Clingmans Dome
July 27, 2023

Most hiking trails are covered in rocks, tree roots, and gravel. However, there are a few paved hiking trails out there, too. The Smoky Mountains have a handful of paved trails to help you get out in nature on a smoother surface. Here’s more information on some of the paved hiking trails in the Smokies.

1. Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail

One of the best paved hiking trails is just outside of Gatlinburg. The Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail is located just south of the Sugarlands visitor Center and is considered ADA accessible. This trail is half a mile total in length and is perfect for families with strollers, wheelchairs, or anyone who has difficulty on uneven terrain. The entire trail is paved and has wooden bridges with railings for safety. The Sugarlands Valley Trail is considered easy with only a 23-foot change in elevation. You’ll get to enjoy walking through beautiful scenery and along the flowing West Prong of the Little Pigeon River.

2. John Oliver Cabin Access Trail

John Oliver Cabin in Cades Cove

The John Oliver Cabin is a historic building located in Cades Cove. To get to it, take the Cades Cove Loop Road just past Sparks Lane to find the parking area for the cabin. Then, it’s just a short walk to the cabin. As part of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park’s effort to make the national park more accessible, a wheelchair-accessible trail was recently opened to allow all guests the joy of exploring this historical structure. The John Oliver Cabin Access Trail is relatively flat and paved. It’s about a half-mile loop from the parking lot to the cabin and back.

3. Clingmans Dome Observation Tower Trail

Another paved hiking trail in the Smoky Mountains is Clingmans Dome Observation Tower Trail. This trail takes you up to one of the most iconic sites in the Smoky Mountains. Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at 6,643 feet, and it’s also the highest point in the state of Tennessee. The observation tower at the top provides a 360-degree view of the Smokies that spans over 100 miles on a clear day. To get to the tower, you can travel up the paved trail. This trail is one mile round trip and fully paved, but it’s not considered accessible for wheelchairs and strollers because of its steep gradient.

4. Laurel Falls Trail

Laurel Falls

One of the most popular hiking trails in the smoky Mountains is Laurel Falls Trail. This paved hiking trail is not far from Gatlinburg. It takes you 1.3 miles to see the 80-foot tall Laurel Falls, then 1.3 miles to get back to the trailhead. You’ll experience a slow, steady climb to the waterfall for a total of about 314 feet in elevation gain. Though the path is paved, the pavement is rough and uneven with some steep sections. There is also a footbridge with steps when you reach the waterfall. For these reasons, this trail is not recommended for wheelchairs.

5. Look Rock Tower Trail

An easy paved hiking trail in the Smoky Mountains is Look Rock Tower Trail. This trail is only one mile round trip and is considered easy, but some give it a moderate rating because the path can be steep. You’ll gain about 170 feet in elevation in just a short distance. Look Rock Tower Trail takes you from a parking area off the Foothills Parkway up to Look Rock Tower. This observation tower provides 360-degree scenic views of the surrounding Smoky Mountains as far as 40 miles on a clear day. You’ll be able to go up to the viewing platform of the tower but not up the stairway to the enclosed glass observation room.

Explore More Family-Friendly Hiking Trails

These are some of the paved hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains. If you are looking for other easy hikes for your family to enjoy, check out these family-friendly hiking trails. Your family will love exploring these trails together!