Chimney Tops is one of the most popular and strenuous hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The summit has an elevation of 4,800 feet and is one of the park's most recognizable geological structures since it's a rare rock summit in the Smokies. You can see the twin peaks as you wind along Newfound Gap Road. The hike is four miles roundtrip and is quite the workout.
Update: After severe damage on the summit from the big wildfire in November 2016, the trail reopened October 2017. However, the final 1/4 of a mile onto the rock pinnacles will remain closed. A new observation area has been built with views of the Pinnacles and Mt. LeConte. So you cannot walk out on the rocky summit.
To reach the summit, take a 2-mile hiking trail with 1,700 feet elevation gain from the Chimney Tops Trail parking area on Newfound Gap Road (US Highway 441). Driving from Asheville, it's about seven miles past Newfound Gap. The Chimneys campground and picnic area is a few miles north (so don't go there looking for the trail).
It's a strenuous uphill climb to the top. Just a short distance from the parking area, you will cross a pair of bridges over a beautiful cascading creek. This is a great spot to take a cool dip to cool off after a summer hike. Also, if you are with someone that doesn't want to hike to the top, this is a beautiful spot to enjoying the sounds of the falling waters. For the most part, the trail consists of loose rocks, which makes it easy to twist an ankle or fall, so in order to help eliminate these possibilities it is important to wear proper shoes and mind your footing.
Here's a photo from when the rock pinnacles were open. It's about a quarter mile past the current observation area with views of Mt LeConte. No pets are allowed on this trail.
Directions: About 76 miles from downtown Asheville, allow 2.5 hours to travel. Take I-40 West to Exit 27. Follow Highway 19/23/74 for about 4 miles and exit onto Highway 19 toward Maggie Valley. About 3 miles past Maggie Valley, watch for the Blue Ridge Parkway entrance, and go south. The Parkway ends at Highway 441. Turn right to enter the Smokies. The Parkway is closed much of the winter. If the Parkway is closed, continue on Highway 19 to Cherokee and follow Highway 441 North. The Chimney Tops parking area is about 7 miles past Newfound Gap.
Another "don't miss" Smoky Mountain Hike Nearby: Mt. LeConte & Alum Cave Trail