More than 850 miles of hiking trails traverse the Great Smoky Mountains. They range from easy to difficult and provide half hour walks to week-long backpacking trips. Below are our favorites. Also, the Appalachian Trail runs for a very challenging 70 miles along the Park's top ridges.
With so many options, the Smokies offer a tremendous number of hiking opportunities. Stop at Oconaluftee Visitor Center on US 441 at the Cherokee entrance to get trail maps and the latest condition of trails. Download a PDF Map of Great Smoky Mountains Hiking Trails
10 Favorite Hikes in the Great Smokies
Smoky Mountains Hiking Tips
Safety is important to consider when exploring the backcountry. Here are a few basics to help you get started:
- Backcountry camping requires a permit.
- Let someone know your route and return time.
- Always hike with another person.
- Carry a current park trail map. Don't except cell phone reception.
- Carry two small flashlights or headlamps.
- Take adequate water - minimum two quarts per person per day.
- All water taken from the backcountry should be treated.
- Wear shoes or boots that provide good ankle support.
- Carry a small first aid kit.
- Check the current weather forecast and be prepared for quickly changing conditions.
Dogs are allowed in campgrounds, picnic areas, parking areas, and along roads, but must be kept on a leash at all times. The leash must not exceed 6 feet in length. Pets are only allowed on two short walking paths--the Gatlinburg Trail and the Oconaluftee River Trail. Pets are not allowed on any other park trails. Pets should not be left unattended in vehicles or RVs.
Mountain & Road Biking
Bicycles can travel on most roads within the park. However, due to steep terrain, narrow road surfaces, and heavy automobile traffic, many park roads are not well suited for safe and enjoyable bicycle riding. There are no mountain biking trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Oconaluftee River Trail and the lower Deep Creek Trail are the only park trails on which bicycles are allowed. Bicycles are prohibited on all other park trails. For the mountain biking mecca, go to nearby Tsali Recreation Area in the Nantahala National Forest.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park has about 2,115 miles of streams within its boundaries, and protects one of the last wild trout habitats in the eastern United States. The park offers a wide variety of angling experiences from remote, headwater trout streams to large, coolwater smallmouth bass streams. Most streams remain at or near their carrying capacity of fish and offer a great opportunity to catch these species throughout the year.
Fishing is permitted year-round in the park, from 30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset. The park allows fishing in most streams. Certain posted streams are closed to fishing, to protect threatened fishes. Detailed information, including a complete list of regulations and a map of fishable park waters, is available at any visitor center or ranger station.
You must possess a valid fishing license or permit from either Tennessee or North Carolina. Either state license is valid throughout the park and no trout stamp is required. Fishing licenses and permits are not available in the park, but may be purchased in nearby towns. Special permits are required for fishing in Cherokee.
The big range in elevations and a variety of topographies provide homes to 240 species of birds. See the birding checklist for the Great Smoky Mountains.
The park offers several different types of campsites:
- Backcountry - backpacking sites that require hiking several miles to reach a campsite.
- Frontcountry - RV and tent camping in a developed campground that has restrooms but no showers or water hook-ups (Smokemont, Balsam Mountain, Cataloochee and Deep Creek are on the NC side)
- Group Campgrounds - large frontcountry campsites suitable for groups of eight people or more.
- Horse Camps - Small campgrounds, accessible by vehicle, that offer hitch racks for horses and primitive camping facilities.
- Only heat-treated firewood that is bundled and displays a certification stamp by the USDA or a state department of agriculture will be allowed for use in park campgrounds.
- Dump stations for RVs with potable water are located at Deep Creek and Smokemont campgrounds.
- See our Camping Guide.