Let us be your guide to hiking Great Smoky Mountains National Park! The Smokys are located right on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, and is America’s most visited National Park for good reason!
Great Smoky Mountains National Park has something for everyone! Beautiful wilderness walks, scenic wildlife drives, challenging hikes, you name it, the Smokys has it!
We spent a week hiking, driving, and biking through the park, and developed our list of hikes and sights that you will NOT want to miss on your trip to the Smokys! Let’s get to it.
Mount Cammerer was our favorite hike in the entire Great Smoky Mountains. There are really 2 reasons for that:
First Reason: The hike itself was a challenge. We were raring to go as we started exploring the Smokys, and were all aboard for a challenging hike.
The hike was 5-6 miles each way, for a total of 11 miles hiking there and back. The ascent is pretty steep at the outset, but levels out the further you get up the mountain.
All in all, we made it to the top in 3 hours, even with a few bathroom breaks along the way (bring some compostable toilet paper or biodegradable wipes on your trip!
The second reason we fell in love with Mount Cammerer is the treat awaiting at the top. Atop this enormous mountain is a fire lookout, where you can see for hundreds of miles in every direction.
Think about it for a second: old school fire lookouts were built on places with a perfect view of the surrounding area. That way the lookout workers could see 360 degrees and at great distances to spot fires. They chose a perfect spot with Mount Cammerer.
The views were unbelievably stunning, we really didn’t want to leave. If we could’ve set-up camp in the lookout, we would have. Nonetheless, we HIGHLY recommend Mount Cammerer, even though it is a tad out of the middle of the park.
To get there. take highway 32 in at the Cosby park entrance. Once the road ends, the trail starts!
Cades Cove was our second favorite excursion in the Smokys. To get to the Cove, you’ll need to enter the park through the Townsend entrance and follow signs to Cades Cove.
Now, Cades Cove is not exactly a hiking trail, it is a large paved loop. Once you get to the entrance, you’ll have a choice: Either hop on a bike and experience the Cove on 2 wheels or stay in your car and see it on 4 wheels.
We chose the former and hopped on our bikes, but we were definitely in the minority, most people take in the sights and sounds while driving slowly around the 11 mile loop. For you bikers out there, be prepared for a TON of hills! Stopping often helps keep your legs fresh, especially if you plan on doing any of the roadside hikes along the way!
Our favorite part about Cades Cove was the wildlife viewing. We didn’t see a ton of wildlife on other hikes, but at Cades Cove it was PLENTIFUL. We saw deer on deer on deer, grazing in pastures and even scuffling with each other. Zach swears he saw an elk as well, but Julie isn’t convinced it wasn’t a big deer.
Along the way on the Cades Cove loop, there are a ton of trail options, but we really recommend one over all the rest: Abrams Falls
Abrams Falls is a moderate hike located about halfway around the Cades Cove loop. The hike itself covers about 2 miles each way, for a total of 4, and has a few hills but is overall pretty flat
We were able to complete the Abrams Falls hike in about 3 hours, which included a picnic at the falls! On the way back, we even made up a ridiculous rhyme:
I’m a bear who’s so free
as I sit in my tree
’cause I look out at you
while I’m eating fondue
and the sky is so blue
as you’re wandering by
just imagining why
there’s a bear over there
in his world not a care
man it ain’t even fair
’cause I’m takin’ your chick
with my cheese on a stickFondue Bear – A Poem made up while hiking Great Smoky Mountains National Park!
All in all, we loved hiking Abram’s Falls, and you will too! Bring a picnic, just don’t share it with a bear or he might steal yo girl!
The Ramsey Cascades was a perfect ‘filler’ hike. What do we mean by that? A few things.
The hike itself is very easy. It is basically flat, with a few minor inclines. The trail is wide and accommodating, with few sticks or trees to climb over. It is a perfect hike to do the day after a tough hike or the day before a tough one.
However, even though the hike is pretty easy, there are some awesome waterfalls and sites to see along the way. The Ramsey Cascades are beautiful, and warrant a perfect spot for a midday picnic. Take a seat on a bench, rock, or log and drink in the day!
Side note: this was a great place for us to practice long exposure photography! Julie got a lot better, as you can see in the picture of Zach with the blurry water flowing around him! If you want to know any tips and tricks let us know!
Gabes Mountain Trail – Hen Wallow Falls
Gabes Mountain Trail was a fantastic, and seemingly underrated hike. We were the only ones on the trail for the entire day we did it!
The hike starts from the same place as the Mount Cammerer trailhead, but goes up an adjacent mountain. We only completed a portion of the hike, up to Hen Wallow Falls and back, which was a pretty moderate hike on its own!
The Hen Wallow Falls hike was about 5-6 miles round trip, with a few moderate inclines which made the hike a bit of a breath-taker. However, the falls at the end took our breath away in the best way.
The fact that we were the only ones on the hike made the experience so enjoyable and relaxing. Exploring the wilderness on a desolate trail is an experience everyone on earth should have! We left feeling relaxed and satisfied with the Hen Wallow Falls hike.
Great Smoky Mountains at Night
One of the best (and least taken advantage of) parts about the Smoky Mountains is the experience at night.
The stars shine so brightly with the absence of light pollution from the ground. We have never seen as many stars in the sky before our trip to the Smokys!
The calm can feel at the same time unsettling and inspiring, and give you a newfound appreciation for nature and the wilderness. On one of your adventure days, preferably a cloudless one, make sure to stay past sundown and experience the sky in the Smoky Mountains after dark.
There you have our guide to Hiking Great Smoky Mountains National Park! If you want to save this article for later, please pin the below image!
Note: While we were in the Smokys, Highway 441 was closed due to ice, snow, and the federal government shutdown. If it were open, we would have loved to hike Andrew’s Bald and see the sights while driving through Newfound Gap. We will have to see these on a visit in the future, and recommend you check them out on your trip and let us know how they are!
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