Every hiker has their own list of favorite trails. After many years of hiking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I've compiled a list of what I consider to be the best hikes in the Smokies.
If you're new to the Smokies, you'll find this a good starting point in trying to decide where to hike.
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If you're a veteran Smoky Mountains hiker, maybe you'll find a few hikes on this list that you haven't had a chance to explore yet. The seven hikes that follow are ranked from easy to strenuous.
Andrews Bald (Easy)
Nuts & Bolts: From the Clingmans Dome parking lot, hike 1.7 miles along the Forney Ridge Trail to reach Andrews Bald. Total elevation gain on the roundtrip hike is 900 feet.
Trail Highlights: Only a 1.7-mile hike to see magnificent views? Sounds like a breeze. Well, not so fast. Don't let the mileage fool you—this is a fairly rugged hike! The trail is littered with rain run-off, rocks and small boulders. But don't let any of this deter you. Thanks to several acres of open grassy meadow, commonly referred to as "balds" in the Appalachians, spectacular views of the southern Smokies await you at the end of this hike. Andrews Bald is the perfect place to open up a blanket, relax and enjoy a picnic.
Trivia Tidbit: Without maintenance from the Park Service, Andrews Bald would be reclaimed by forest.
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Porters Creek (Easy)
Nuts & Bolts: This is an easy roundtrip hike of 4 miles beginning out of Greenbrier, just east of Gatlinburg.
Trail Highlights: The Porters Creek Trail just about has it all. You'll stroll along a beautiful cascading stream through a lush old-growth forest, while walking past many remnants from the early settlers of this area before reaching a little known waterfall.
If you hike this trail during the spring, you'll have the added benefit of witnessing one of the most spectacular displays of wildflowers in the Smokies. The forest floor is carpeted with bloodroot, hepaticas, violets, white trilliums, fringed phacelia, rue anemone and many others.
At roughly 2 miles, Fern Branch Falls slides and tumbles nearly 50 feet off the ridge just east of the trail.
Trivia Tidbit: Roughly 1 mile from the trailhead is a short side trail that takes you to the John Messer farm site, which includes a cantilevered barn built around 1875. There's also a cabin that was built by the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club in the mid-1930s.
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