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 from the North Carolina side, nearest the Asheville area. 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
Great Smoky Mountains Hiking Tips
Safety is important to consider when exploring the backcountry - especially in the remote areas of the national park. 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 expect 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 ft. 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 thousands of 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, cool-water smallmouth bass streams. See our Great Smoky Mountains Fishing Guide for many details.
The park offers several different types of campsites:
- Backcountry - backpacking sites that require hiking several miles to reach.
- 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.