Best Short Hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park


Best Short Hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

What are the best short hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park? First of all, let’s clarify what I consider to be a short hike. A short hike would consist of a round trip of five miles or less.

Alum Cave Bluffs on the Alum Cave Trail
Alum Cave Bluffs

And just because a hike is short does not mean it is easy. Some of these hikes require a good bit of climbing and may seem a lot longer. But all can be easily completed in a half day plus whatever time you wish to spend at the destination. So here we go in my order of preference:

  • Alum Cave Trail to the bluffs. This trail has it all. A babbling stream, a natural rock tunnel (Arch Rock), outstanding views and the cave bluff itself. The trail begins easily but there is some significant climbing involved which makes this trail moderate to strenuous. If I had one day to experience the Great Smoky Mountains National park this would be it! 4.4 Miles round trip.
  • Chimneys covered with Autumn Leaves
    Chimneys covered with Autumn Leaves

    The Chimney Tops Trail. While the steepness of this trail can be challenging at times, the cozy mountain top offers both the feeling of conquering a peak and offers excellent views of the Park. This is one reward that is worth the strenuous 2.1 miles! (4.2 Miles Round Trip)

  • Andrews Bald. (via Forney Ridge Trail) Although the trail is rocky and tenuous in places, Andrews Bald offers an open meadow with excellent views of the Park. In June the flowers are amazing. This trail is a moderate 4.5 mile round trip.
  • Kephart Prong Trail to the Kephart Shelter. This easy to moderate 4 mile round trip is a gentle climb along an old roadbed and railroad be to the shelter. Wonderful stream views, an old CCC camp and the shelter itself add a lot of interest to this popular hike! 4 Miles round trip.
  • Little Cataloochee. This trail is a little harder to get to and parking is difficult but the path to the Little Cataloochee Church is broad and is easy to moderate for most hikers. You will pass the Hannah Cabin on the way. The hike to the church is roughly 4 miles round trip, but if you want to see the Cook Cabin the hike will stretch to over 5 miles.
  • Abrams Fall. This popular hike from Cades Cove to the falls includes a gentle climb and ridge crossing before descending back to Abrams Creek and the falls. It is a full five mile round trip.
  • Deep Creek. There are three waterfalls withing easy walking distance. this hike is easy and all three falls can be seen by hiking about 4 miles.
Abrams Falls Cades Cove Great Smoky Mountains
Abrams Falls Cades Cove

Keep in mind that a mile on a trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is more taxing than taking a neighborhood stroll. Four or five miles can be harder than one expects. Always wear good hiking shoes or boots and carry drinking water. And rest when you get tired.

Every time I visit the Park I do at least one of these hikes. It’s a great way to spend a morning or afternoon getting up close and personal with the park.

Leave a Reply