Atlanta TrailsbyTrailful Outdoor Co
Hiking Trails

Smoky Mountains: Road-Trip-Worthy Hikes

Visit towering waterfalls, stunning views, lofty peaks, and pristine forests in the Smoky Mountains. GSMNP is a perfect outdoor adventure destination for a long weekend, and a fantastic four-hour road trip from Atlanta.

Hugging the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park encompasses over 500,000 gorgeous acres of forested land just waiting to be explored. Crystal clear streams ramble through majestic old-growth hemlock, fir, and hardwood forests. Rocky, windswept mountain peaks offer incredible views. Abundant species of wildlife, including elk, black bear, fox, white-tailed deer, and coyotes, can be spotted throughout the park. And over 5,000 species of plants and trees provide a magnificent array of diverse flora from the lowland valleys to the high elevation forests.

Smoky Mountains hiking: our favorite road trip worthy trails

Our favorite Smoky Mountain hikes visit some of the most popular and most beautiful sections of America’s most visited National Park. Grab fantastic sunrise views from the summit of Mt LeConte, hike to the rushing cascades of Grotto Falls, or visit the wide open grassy mountain meadow of Andrews Bald. And at less than a four-hour drive from Atlanta, it’s the perfect road trip worthy destination for a long weekend (or week!) of Smoky Mountain exploring.

Note: GSMNP prohibits dogs on most trails in the park, so, unfortunately, you’ll have to leave your four-pawed hiking buddy at home. Looking for a great NC adventure with your trail-loving pup? Check out our favorite dog-friendly hikes near Asheville for some tremendous hikes to explore with your pup.

Visit towering waterfalls, stunning views, lofty peaks, and pristine forests in the Smoky Mountains. GSMNP is a perfect outdoor adventure destination for a long weekend, and a fantastic four-hour road trip from Atlanta. #hiking #camping #backpacking #smokymountains #greatsmokymountainsnationalpark #gsmnp #atlanta #georgia #roadtrip #travel #outdoors #waterfalls #adventure

Our favorite Smoky Mountain hikes

Before you go, get some packing inspiration with our hiking gear list, which features our favorite trail-tested gear and apparel. And please always remember to pack out whatever you pack in and leave no trace to keep our wild places beautiful and clean.

  • Grotto Falls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

    Grotto Falls

    2.6 miles, round trip

    Hike the Trillium Gap Trail to this unique walk-behind waterfall set in a pristine old-growth forest. The trail crosses shallow streams and meanders under the canopy of a sweet-scented hemlock forest. This hike is particularly beautiful in springtime, when the forest floor is carpeted in colorful trillium blooms and other native wildflowers. It’s a favorite warm-weather adventure as well: rocks surrounding Grotto Falls offer a perfect spot to cool off mid-hike, and the waterfall’s mist is certainly refreshing on a steamy summer day.

  • Andrews Bald on the Forney Ridge Trail

    Andrews Bald

    3.5 miles, round trip

    Visit the beautiful, high-elevation mountain meadow on Andrews Bald, the highest mountain bald in the Smokies. Hike the Forney Ridge Trail from Clingman’s Dome to outstanding panoramic views from this expansive alpine grassland. It’s the perfect spot to spread a picnic and enjoy the fantastic vistas and cool mountain breezes.

  • Smoky Mountains hiking: Chimney Tops

    Chimney Tops

    3.7 miles, round trip

    Hike through a gorgeous waterfall-filled stream valley to lofty views on the popular Chimney Tops Trail. The trail winds and weaves through a lush forest dense with rhododendron, hemlock, and fir, and climbs to 180-degree views of Chimney Tops and nearby Mt LeConte. Due to wildfire damage in 2016, the true Chimney Tops summit is no longer accessible – but the views of these pinnacles are still pretty spectacular.

  • Abrams Falls at Cades Cove

    Abrams Falls

    5 miles, round trip

    Explore one of the most impressive waterfalls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The rock outcroppings surrounding the beautiful roaring cascades of Abrams Falls offer a perfect spot to relax and soak up the beauty. The hike explores a lush, fragrant forest filled with diverse plant and animal life along the way, following the crystal-clear cascades of the tumbling Abrams Creek.

  • Top Smoky Mountains hikes: Charlies Bunion on the Appalachian Trail

    Charlies Bunion

    8 miles, round trip

    Hike this challenging stretch of the Appalachian Trail to some of the most dramatic landscapes in the Smokies. The view-packed adventure starts with a bang as outstanding views abound at the Newfound Gap trailhead. The trail makes a rocky climb through a high-elevation forest to some exceptional viewpoints, and then crests the summit of Charlies Bunion. The 180-degree views are simply breathtaking.

  • Smoky Mountains: Alum Cave Trail to Mt LeConte

    Alum Cave Trail to Mt LeConte

    12 miles, round trip

    Scale the rocky summit of Mt LeConte to visit some of the most incredible terrain and sweeping views in the Smokies. The trail follows an unrelenting climb through steep-walled cliffs and massive rock outcrops. At the summit, the adventure visits the historic hand-hewn LeConte Lodge and scores some incredible vistas from the summit’s 6500-foot elevation.

  • Mt Cammerer in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

    Mt. Cammerer

    12 miles, round trip

    Hike to the iconic fire lookout tower on the summit of Mt Cammerer. This adventure follows a scenic section of the Appalachian Trail as it climbs relentlessly through rhododendron tunnels and rocky forests. It’s a challenging hike, for sure, but the 360-degree views from the historic fire lookout tower are spectacular, and star-filled skies make this an exceptional backpacking journey.

  • Photos by Nicholas Walsh.

Leave No Trace: Atlanta Trails, Asheville Trails and Trailful are official Leave No Trace partners

Please Remember

Always leave no trace, pack out everything you pack in, and if you see trash, pick it up and pack it out.

Stay on the marked trail, tell someone where you're going, pack safety and wayfinding essentials, and don't rely on a mobile phone to find your way. Please always practice good trail etiquette. And before you go, always check the trailhead kiosk, official maps, and the park or ranger office for notices of changed routes, trail closures, safety information, and restrictions.

Eric Champlin is a creative director and photographer who loves to explore southeast. He's the co-owner of Trailful Outdoor Co, a locally-owned hiking outfitter shop in Hiawassee in the Georgia mountains near the Appalachian Trail. He’s also the co-founder of Atlanta Trails and Asheville Trails, digital magazines that highlight the South’s best outdoor adventures. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.