Smoky Mountain National Park is the most visited NP in the US; it can be tricky to determine where to best spend your time in that park. With large crowds and dozens of amazing attractions there are many options but here are some of my favorites.
If you are an avid hiker or up for a good adventure, LeConte should be at the top of your list. This hike comes in at around 10 miles round trip with some serious elevation. Don’t let the challenge scare you off because the views from the top are spectacular, maybe even the best in the whole park! If you have some spare time, a short extension to your hike will take you to Myrtle Point, an equally pleasing vista of the Smokies. On your way back down make sure to stop at the LeConte lodge to admire the cabins available for reservation; the lodge has a great atmosphere! Be prepared for some vigorous terrain, and make sure to consume a good portion of water especially in the hotter months.
This hike is a great short but scenic climb. The Chimneys comes in at around 4 miles round trip, but is rather steep. For only 4 miles you get some pretty impressive valley views, and this is also a great place for sunrise, due to most of the vistas facing east. If you plan for sunrise, make sure to bring your coffee supplies! This trailhead can be tricky to get close parking as a result of the small lot, and popular hike.
Coming in at 5.5 miles with relatively flat easy terrain this hike is great for the whole family. It is also a great activity for mid day, as the entire hike is shaded and not exposed. As a reward at the end you can swim in the pool of water the falls empty into, so make sure you bring your swimsuits! Although, you will have to be prepared for some extra chilly water. Definitely do not be surprised to encounter a bear on this hike as Cades Cove is home to a very large and active population of bears! Aside from bears you will also come across plenty of tourists so plan ahead of the crowds to avoid the masses.
If you’re heading to Great Smoky Mountain NPS you’ve probably heard of Clingmans Dome, the infamous highest peak in the park ranking at 6,644 feet. If you can catch a break in the fog, you’ll get some really magnificent vistas of the park. The walk to the top is a short stroll up a paved path to the summit from the parking lot. As a cherry on top you will be greeted with the observation lookout tower, a very impressive concrete structure you can venture up to check out the views. Again as one of the most popular places in the park, make sure to plan ahead as parking may be a difficulty.
As always remember to plan your trip properly for weather, crowds, and navigation. Make sure to leave no trace and respect the land that has been preserved for us and our enjoyment. Happy Hiking! Camden