10 Things to do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park That You Shouldn't Miss

December 5, 2021 Malia Yoakum

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1. Alum Cave Trail

Newfound Gap Road, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/chimneys-alternative-alum-cave-bluffs.htm
Excellent
83%
Good
15%
Satisfactory
1%
Poor
0%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

5.0 based on 418 reviews

Alum Cave Trail

One of the most popular hikes in the park, it is the quick route to Mt. LeConte Lodge.

Reviewed By explorcation - Florida, United States

This trail is known to be the most hiked trail in the Smokies and for good reason. It follows a river in the beginning, takes you through a naturally formed rock arch and leads you to the Alum Cave Bluffs. You can decide how far you want to take the trail. If you want to do a full day hike you can take it all the way to the Mount LeConte peak! Hiking to the peak can take between 6 to 10 hours depending on your pace and how frequently you stop. The whole trail is so beautiful it would be hard to not stop frequently. This area is very popular, so arrive early to get a spot in the parking lot. During our visit many cars had to park along the side of the road. If you are planning a trip and want to see some video footage of the Alum Cave Trail check out our Alum Cave Trail hiking video on our YT Channel Explorcation. The link is in our bio. It also includes some more tips for visiting. Happy trip planning!

2. Newfound Gap Road

Between Sugarlands and Oconoluftee 13.2 MIles from Sugarlands Visitor Center is the state line marker overlook, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN +1 407-242-3654 http://www.gsmnp.com/newfound-gap-road/
Excellent
80%
Good
17%
Satisfactory
2%
Poor
1%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

5.0 based on 744 reviews

Newfound Gap Road

Reviewed By MaryKop - Colorado Springs, United States

Being from the west, we miss all the deciduous trees turning green in the spring..such a beautiful drive, winding road with pull outs to enjoy all the creeks and waterfalls, etc...worth it--we spent hours wandering along this road.

3. Chimneys Picnic Area

Chimneys Picnic Area #1, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN 37738 http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/picnic.htm
Excellent
87%
Good
11%
Satisfactory
2%
Poor
0%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

5.0 based on 325 reviews

Chimneys Picnic Area

Reviewed By melissabubash - Cincinnati, United States

I ended up in Chimneys Picnic Area because my husband and I were going to hike the Cove Hardwoods Nature Trail (our legs needed a break...the trail was disappointing after the massive hikes we'd already completed). The picnic area though was absolutely beautiful. Great sites to hang out for the day including picnic tables and grills. We were there Memorial Day weekend and at the trail head around 9am and people were already staking out spots for the day. So I would recommend going very early to get the prime spots along the stream.

4. Foothills Parkway

between Chilhowee Lake and Wears Valley, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN +1 865-436-1200 https://www.nps.gov/articles/foothills-parkway-next-steps.htm
Excellent
82%
Good
15%
Satisfactory
2%
Poor
0%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

5.0 based on 577 reviews

Foothills Parkway

Reviewed By CountryChick94 - Velpen, United States

Did a June motorcycle trip in the Smokies, and the Foothills Parkway was great. The "missing link" was our favorite stretch. The missing link has enough curves and hills to give you the joy of a mountain ride without the challenges of the Tail of the Dragon. The road is very well cared for, not much traffic, and a lot of pull-offs for site seeing. Ask the locals if you need to know how to get to the missing link. They're happy to tell you why it's called that and how to get there!

5. Clingmans Dome

7 miles off US-441 on the Clingmans Dome Road About 19.6 Miles from Sugarlands Visitor Center, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN +1 865-654-4545 http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/clingmansdome.htm
Excellent
73%
Good
22%
Satisfactory
4%
Poor
1%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 2,972 reviews

Clingmans Dome

The highest peak in the park.

Reviewed By E93QZthomasc - Ridgeland, United States

Be in shape to hike this half mile straight up trail to Clingmans dome,, you can drive up and dont have to do the hike It is ABSOLUTELY Amazing!The drive , traffic and views are awesome, went in November and saw snow and Ice, (not on the road) Huge Icicles on the Huge ountain Rock .the Cedar trees and views are spectacular the smell of the cedar tries, awesome, Live Christmas trees everywhere, WATCH YOUR STEP, Do Not get to close to the edge ! you are a mile high !

