Hiking, Falls, and Swimming Holes

Many nature enthusiasts visit the Smoky Mountains for its awesome trails. Here are some of the most popular hiking trails that are preferred by tourists. These vary on complexity and are located in the Smoky Mountain National Park. Pro tip:  Check the website prior to beginning your hikes, important information regarding road closures and trail closures will make for a much more pleasant experience.


Roaring Fork Motor Natural Trail

A favorite among visitors, at the end of the hike it takes you to Grotto Falls (the only falls that a person can walk behind, 25-feet high). The hike going and coming back is 45 minutes to 1 hour total. Great trail for children over 2 and don’t forget to take your water bottles. Many bears have been spotted here.

Laurel Falls

The paved path to Laurel Falls is a favorite hike among many park visitors. A fairly easy hike, close proximity to Gatlinburg, and a picturesque 80-foot waterfall, all combine to make this an extremely popular destination within the Great Smoky Mountains.

Rainbow Falls

One of the most popular hiking trails in the park. This 5.4 mile round-trip hike offers creek side hiking, beautiful forest, and the beautiful Rainbow Falls as a destination. At 80 feet, Rainbow Falls is also the tallest waterfall in the Smokies. On sunny afternoons, a rainbow often becomes visible through the mist of the falls, resulting in its given name. For a longer hike, you can continue on the trail for another 4.2 miles to the summit of Mount LeConte, one of the tallest mountains in the park.

Mt. Leconte via Alum Cave Trailhead

At 6593 feet, Mount Leconte is the 3rd highest peak in the Smokies. Mt. Leconte can be considered the tallest mountain in the eastern USA. The Alum Cave trail is the most hiked in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Allow 6-9 hours for this hike. It’s strenuous, but not technically challenging. It takes an average of 8 hours of hike, since there is so much to stop and enjoy along the way. There is a lunch service provided by LeConte Lodge for day hikers! You need to order 2 days in advance.

Gatlinburg Trail

It is the one of the two pet friendly trails in the entire park. It’s a nature walk through the woods. The Hike is 1.9 miles one way from the Sugarlands visitor center. It runs through the forest along the Little Pigeon River. It is frequented by joggers, walkers, and bicyclists.

Elkmont Nature Trail

It is the perfect hike in the Great Smoky Mountains when you are looking for a short, easy hike for a family. It is less than a mile long and not heavily traveled.

Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail

It is a short, half mile trail in the National park. It’s the only trail that is wheelchair accessible and good for strollers as well. This trail is half mile past the visitor center.


Big Creek /Mouse Creek Falls

This is a great hike for novice hikers because the trail is relatively smooth, and is a gradual climb of only 605 feet over the course of the two miles to the 45-foot Mouse Creek Falls.

Andrews Bald

This trail begins from the Clingmans Dome parking lot and drops elevation as you hike. Only a 1.7 mile hike to see magnificent views? Sounds like a breeze. Well, not so fast – this is still a fairly rugged hike! But don’t let this deter you. Thanks to several acres of open grassy meadow, commonly referred to as balds in the Appalachians, spectacular views of the southern Smokies await you at the end of this hike. Andrews Bald is the perfect place to unfold a blanket, relax, and enjoy a picnic lunch.

Abrams Falls

You can access the trail through Cades Cove. Due to the length of the hike it takes 3-4 hours to finish. Although Abrams Falls is only 20 feet high, the large volume of water rushing over the sandstone cliff more than makes up for its lack of height. In fact, Abrams Falls is the most voluminous waterfall in the park, easily making this the most scenic waterfall in the Smokies. As a result, the moderate 5.2-mile round-trip hike to the waterfall is one of the more popular hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Basins Creek Falls

Relative to their popularity, this 40-foot, two-tiered waterfall just might be the most underrated falls in the Great Smoky Mountains. It’s also a great place to kick back and enjoy a picnic.

Walker Sisters Place

The Little Brier Gap Trail is located in the heart of an old mountain community known as Little Greenbrier. The community achieved national fame when five spinster sisters continued to live here decades after the park was established. The Walker Sisters refused to sell their 123-acre farm to the national park, and were able to maintain their traditional mountain life into the 1960s.

Swimming Holes

The Townsend Y

is where the Little River and the Middle Prong of Little River join. Probably the most easily accessed and popular swimming hole, this wide pool is located provides fun for the whole family. Located just after the Townsend entrance to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, this swimming area provides plenty of water to play in, you can tube in it and has beach sandy areas. Its family oriented. You access it by going to the Sugarlands visitor center and ask a ranger how to go to Cades Cove. Once you take the route to Cades Cove its 18 miles away you won’t miss it.

Midnight Hole

It’s a Deep scenic pool below a 6 foot waterfall. Crystal clear water, it is a 1.5 mile hike to get to the swimming hole and if you want you can hike another half mile to see Mouse Creek falls.