Short Hikes of the Great Smoky Mountains – Best Trails
Distance is Round Trip. Please see Park Map for trail locations. T-1 next to name is trail location.
Abrams Falls • T-1
Distance: 5.0 Miles – Difficulty: Moderate
One of the most popular trails in the Smokies, Abrams Falls is in close proximity to Cades Cove. Beginning at the wooden bridge over Abrams Creek, the trail takes hikers along a pleasant and level course. The trail does become steep when you near Arbutus Ridge and climb into a gap in the ridge. The path then leads to Abrams Falls, one of the parks largest falls and a thing of absolute beauty.
Alum Cave Bluff • T-2
Distance: 4.6 Miles – Difficulty: Moderate
Alum Cave Bluff is one of the finest short hikes the park has to offer. It includes the natural arching “Arch Rock” and three more amazing sites. First is Huggins Hell, named by settlers who were detoured by the areas rhododendrons and laurel. You will then reach Inspiration Bluff, which has a spectacular view of the Little Pigeon River’s upper basin. You finish the trek at Alum Cave Bluff, a massive ledge of black slate high above the trail.
Andrews Bald • T-3
Distance: 3.6 Miles – Difficulty: Moderate
This trail follows the upper end of the Forney Ridge Trail, beginning where the paved path to Clingmans Dome Tower leaves the road. The trail ends at Andrews Bald, the highest bald in the Smokies. On a pleasant day the view can be breathtaking, offering an endless landscape of mountains stretching all the way into North Carolina.
Chimney Tops • T-4
Distance: 4.0 Miles – Difficulty: Strenuous
This hike is short and very steep. But, don’t let the quick ascent detour you from one of the Smokies finest views. Relatively easy for the first mile, you will endure a 600-yard climb to the Chimneys before experiencing a breathtaking view that rivals any other. This trail is not particularly dangerous, but is not recommended for small children.
Clingman’s Dome Tower • T-5
Distance: 1.0 Mile – Difficulty: Easy
This trail is a wide, paved course that is very steep. Rest room facilities and benches assist in navigating the path. When you reach the summit, you will be standing on the second highest peak east of the Mississippi River. The tower is reached via a wide ramp, making this trail an immediate favorite amongst families and groups with children.
Grotto Falls • T-6
Distance: 3.0 Miles – Difficulty: Moderate
This trail is located off the Roaring Fork Motor Trail and offers the only waterfall that visitors are able to walk behind. Though the trail is primarily traversing a hemlock forest, it is a suitable trek for novice hikes. The distance to the falls is relatively short and the slope is easy to travel. Located close to Gatlinburg, Grotto Falls has long been a tourist favorite.
Hen Wallow Falls • T-7
Distance: 4.4 Miles – Difficulty: Moderate
Located in Cosby, Hen Wallow Falls begins almost immediately with a steady climb up Snake Den Mountain. Although rugged, the trail passes through a lush, green forest of rhododendrons and ferns, with hemlocks and polars as a canopy. At roughly 0.7 miles from the trailhead you will pass a social trail that leads right, stay straight. Again at 1 mile you will reach Messer Gap, another side trail, and again stay straight. At 2.1 miles you will reach the short and steep side trail that leads down to the Falls. Check out the small cave just to the right of the falls also.
Laurel Falls • T-8
Distance: 2.6 Miles – Difficulty: Easy
Laurel Falls offers the easiest waterfall access in the Smokies. Following a paved trail, hikers walk through a progression of cascades before arriving at the flat, rocky base of the 60-foot waterfall. This trail is easily accessible by wheelchair and stroller and offers the perfect spot to sit and take in the beauty of the falls and mystifying sounds of rushing water. Because of this, Laurel Falls is one of the Smokies most visited trails.
Rainbow Falls • T-9
Distance: 5.4 Miles – Difficulty: Moderate
Though this trail is a bit challenging, it takes visitors to the highest waterfall in the Smoky Mountains. Beginning at the upper end of Cherokee Orchard, the path takes visitors through a field of boulders, hardwood and hemlock forests and along a streamside to the base of the 80-foot falls. Though this is one of the more difficult short trails, it is well worth the trip once you reach the falls.