hiker on mountain peak in summer
June 28, 2024

One of the best parts of being in the Smokies is enjoying nature. A popular way to do so is by setting out on a relaxing hike. If you're planning your first hike here, we want it to be the best time. Follow these helpful tips in our guide to planning a hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park:

Choosing a Trail

An important aspect of a great hike is picking the right route. Visitors have a lot to choose from because the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has more than 850 miles of trails. Remember, the hike doesn’t have to be strenuous. Some easy ones include the 0.5-mile Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail and the 3.8-mile Gatlinburg Trail. If you’ve hiked before and want more of a challenge, take the Rainbow Falls Trail to Mount LeConte or The Baxter Creek Trail to the Mount Sterling Fire Tower. They have a roundtrip distance of 5.1 miles and 12.2 miles respectively. If you have any four-legged friends in your hiking crew, keep in mind that they are only allowed on certain trails in the park. These are the Gatlinburg Trail and the Oconaluftee River Trail. You can also take them to picnic areas and campgrounds.

What You’ll See

rainbow falls in the smoky mountains

No matter which trail you choose, you will see some beautiful natural scenery. The Smokies are some of the oldest mountain ranges in the world, yet it is impossible to tell. Depending on the season, there is rich greenery and colorful wildflowers, fiery hues on the leaves, or a blanket of snow. Some trails even have waterfalls and shimmering creeks. While the natural scenery is pretty to look at, it is also home to a variety of wildlife. You may get the exciting opportunity to see some on your hike. The most popular are the back bears. They are most active during the summer months, and a lot of them reside in the low fields of Cades Cove. If you do see a black bear, maintain a distance of 150 feet or more away and refrain from feeding them. Smaller animals you may see include fish and salamanders in the water as well as birds in the trees.

Planning Your Hike

Another aspect of a great hike is proper planning. Some things to wear for a hike include sturdy closed-toe footwear, long pants, and a light jacket. If you choose a trail at a higher elevation, keep in mind that the temperature may get cooler as you go further up. Take a trip to the grocery store and pack plenty of snacks and water. You may also want to pack a picnic lunch for after the hike. It is wise to plan your hike early in the morning. This way, the temperatures are milder, and you won’t have to worry about running out of daylight. Before you leave, eat a hearty breakfast for plenty of energy. Some good options include eggs, oatmeal, peanut butter, and yogurt.

Now that you know how to plan a great hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it’s time to choose a trail. Explore our list of Smoky Mountain hiking trails you have to try!