Hikers on a trail near Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

The Best Hiking Trails Around Gatlinburg

As the gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg, Tennessee is a hiker’s paradise. There are trails for every level of experience — from short, easy hikes to advanced day-long treks. Best of all, hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is free! Take a stroll through our list of the best Gatlinburg trails!

Easy Trails

Cades Cove Loop Road

The Cades Cove Loop Road is an easy walk, great for taking in the area’s history. As you walk the paved 11-mile round trip, you can enjoy panoramic views of the secluded valley as well as historic homesteads of the valley’s first European settlers.

Laurel Falls Trail

A popular trail for families, the trailhead for the Laurel Falls Trail is a short drive from Gatlinburg near the Sugarlands Visitors Center. It’s not a tough trek, but be prepared for an uphill walk due to a 400-foot elevation gain. Take pictures of the beautiful Laurel Falls from the safety of a concrete footbridge.

Cataract Falls Trail

Also located near Sugarlands Visitors Center, Cataract Falls Trail is a flat, 1-mile walk along Cataract Branch to the picturesque, multi-level Cataract Falls. Cataract Branch later joins the Little Pigeon River, which runs alongside the Parkway in Downtown Gatlinburg.

Baskins Creek Falls Trail

This 3-mile trail is downhill to Baskins Falls. The last hundred feet get a bit rocky, but worth it to see Baskins Creek Falls. It’s a 40-foot, two-tier waterfall unlike anything else in the park.

Moderate Trails

Rainbow Falls Trail

One of the oldest trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a moderately difficult 5-mile hike from the parking area to Rainbow Falls. The trailhead can be accessed from Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. Wear boots or sturdy shoes, bring snacks, and set aside four or five hours for this waterfall hike! This trail is popular; if the primary parking lot is full, there’s another one just a few hundred feet up the road.

Trillium Gap Trail

Trillium Gap Trail leads hikers through a dense, old-growth forest dominated by hemlocks. Be prepared for an abundance of wildflowers if you visit in the Spring! The trail is even and well-maintained — and after a little over a mile, you’ll arrive at Grotto Falls, the only waterfall in Great Smoky Mountains National Park that visitors can walk behind. Remember that in the summertime, this trail gets very busy!

Abrams Falls Trail

Abrams Falls Trail is a 5-mile round trip moderate hike for most visitors. Some areas of the trail can be very rocky as you travel through a thick pine, oak, and hemlock-dominated forest. Named after a local Cherokee chief, Abrams Falls may only be 20 feet high, but has a huge volume of water rushing into a narrow pool. Be careful not to swim near the base of the falls here.

Fighting Creek Nature Trail

This 1.2-mile trail follows Fighting Creek, a tributary of the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River. As you walk through a forest of sycamore, hickory, and shortleaf pines, you can see several cabins of early settlers.

Difficult Trails

The Chimney Tops Trail

The Chimney Tops Trail is a steep, 3.5-mile trek with an elevation change of nearly 1,400 feet, but hikers will experience spectacular views along the way. The final part of the trail is still closed due to damage from the 2016 Gatlinburg wildfires.

Alum Cave Trail

Alum Cave Trail is a popular trail, but definitely not an easy one! Those who undergo the 2.3-mile hike on Alum Cave Trail will experience a change in elevation of 1,125 feet! Vast geologic formations, such as Arch Rock, will greet hikers as they proceed along the trail up to Alum Cave Bluffs. About two miles in, you’ll see beautiful mountain views at Inspiration Point. If you’re not tired (or an expert), continue onto the summit of Mount LeConte!

Ramsey Cascades Trail

The Ramsey Cascades Trail is located near the Greenbrier Campground and will take hikers to the tallest waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Be ready for an 8-mile hike of up to seven hours — and an elevation gain of nearly 2,200 feet. It’s a wild journey, but worth it to see the breathtaking Ramsey Cascades Waterfall.

Horseback Riding Trails

About 550 miles of trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park are open to horseback riders. The park strongly suggests that you only undertake horseback trail riding from May to early December, as backcountry trails can be subjected to the influence of the elements.

Mouse Creek Falls via Big Creek Trail

This is an easy 4-mile ride and a steady elevation gain of 541 feet. Along the way, you’ll see several waterfalls and beautiful river views.

Rich Mountain Loop

This 8-mile ride is accessible from Cades Cove Loop Road, and encompasses the Rich Mountain Loop Trail, Indian Grave Gap Trail, and Crooked Arm Ridge Trail. In the springtime, you’ll see an amazing display of wildflowers, and after a moderate climb, you’ll be rewarded with great views of Cades Cove.

Meigs Mountain Trail

This 4.6-mile loop is filled with history! You’ll take the Jakes Creek Trail first, where you’ll see the ruins of cottages and summer homes built by the rich citizens of Knoxville in the early part of the 20th century. The trail weaves along the side of Meigs Mountain, though it stays mostly level throughout the journey. There’s a sharp drop near the end, where the trail descends about 200 feet in a third of a mile.

Gatlinburg: A Hiker’s Paradise

It doesn’t matter if you’re a serious hiker looking to test yourself or heading out with your family to look for a quiet picnic area. Gatlinburg is the place to stay to enjoy some of the best hikes in the United States. Don’t forget to get prepared at one of Gatlinburg’s many outdoor stores before you head out on some of the best Gatlinburg trails! For an insider look at everything there is to see and do in Gatlinburg during your stay, always remember to check Relax Gatlinburg. See you there!