Hiking in the Smokies!
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the great locations in the United States to see the beauty of nature first-hand, and the Park offers unlimited opportunities for hiking, both for the novice and the expert. There are 150 maintained trails that go throughout the park with over 850 miles of trails! A list of the trails follows, but you have many other options for communing with nature in the Smokies.
One of the great thing about hiking in the Smokies is the diversity. Diversity of the landscape, the vegetation and the wildlife. You can hike on a trail with relatively flat elevation, or you can literally climb the mountain and ascent thousands of feet into the atmosphere. You will cross valleys and streams, and go through Old Growth sections of the forest and see Balds, meadows and remnants of former residents. (A Bald is a treeless expanse where dense thickets of low growth grow. The Bald was most likely caused by a forest fire.) Not only are there remnants of chimneys, foundations and stone fences, but there are 97 historic structures still standing in the National Park, most of which you can enter and explore.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is also one of the most diverse forests with several species of both hardwood and fir trees, mountain laurel, rhododendron, multiple species of ferns and grasses, and hundreds of wildflowers and flowering bushes. Animal diversity is also high with black bear, white-tailed deer, elk, turkey, raccoon, woodchuck, rabbits, squirrels and more, including salamanders and the rare pygmy shrew.
Why not start off with a hike to the National Park’s highest peak, Clingman’s Dome, which is 6,643 feet above sea level. There you can get a 360° view of the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Majestic Mt. LeConte offers 5 hiking trails including Alum Cave Bluff trail. Mt. LeConte is only accessible by trail and at the top sits Mt. LeConte lodge and cabins, the only lodging in the park. Reservations are required.
The Appalachian Trail has 69 of its 2,015 miles that run across the ridge of the Smoky Mountains. Also many trails in the Smokies connect to the Appalachian Trail. Many trails run alongside the mountain streams and waterfalls in the park. Feel the cool spray from the waterfalls or soak your feet in the cool, mountain stream. This a great reward to a long hike!