Looking for easy hikes in the Smokies that feature waterfalls or beautiful mountain views? Check out our guide with the 6 best easy hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park!
These short hikes are all less than 5 miles in length and feature relatively level terrain, so they are great hikes for beginners or visitors with young children.
1. The Middle Prong Trail To Lynn Camp Falls
Round Trip Distance: 1.2 Miles
This trail is arguably the best waterfall hike in the Smokies and it passes by numerous cascades and waterfalls in the historic Tremont area of the national park.
Better yet, the Middle Prong Trail is a great hike for beginners, since it gradually climbs higher into the mountains. This route follows an old logging road, so hikers will enjoy relatively level terrain on their hike.
This trail passes through a historic community was once a center for logging in the national park and you can still see evidence of past logging operations in the form of old rails and metal chords. The main sight along the Middle Prong Trail is the upper and lower Lynn Camp Falls. The lower falls is a gorgeous 35-ft multi-tiered waterfall that's especially impressive after a rainfall.
To reach these waterfalls, you'll only need to hike for less than a mile to see them. You can continue 4 miles up the trail to reach Indian Flats Falls if you'd like to extend your hike.
2. The Laurel Falls Trail
Round Trip Distance: 2.3 Miles
Located a short drive from Gatlinburg, the Laurel Falls Trail is probably one of the most popular hikes in the Smoky Mountains. Not only is this hike only a couple of miles in length, but it also features a great reward: a stunning view of the 80 ft. Laurel Falls waterfall.
This hiking trail is also unique, because it's one of the only paved trails in the Smokies, however, this trail is broken up and worn down in some locations.
The Laurel Falls hiking trail is very popular and can become crowded during peak season. To enjoy this hike during a less busy time, try reaching this trail early in the morning or visit it during the off-season.
As the trail meanders through the mountains near Gatlinburg, you'll pass by tall stands of hardwood forest and beautiful groves of flowering Mountain Laurel. At just a mile in, hikers will reach the main attraction, Laurel Falls, an 80 foot, multi-tiered waterfall. This shady spot is a lovely place to explore while you enjoy the cool mist that comes from the falls. This spot is especially photogenic, so be sure to snap some pictures of the falls!
Please take caution on this trail, especially around the falls. Be mindful of slippery rocks and wet areas. Additionally, this trail is a hot spot for black bear activity. For more information on how to handle a bear encounter, check out these excellent bear safety guidelines provided by the park service.
3. Spruce Flats Falls in Tremont
Round Trip Distance: 2 Miles
Spruce Flats Falls is not included on most national park trail maps, but it is nonetheless one of the best short hikes in the national park. Though this hike is only a 2 mile round trip, please note that there are some steep and rocky sections of this trail, especially in the final descent to the waterfall.
To reach the trailhead, park at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont at the Visitor Center. From there, walk up a paved road to the Tremont Complex where the trail begins. At 0.1 miles, the trail splits. Follow the right branch of the trail to reach the falls.
In the winter months, this hike offers beautiful views of Thunderhead Mountain looming above the valley of Tremont. After a short, rewarding hike, visitors will reach Spruce Flats Falls.
Spruce Flats Falls is actually a set of several multi-tiered waterfalls. The largest of these is about 30 ft. tall. The falls cascade into a small pool that's a great place to enjoy a relaxing soak in the cool mountain waters.
4. The Gatlinburg Trail
Round Trip Distance: 3.8 Miles
This easy hike begins at the Sugarlands Visitor Center and meanders along the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River until it reaches the national park boundary near Gatlinburg. Along the way, this hiking trail features beautiful views of the river and it passes by several old home foundations and chimneys from past residents.
The Gatlinburg trail is one of two trails in the national park where dogs are permitted. Please walk your pet on a leash. Bicycles are also permitted on this trail.
5. Clingmans Dome Tower
Round Trip Distance: 1 Mile
At 1 mile in length, the Clingmans Dome hiking trail is probably the best short hiking trail for enjoying beautiful views of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. From the Clingmans Dome Parking area, this paved trail takes visitors to the iconic Clingmans Dome observation tower, which features panoramic views of the Smokies.
At an elevation of 6,644 Ft. this tower is located at the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains and it's also the 3rd tallest point in the Eastern United States. On a clear day, visitors to the Clingmans Dome tower can see over 100 miles in every direction. The world-famous Appalachian Trail passes near this point and you can hike among beautiful stands of high elevation spruce fir forest in this area of the park.
This trail is paved and it's only 0.5 miles one-way, but the trail is a bit steep. Luckily, there are several benches along the way for taking a quick rest and there are inspiring views to keep you motivated on this hike.
Please note that the trailhead for the Clingmans Dome Tower Hike is on the Clingmans Dome Road that's closed from November To April.
6. Grotto Falls
Round Trip Distance: 2.6 Miles
You'll find Grotto Falls, one of the most iconic waterfalls in the Smokies, in the beautiful Roaring Fork Motor Trail area of the Great Smoky Mountains. In fact, this is the only place in the Smoky Mountains where you can actually walk behind a waterfall. Grotto Falls is a 25 ft. waterfall that offers a nice place to cool off in the summer as you watch the thunderous water plunge into a mountain pool in front of you.
For the most part, this trail is flat and level, but there are a few areas where there are slight inclines and the trail becomes rocky. To reach the falls, follow the Trillium Gap trail for 1.3 miles. Along the way, you'll pass through a beautiful old-growth hemlock forest.
Please note that the trailhead for this hike is along the Roaring Fork Motor Trail that's closed from December to Mid March. Additionally, please be aware that this hike can be crowded during the warm summer months.
7. Metcalf Bottoms Trail To Walker Sisters Cabin
Round Trip Distance: 3.8 Miles
This lesser-known easy hike is one of the best hikes for exploring historic buildings in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Metcalf Bottoms trail explores the remnants of the Little Greenbrier Community and it passes through some lovely areas of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
From the Metcalf Bottoms Picnic area follow the Metcalf Bottoms Trail 0.7 miles to Little Greenbrier School. This building served as a schoolhouse and a church. There's also a nearby cemetery whose grave markers bear names from families you'll still find in the Smoky Mountains today. From here, you can take the Little Brier Trail another 1.3 miles to the Walker Sisters Place, which is home to a unique multi-level cabin, a spring house, and a barn.
Visiting the Walker Sisters place is an excellent way to learn what life was like for residents of these remote mountain communities before the formation of the national park.
Map of Easy Hikes in the Smokies
For more ideas of easy hikes in the Smokies or for help in finding the best hiking trail for your trip, be sure to visit the helpful rangers at the Sugarlands Visitor Center. These rangers can provide you with up to date information, local tips, and free maps to help make your hike a success!
When planning your hike, be sure to take these precautions and consult the national park guidelines on hiking:
- Bring Food & Water
- Wear Appropriate Clothing and Pack Extra Layers
- Wear Sturdy Footwear Like Boots or Tennis Shoes
- Bring a Trail Map
- Don't Hike Alone and Let Someone Know Where You'll Be
We'd love know, what's your favorite easy hike in the Smoky Mountains? Feel free to share your thoughts in our comments section below!
Written by Mark Fraizer