What can you expect to find in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Let’s start with a few examples of what to see when you are hiking along some of the trails in the Smokies.
A good place to start is the Appalachian Trail, twenty-one miles southeast of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, where you can hike for as long or as little as you want. Why not escape – from all that hustle and bustle? Whether alone or with another avid hiker – this trail can be a great way to see the Smokies. If you hike south toward Fontana Dam you will cross Clingman’s Dome, the highest point in the Smokies, with an elevation of 6,643 feet. Northbound in the direction of Big Creek you will see Mount Le Conte, and why not visit Hen Wallow Falls, Albright Grove, or Laurel Falls while you’re there? Among the wildlife you frequently encounter are the American Black Bear and the White-Tailed Deer.
Newfound Gap at the intersection of the AT and the Oconaluftee River, with an elevation of 5,046 feet, is one of the highest peaks in the park founded in 1934, and it is where you can truly acknowledge the beauty of this region with almost nine hundred miles of hiking trails. The AT is the longest of the trails in the Smokies and bisects the center of the park along the Tennessee – North Carolina state line for about seventy miles. This trail is strenuous and can present a number of challenges. You need to be well prepared before you set out for your hike. There are a few things to consider, though, if you want to reap the benefits of hiking through this region.
First, determine what your limitations are. Always check local maps and select a trail appropriate to your age and ability. Do not forget to check on expected climate conditions. You must look after your health by bringing sunscreen, insect repellent, and tick protection; stretch your leg muscles regularly, carry a first-aid kit and begin with relatively flat terrain with altitudes no higher than five thousand feet.
You also should complete a first-aid course and CPR training as this would be useful – just in case. Always wear suitable clothing; ankle-high hiking boots and use a walking stick or umbrella to help you along the trail. Take light snacks and plenty of water but do remember to eat proper meals.
Hiking in the Smokies would be incomplete if you did not at least attempt another strenuous trail – the eight mile round trip Ramsay Cascades Trail, passing through a deciduous forest, leading to the one hundred-foot waterfall, the park’s highest at an elevation of 2,375 feet. The trail starts out with a slight upgrade in the beginning, and then becomes more challenging as you near the cascades and can take a little over four hours to complete.
Shorter Hikes In The Smokies
Long, arduous and physically challenging hikes certainly have their rewards but maybe you’re looking for something a little easier. The three-thousand-foot loop, level paved Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail was built in 1993 to assist the disabled, older visitors and children in strollers. From this trail you can see the Chimney Tops Pinnacles or visit the Alum Cave Bluffs, or even Elkmont, which began as a rough and tumble logging town and gradually evolved into a haven for the socially prominent and wealthy.
Another easy hike is the Abrams Falls Trail, which is a five mile round trip, reliably flat with an elevation of only 340 feet, leading to the twenty-foot high falls which spill into a scenic pool. From this trail you can also visit Cades Cove.
It can be enjoyable to hike the Indian Creek Falls Trail with an elevation of only a hundred feet. A two-mile round trip, flat trail where you can see a couple of beautiful falls in the Deep Creek area. Along the falls at Indian Creek, you will also see Tom Branch Falls, both twenty-five feet high, which cascade sixty feet over ledges into a wide pool. These are only a few of the remarkable hiking trails in the Smokies but there are many more to choose from.