What Hiking Trails in the Smoky Mountains are Open?
We’re so excited the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is open, and we know you are too! In the first phase, many of the trails and roads in the park reopened. On May 23, more secondary roads will open and ALL trails in the park will be open. However, some roads remain closed. That means some of the trailheads in the park might not be easily accessible. To help you figure out where you should hike when you visit, we’ve made a list of the best hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains that you can get to without walking or biking into an area.
1. Abrams Falls
If you’re hoping to see a waterfall on your visit to the Smokies, you’re in luck. One of the most popular waterfall hikes is accessible in the park. Abrams Falls Trail is located in the Cades Cove section of the park. After driving about 5 miles along the Cades Cove Loop Road, you’ll turn right on a gravel road and drive until you reach a parking area for the trailhead. The hike itself is 5.2 miles roundtrip. Abrams Falls is a gorgeous 20-foot waterfall with a picturesque pool at its base. It’s the most voluminous waterfall in the Smoky Mountains!
2. Gatlinburg Trail
For a hike that the whole family can do, head to the Gatlinburg Trail. It’s one of only two trails in the Smoky Mountains that allows dogs. The Gatlinburg Trail travels 1.9 miles one way from the Sugarlands Visitor Center to the outskirts of Gatlinburg. Along the hike, you’ll have gorgeous views of the Little Pigeon River, as well as foundations and chimneys of old homesites.
3. Rainbow Falls Trail
Another great waterfall hike you can do is Rainbow Falls. If you’re looking for something a little more challenging, this is the hike for you. Between the trailhead and the falls, the trail gains about 1,500 feet in elevation. The roundtrip distance to the waterfall is 5.4 miles. Rainbow Falls is an 80-foot waterfall, and a rainbow produced by its mist can be seen on sunny afternoons. To get to the trailhead, you’ll turn at traffic light #8 on the Gatlinburg Parkway and follow the Historic Nature Trail into the national park. Drive past the Noah Bud Ogle homesite to the parking area for the trailhead.
4. Huskey Gap
Huskey Gap is a 4.2-mile roundtrip hike that takes you through the woods of the Smoky Mountains. It’s one of the best hikes to see a variety of wildflowers in the spring and summer. Some of the wildflowers you can see along the hike are yellow trillium, silver bell, and wild geranium. Along the trail, you’ll see remains of an old stone fence, large tulip trees, a small stream and mountain views. To get to the trailhead from Sugarlands Visitor Center in Gatlinburg, drive 1.6 miles south along Newfound Gap Road.
5. Schoolhouse Gap Trail
Schoolhouse Gap Trail is a 4.7 mile, out-and-back trail that features beautiful wildflowers and is popular for hiking, running and horseback riding! It’s one of the most popular trails in the summer to see an abundance of wildflowers. At a little over 2 miles into the trail, you’ll reach Schoolhouse Gap. People say this spot got its name because students walked through the gap in order to get to school in Townsend. To get to the trailhead, you’ll use Laurel Creek Road. The trailhead is located about 3.7 miles from the Townsend Y junction.
6. Twin Creeks Trail
Twin Creeks Trail is a 4.5 mile out-and-back trail near Gatlinburg. It’s a hike that’s great for all skill levels! Along this trail, you’ll have views of LeConte Creek. The creek actually gets its water from the Rainbow Falls Trail! You can also use this trail to get to the House of the Fairies, a hidden gem in the Smoky Mountains. This old house was part of the Voorheis Estate. To get to the House of the Fairies, take the small path that juts off from the Twin Creeks Trail after you pass the Resource Center.
7. Bullhead Trail
The Bullhead Trail is one of the popular ways to get to Mount LeConte! The hike begins from the Rainbow Falls Trailhead. As you climb the Bullhead, the trail ascends quickly. The Bullhead is a heath-covered bald off Balsam Point that has an elevation of about 4,300 feet. During the hike, you’ll pass rock cliff faces, 2 small caves and The Pulpit, which allows hikers to stand and view the mountains. Most people choose to turn around at The Pulpit, but you can continue another 4.2 miles to Mount LeConte.
8. Rich Mountain Loop
Rich Mountain Loop shows a more peaceful side of Cades Cove. If you’re looking for a longer hike, this one’s for you. It’s 8.5 miles and offers views of wildflowers, meadows, historic structures and more. You’ll pass the John Oliver Cabin, and can catch glimpses of Cades Cove. You’ll even be able to see a waterfall! Crooked Arm Falls is one of the last sights to see along the hike. It’s a small, 25-foot waterfall about 50 feet off the trail. The trailhead for Rich Mountain Loop is about 50 feet beyond the gate near the one-way portion of the Cades Cove Loop Road.
9. Meigs Creek Trail
Another one of the popular waterfall trails in the Smoky Mountains is Meigs Creek Trail. To get to the trailhead, you’ll drive 11.5 miles from the Sugarlands Visitor Center. The trail begins from the Sinks, which is a popular roadside waterfall off of Little River Road. The hike itself is 7 miles roundtrip. Meigs Creek Trail crosses Meigs Creek on 18 different occasions, so be prepared to get your feet wet! You’ll have views of the creek, large beech trees, wildflowers, and more. You’ll also see the 18-foot Upper Meigs Falls! You’ll turn around when you reach Buckhorn Gap.
10. Ogle Place
The Ogle Place hike is a great one for families or visitors looking for something short and easy! The Noah “Bud” Ogle Self-Guiding Nature Trail is just outside of Gatlinburg. To reach the trailhead, turn onto Historic Nature Trail in Gatlinburg, then veer right onto Cherokee Orchard Road. After about 2.1 miles, you’ll see the Ogle Place on the right side of the road. The short loop trail will take you to the Ogle Cabin. After seeing the cabin, continue along the trail through the pastures and corn fields once maintained by the Ogle Family. Other things you’ll see along the trail include the Ogle “tub” mill, which was used to grind corn into meal, and the Ogle Barn! This trail is only about .8 miles.
While all the trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are open as of May 23, some may be difficult to get to due to secondary roads being closed. We recommend trying one of the hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains that we listed above when you visit! Learn more about what’s open in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park before your visit.