6. Laurel Falls

Little River Road Gatlinburg, TN, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN 37738 +1 865-436-7318 http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/laurel-falls.htm
Excellent
60%
Good
29%
Satisfactory
10%
Poor
1%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 1,496 reviews

Laurel Falls

Reviewed By PrimeSteak86 - Gatlinburg, United States

There are a number of beautiful waterfalls throughout the Smokies, but few are as easy to hike to as Laurel Falls. The trailhead is located about 4 miles SW of Gatlinburg. Take a Right off 441 beside Sugarland visitors center, and you’ll be to the trailhead in only about 5 mins. It’s just about 1/2 mile before the Elkmont Campground. Parking stays packed here daily, especially in peak seasons. So It’s best to get an early start; while the bulk of tourists are still in town shoveling pancakes. Though there is a slight up n down elevation along this easy hike, the trail is paved, and quite easy to trek(I’ve seen 4 yr olds make it up n back with relative ease)... You’ll pass several folks with strollers pushing along as well. Laurel Falls is only a about a mile or so up, and the same coming down. The falls themselves aren’t the tallest or most majestic in the Smokies, but they do have a magnetism to them: making it a very popular photo spot. There’s a wooden bridge here that serves up some nice photo opportunities too. Note: Please be careful climbing in or around the falls; especially children. The rocks in this area are very slick; have been the cause of serious injuries, and sadly, even deaths. I’d honestly rate the falls themselves at about a 4.5 overall; especially when compared to other waterfalls in the Smokies: But the simplicity of getting here, allowing folks of all ages to enjoy their beauty, I’m compelled to rate them at a 5.... Enjoy your easy hike

7. Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

Rte. 441 Enter from stoplight 8 at Airport Road, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN 37783 +1 865-436-1200 http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/roaringfork.htm
Excellent
81%
Good
15%
Satisfactory
3%
Poor
1%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 1,702 reviews

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

Reviewed By LAPhotographer - Franklinton, United States

You'll really enjoy this beautiful drive that loops through the scenic woods just outside of Gatlinburg. The trail is winding, so drive slowly and let down your windows to enjoy the fresh mountain air. Be sure to stop at the country store at the end of the drive to shop and enjoy some delicious homemade treats.

8. Cades Cove

Cades Cove Loop Rd., Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN 37738-4102 +1 865-436-1200 http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/cadescove.htm
Excellent
71%
Good
17%
Satisfactory
7%
Poor
3%
Terrible
2%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 5,323 reviews

Cades Cove

A scenic valley filled with remnants of the old American pioneers.

Reviewed By bkl58 - Cumming, United States

I love coming to the park during the winter months and almost have it all to myself. Usually see deer and turkeys but that’s it. First time to experience the park in spring prior to the massive influx of tourists. Did two laps of Cades Cove. Many bears to be seen along with deer and turkeys. Open your windows as you drive and you can hear all the song birds. Only draw back is if there is even a sniff of an animal traffic stops in the middle of the road. Lovely day inside the park. Earlier the better to beat the crowds.

9. Grotto Falls Trail

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN +1 865-436-1200 http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/grotto-falls.htm
Excellent
70%
Good
25%
Satisfactory
4%
Poor
0%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 875 reviews

Grotto Falls Trail

Reviewed By ellentambo - Westerville, United States

This was a fun hike with just enough challenge to make it interesting and a beautiful waterfall that you can walk behind at the end.

10. Oconaluftee Visitor Center

Us-441, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN 28719-8249 +1 865-436-1200 [email protected] http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/visitorcenters.htm#CP_JUMP_100522
Excellent
78%
Good
18%
Satisfactory
3%
Poor
0%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 1,061 reviews

Oconaluftee Visitor Center

The adjacent Mountain Farm Museum contains a fascinating collection of log structures including a farmhouse, barn, smokehouse, applehouse, corn cribs and others. Demonstrations of farm life and ranger-led tours are conducted seasonally. Great Smoky Mountains Association bookstore and shop. Public restrooms and telephones. Soda and water machines. Backcountry permit station.

Reviewed By michellehouse - Evansville, United States

Very nice visitor's center. Bathrooms are detached from the main building so you don't have crowds of people trying to get inside just to use the restroom. Staff was super nice helping me locate the Jr Ranger books (you have to buy them at Smoky Mountain but it's only $2 per book) and then interacting with my kids when we brought them back later to turn in their books. Nice little gift shop/book store. Rangers were keeping crowds to less than 20 people inside at a time. Were able to see an elk herd grazing in the field next to the visitor's center and it's an easy walk to the farm museum from here. Bathrooms were also very clean.

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