From the smoke-shrouded summit of LeConte and the open-armed expanses of Andrews Bald, down into the laurel laden hollows of Porters Creek and the historic homesteads of Cades Cove, it’s difficult to overstate the majesty of the Smokies. If anything, the grandeur can be overwhelming. With such a depth and breadth of wilderness to take in, it’s hard to know where to start. Have no fear. We introduced you to the general layout of the park with our Guide to the Smokies, and now we’re ready to dig a little deeper with our list of the best hikes in the Smokies. Any difficulty, any length, and in any season, we’ll get you ready to strike out on your own in the nation’s most visited national park.
1. Rocky Top/Thunderhead Mountain
Distance: 13.9 miles roundtrip
Highlights: Appalachian Trail, mountaintop views
A tough hike with more than 3,600 feet of total elevation gain, the climb up to Rocky Top and Thunderhead Mountain is not something hikers should tackle on a whim. For most, the excursion will take all day and require an early morning start to get back before night falls. But if you’re willing to take it on, you’ll be greeted with spectacular views of the North Carolina side of the Smokies and a chance to rub shoulders with thru-hikers.