The Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina is known for having some of the most beautiful hiking trails in the Eastern US. With over 800 miles of trails in the national park, it can be hard to choose the best trail for your outdoor adventure.
If you want to see impressive mountain views that stretch on for miles and miles during your hike, use this handy guide to find the best trails with views in the Smoky Mountains!
1. Alum Cave Trail To Mt. LeConte
Round Trip Distance: 11 Miles
Highlights: Arch Rock, Inspiration Point, Alum Cave Bluffs, Mountain Views
Hiking Trail: Alum Cave Trail on Newfound Gap Road
Mt. LeConte is arguably the most sought-after hiking destination in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. At an elevation of 6,594 Ft, this Mt. LeConte has the 3rd tallest peak in the Smokies. Additionally, since this mountain is separate from the main ridge of the Smokies, it offers incredible panoramic mountain views.
There are several routes you can take up Mt. LeConte, but Alum Cave is the shortest and it offers the most highlights to enjoy as you hike to the mountaintop.
On your way, you'll see a unique rock arch that was formed by freezing and thawing. At 2 miles in, you'll reach Inspiration Point, a prominent point on the trail that offers 360-degree views. At 2.2 miles, hikers will reach Alum Cave Bluffs, an 80 Ft. tall overhanging cliff. After passing the bluffs, you'll see several more overlooks on your way to the summit.
Once you reach the LeConte Lodge, a historic lodge where overnight hikers can stay, you'll be close to the two main overlooks Cliff Tops and Myrtle Point, which offer different views of the surrounding mountains. You can find Alum Cave Trail on the Newfound Gap Road between Gatlinburg and Newfound Gap.
2. Chimney Tops Trail
Round Trip Distance: 3.8 Miles
Highlights: Mountain Views, Rock Scramble, and Lovely Creeks
Hiking Trail: Chimney Tops Trail
Please note, this trail has recently been reopened to the public following damage from the Nov. 2016 wildfires. The last section of the trail, the pinnacle of the Chimney Tops, will remain closed to hikers, but the park service has created a new overlook that visitors will enjoy.
With a round-trip distance of fewer than 4 miles, the Chimney Tops Trail is one of the shortest hikes with a view in the Smokies. On your way to the Chimney Tops, you'll get to explore lovely, high elevation creeks and unique ecology along the exposed mountain ridge.
This classic hike is short, steep, challenging, and offers a rewarding panoramic mountain view at the end of the trial.
In the last section of the trail, hikers can choose to scramble up "the chimneys" to enjoy an even better view of nearby Mt. LeConte and the Newfound Gap road in the valley below.
The trailhead for the Chimney Tops Trail can be found on the Newfound Gap Road between Gatlinburg and Newfound Gap.
3. Andrews Bald
Round Trip Distance: 3.5 Miles
Highlights: Spruce-Fir Forest, High Elevation Mountain Bald
Hiking Trail: Forney Ridge Trail
In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, balds are high elevation fields that are known for their unique plants and flora. More importantly, these mountain balds are perfect places to enjoy excellent mountain views that go on for miles and miles. Andrews Bald is one such bald in the Smokies where you can enjoy a beautiful mountain vista.
On your way to Andrews Bald, you'll get to explore a high elevation spruce-fir forest. This kind of forest can be found in the northern latitudes in Canada, but it is able to survive in the Smoky Mountains due to colder temperatures and higher precipitation in the high elevation areas of the park.
Please note, that this mountain hike is somewhat unique in the Smokies because instead of hiking up a mountain to see a view, you'll instead be descending first. Be sure to pace yourself on the return trip as you make your way back up to the Clingman's Dome Parking Lot.
You'll find the trailhead for the Forney Ridge Trail to Andrews Bald in the Clingman's Dome parking area. To reach this area of the park, you'll have to take the Clingman's Dome Road. Please note, this route is closed from November until March due to winter weather.
4. Clingman's Dome Tower
Round Trip Distance: 1 Mile
Highlights: Highest point in the Smokies, 360 Mountain Views
Hiking Trail: Clingman’s Dome Trail
With a 1-mile round-trip distance, the hiking trail to the Clingman's Dome Observation tower is the shortest hike in the Smokies that features mountain views.
At an elevation of 6,644 ft, Clingman's Dome is the highest point in Tennessee and the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. At the end of the trail, you'll reach an elevated observation tower, where you'll get a 360-degree view of the entire national park.
Though this trail is short and it is paved, the hike to the Clingman's Dome Tower is quite steep, so be sure to pace yourself on the way to the pinnacle. Luckily, there are several benches along the way where you can take a quick rest.
The trailhead for the Clingman's Dome Trail is also reached via the Clingman's Dome Road, which is closed during the winter season.
5. The Jump Off
Round Trip Distance: 6.5 Miles
Highlights: Appalachian Trail, Dramatic Scenery
Hiking Trail: Appalachian Trail Northbound From Newfound Gap
As the name of this destination suggests, the Jump Off is an impressive overlook perched above a sheer mountainside that plunges several hundred feet to the valley floor.
To reach this iconic mountain view in the Smokies, you'll need to take the Appalachian Trail northbound from the Newfound Gap Parking area. On your way, you'll be walking along a narrow mountain ridge surrounded by high elevation forests. There are several opportunities to see mountain views along the way, but nothing beats the view you'll have from The Jump Off.
At 2.7 miles in, you'll arrive at the Boulevard Trail junction. Turn left here to continue along the Appalachian Trail. A short distance further, a trail will branch off to the right, this is the route to the Jump Off. Once you've arrived at your destination, you'll enjoy a scenic view of Greenbrier valley the Tennessee side of the national park.
