The Smoky Mountains are home to more than 850 miles of hiking trails and the Gatlinburg area has some great ones for visitors to choose from. Whether you are looking for an easy family hike through the forest or a more advanced hike to the third largest mountain top in the Smokies, the trails in the Gatlinburg area have something for everyone and every skillset.
Andrews Bald begins in the Clingmans Dome area and is a 3 ½ mile round trip hike. This particular hike is a popular one so visitors are encouraged to start early in the morning. The trail, which is easy to moderate in difficulty, traverses through a spruce-fir forest and open meadows. High elevation grassy meadows are called balds in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, hence the name Andrews Bald, which is the largest bald in the area. It is in this area that the trail will end and hikers will enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the Southern Appalachians and Fontana Lake. Don’t forget a camera and picnic lunch on this hike, you’ll want to spend some time in the meadow enjoying the spectacular sights!
Rainbow Falls, aptly named for the waterfall that you’ll end your hike at, is the largest single drop waterfall in the Smoky Mountains. If you come at the right time of day (mid-morning and late afternoon) the sunlight reflects perfectly, creating a rainbow effect in the waterfalls mist. This hike, which takes you through old forest growth and boulder grounds, is moderate in difficulty. Some hikers choose to continue for just over 4 miles to Mt. LeConte, the third highest mountain in the Smokies.
Mt. LeConte summit can be reached via a couple of different routes, all of which are classified as difficult hikes. The hike, which is 13.8 – 14.4 miles, depending upon the route taken, can include Rainbow Falls at the beginning or hikers can choose the Bullhead Trail, which offers incredible views and sights along its path. Another option is to ascend via Rainbow Falls and descend via Bullhead Trail, creating a large loop that allows you to see it all.
A unique option for hikers is the ability to spend the night near the top of Mt. LeConte. The cabins and lodge offer hikers comfortable accommodations and hearty family style meals. Reservations are required. More information about lodging can be found on their website.
The Smoky Mountains offer some great hiking options and the region around Gatlinburg is no exception, regardless of which trail you choose.