Hiking is probably the most popular activity in the Smokies. There are hikes for every level of hiker. Strenuous to easy, leisurely walks in the woods to all day and overnight hikes that require permits to stay in the backcountry the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has everything a hiker could want in a trail.
Make sure, if you are going to spend a lot of time hiking in the Smokies that you pick up their little brown book. Titled “Hiking Trails of the Smokies” this book has every trail in the Smokies and gives pertinent information like, elevation, length, highlights and even landmarks so that you track your progress along the trail.
Abrams Falls Trail – This is the trail that starts at the Abrams Creek Trailhead in Cades Cove and runs to Abrams Falls. This is a highly trafficked trail and one that is wide enough through the majority of its length to walk two or three abreast. Rolling hills add a touch of difficulty but the payoff of the beautiful Abrams Falls and the swimming hole around it is spectacular.
Kephart Prong Trail – Named after one of the people that helped the Smokies become a national park, Horace Kephart, the Kephart Trail is 2 miles into the mountains from the North Carolina side of the park. At the end of the Kephart Prong Trail, you come to the Kephart Shelter, which you can reserve for backcountry camping before you make your choice of the other trails to branch off from after a night spent in the shelter.
Gatlinburg Trail – This trail connects Gatlinburg and the Sugarlands Visitors Center. A well maintained, easy trail with no steep grade or elevation change, the Gatlinburg Trail is an quick 2.5 mile hike through lush forest along the side of a bubbling mountain river. Within the first mile and a half from Gatlinburg, you cross a foot bridge and then began a slow assent past a former CCC camp.
Laurel Falls – This is the most popular trail in the Smokies. Easy is the best word to describe this trail. Paved, wide and short, you can hike this trail in an afternoon. At Laurel Falls you get to experience the fun of hiking in the Smokies while not having to get off road and hike on a dirt trail. And the payoff is a beautiful view of Laurel Falls – one of the most photographed waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains.