Hiking

Home to more than 800 miles of walking trails, the national park has no shortage of great hikes, from short waterfall jaunts to multiday treks across the breadth of the mountains.

Appalachian Trail The legendary trail runs for 71 miles through the Smokies; hike a short segment or its entire length for prime bragging rights.

Alum Cave Bluffs Walk past streams, through lush forest growth and ascend rock ledges on this challenging but rewarding hike off Newfound Gap Rd.

Grotto Falls One of the park's loveliest falls, with a trail that leads behind its cascades.

Ramsey Cascades Take in massive old-growth trees and puff your way up to a rewarding view of the park's highest falls.

Gregory Bald Climb your way up to this high-elevation meadow offering jaw-dropping views over the surrounding forests and rolling ridges.

Laurel Falls A short but steep hike to a lovely cascade. Go early in the morning to beat the crowds.

Rainbow Falls Watch the sprays of mist create tiny arcing rainbows as water plunges from steep slopes fringed by greenery.

Scenic Views

Panoramic views are one of the great draws of this mountain park, and are all the more rewarding after a day's hike to the summit.

Mt LeConte Watch out for llamas as you hike your way up to the Smokies' third-highest peak.

Clingmans Dome The best view in the park is at the 360-degree, open-air observation platform atop the park's highest mountain.

Charlies Bunion A craggy promontory that offers windswept views over the northern swath of the park.

Shuckstack Tower A historic fire tower, just off the Appalachian Trail, with grand views of Fontana Lake and the surrounding mountains.

Look Rock Tower Just off the Foothills Pkwy there's an easy hike up to this weather-monitoring station with 360-degree views.

Andrews Bald Escape the Clingmans Dome crowds by heading out to this high-elevation meadow reachable on a 3.6-mile (round-trip) hike.

Gregory Bald Walk through a field of wildflowers while admiring the grand mountain views.

Outdoor Adventures

Hiking aside, the Great Smoky Mountains offer a plethora of adventures, great and small. You can go horseback riding, ziplining, white-water rafting or just enjoy a star-filled night roasting marshmallows by the campfire.

Smokemont Riding Stables Head off for a horseback ride across streams and along hilly forested paths.

Tsali Recreation Area Go blazing over rugged trails in the Nantahala National Forest, home to some of the best mountain biking on the east coast.

CLIMB Works Head off on a high-speed adventure ziplining through the treetops at this adventure spot east of Gatlinburg.

Big Creek Watch the light of the moon dance on the mountain stream below as you sit fireside at this peaceful campground in the park's eastern reaches.

Nantahala Outdoor Center Feel the adrenaline rush on a white-water rafting trip down the Nantahala River.

Fontana Lake Hire a kayak and head off for a paddle among lovely waterside scenery at the southern edge of the park.

History

You can peer into the past by visiting the well-preserved buildings from early settlers. Log cabins, gristmills, churches and farmsteads all attest to the industriousness of the pioneering inhabitants who scratched out a living amid the wilderness.

Mountain Farm Museum Discover how people survived and thrived in this fascinating open-air museum near the Oconaluftee River.

Cataloochee Valley Visit an old schoolhouse, a Methodist church and a log-cabin post office in this far-flung corner of the park.

Elkmont Historic District Wander through abandoned cabins that were part of an exclusive resort community in the 1910s and 1920s.

Kephart Prong Trail See the ruins of an old Civilian Conservation Corps camp on a lush forest-lined trail.

Cable Mill Historic Area A highlight of Cades Cove, this working 1870s mill once served the area's 700-plus residents.

Mingus Mill Learn about clever 19th-century engineering strategies at this picturesque structure just off Newfound Gap Rd.

LeConte Lodge Peruse photos dating back to the 1930s, then spend the night in an old-fashioned cabin at this long-running, electricity-free lodge high in the mountains.

Tipton Place Visit a photogenic 1870 homestead, one of many historic buildings in the Cades Cove area.