to the Bunion at Newfound Gap on the Tennesse/North Carolina State Line
  • Length: 8 Miles Round Trip
  • Winter: Newfound Gap Receives Around 70 Inches Of Snow Per Year So Be Prepared

Clingmans Dome

Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the park and is one of the most popular spots in the Smoky Mountains. The views here will take anyone's breath away and are endless. Sunrises are rivaled only by the sunsets. To get here, take the 1-mile round trip walk up to the top of the observation tower
  • Length: One Mile
  • Clingmans Dome: The Highest Point In The Park
Related: These National Parks Are Actually Better When Visited During The Winter Months

Mount Sterling Via Big Creek Loop

This is one of the most difficult hikes in all of the park but it rewards hikers with eye-watering panoramic views at the top. The full length of the trail is a 17-mile long loop. But if one would rather there is also a 2.7-mile trail leading directly to the summit of Mount Sterling. This is one of the only 4,000 foot climbs on the eastern seaboard and is also one of the most popular day hiking and overnight trips in the eastern half to the national park. Mount Sterling: It Was Named After a 2 Foot Wide Streak Of Lead At The Northern Base Locals Mistook for Silver
  • Length: 17 Mile Loop Track (2.7 Mile Short Cut If Preferred)
  • Elevation Gain: 4,268 Feet or 1,300 Meters
  • Fun Fact: During The Civil War The Remote Valleys Around Sterling Was One Of The Popular Places For Deserted From The Northern and Southern Armies
  • Duration: Two Days
  • Starts: At Baxter Creek Campground
Next: Everything You Didn't Know About The Smoky Mountains (That's Worth Knowing)