From here, you can also add 2.5 miles to your round trip hiking distance to reach Charlie's Bunion.
6. Charlie's Bunion
Round Trip Distance: 8.1 Miles
Highlights: Views of the Tennessee Valley and a large rock outcropping
Hiking Trail: Appalachian Trail Northbound From Newfound Gap
Charlie's Bunion is another stunning overlook in the Newfound gap area of the national park that features views of Greenbrier and the expansive Tennessee valley.
This impressive overlook along the Appalachian Trail is located near the Jump Off. These two hikes can be incorporated together by adding a few miles to your round-trip hiking distance.
The name of Charlie's Bunion was derived from some early hiking enthusiasts in the national park. Horace Kephart, an early proponent of the national park and Charlie Conner were out hiking in this area of the Smokies. Upon examining a large bunion on Charlie's foot, Kephart exclaimed, "Charlie, I'm going to get this place put on a government map for you." In honor of his large blister, this large rock outcropping became known as "Charlie's Bunion."
To reach this overlook, you'll need to hike northbound on the Appalachian Trail from the Newfound Gap parking area for 4 miles.
7. The Mt. Cammerer Fire Tower
Round Trip Distance: 11.1 Miles
Highlights: Old Growth Forest and a Western Style Fire Tower
Hiking Trail: Low Gap Trail
This stunning viewpoint in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is located in the Cosby region of the park, a more part of the Smokies. On your way to this impressive view, you'll hike through lovely sections of old growth forest along Cosby creek.
At 2.9 miles, hikers will reach the Appalachian Trail. To reach Mt. Cammerer, take a right on the A.T. to continue to your destination.
At the top of Mt. Cammerer, you'll scramble up rocks to a historic "western" style fire tower, which is built low into the mountain. This tower was once used to monitor the forests of the Smokies for fires. From here, you'll enjoy panoramic views of Mt. Sterling, the Pigeon River Gorge, the Tennessee Valley, and Mt. Guyot.
8. Gregory's Bald
Round Trip Distance: 11.3 miles
Highlights: Views of Cades Cove, Flame Azaleas
Hiking Trail: Gregory Ridge Trail
This popular hike begins in the Cades Cove area of the National Park and takes hikers to Gregory's Bald, a lovely high elevation field that's filled with a variety of wild azaleas and rhododendron. June is an especially popular time to visit this bald because flame azaleas on the mountaintop bloom with a variety of colors including red, orange, salmon, pink and white flowers.
Even if you don't visit while the flame azaleas are blooming, you'll still be able to enjoy a beautiful view of Cades Cove and its surrounding mountains.
Please note, that the trailhead for the Gregory Ridge is off of the Forge Creek road that begins on the Cades Cove Loop road. Currently, this road is closed due to downed trees, but it is possible to hike along the Forge Creek road to reach the trailhead.
9. Rocky Top & Spence Field
Round Trip Distance: 13.9 Miles
Highlights: Views of Cades Cove, Mt. LeConte, and Clingmans Dome
Hiking Trail: Anthony Creek Trail
The hike to Rocky Top and Spence Field is one of the more challenging hikes in the national park, but it provides hikers with a great reward.
To reach this mountaintop, hikers will begin at the Anthony Creek Trail. The trailhead for this hike is located in the Cades Cove Campground. After a long hike up from the valley along Anthony Creek Trail and Bote Mountain Trail, you'll reach the Appalachian Trail in this region of the park. By continuing left on the Appalachian Trail, you'll reach Spence Field, another high-elevation field in the Smokies that offers beautiful views of the North Carolina side of the national park.
From here, you can also see your next objective: Rocky Top, a sub-peak on Thunderhead Mountain. The pinnacle of Thunderhead is taller, but Rocky Top offers a better view since it's viewpoint is not overgrown with bushes. After a short, steep climb to Rocky Top, you can take a well-earned break while you enjoy panoramic mountain views of Cades Cove, Mt. LeConte, and Clingman's Dome.
Map of Hikes With Views in the Smokies
Now that you've picked a hiking trail with a view, there are a few things to consider as you plan your hike.
- Elevation – Many of these hiking trails are in exposed, high elevation areas of the national park. This means that these places are more exposed to weather events like thunderstorms and they tend to be colder, icier, and snowier in the winter months. Be sure to consult with a park ranger while planning your hike to get updates on trail conditions and possible weather hazards.
- Cliffs & Ledges – Many of these trails feature high cliffs and ledges. For the most part, there is not fencing provided on these trails, so don't stray close to the edge and keep an eye on members of your hiking party.
- Sensitive Habitats – High elevation areas of the national park are exceptionally beautiful because they contain a variety of unique wildlife and plant life. To preserve these fragile ecosystems, please stay on the trail and practice "Leave No Trace" guidelines to ensure these trails can be enjoyed by future generations.
- Trail Difficulty - Many of these hiking trails with views in the Smoky Mountains are considered are moderate or strenuous in difficulty. If you'd like to enjoy some more laid-back hiking, consider checking out these easy trails in the Smoky Mountains.
- Visibility – Sometimes fog, rainy weather, and pollution can obscure mountain views and put a damper on your hike. If you have the chance, it's best to enjoy these hikes on a clear day. For example, if the weather is overcast or foggy, you may want to consider enjoying a waterfall hike, since the main highlights of these trails aren't affected by visibility.
To help plan your hiking trip, be sure to check out the national park service's safety guidelines for hiking the in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
We'd love to know, what's your favorite mountain view hike in the Smoky Mountains? Feel free to share your thoughts in our comments section!
Written by Mark Frazier