3 Challenging Hikes in the Smoky Mountains You Should Try
Are you heading to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and looking for a hike that is much more than just a walk in the woods? Do you have a list of peaks to bag in the Southern Appalachians? If so, we have 3 hikes that will be perfect for you! Each destination can only be reached by taking routes that are rated as strenuous, but also have incredible visual payoffs waiting for you at the end of a beauty filled journey!
Mount LeConte via Bullhead Trail and Rainbow Falls Trail
Hiking to the summit of Mount LeConte is a bucket list item for many guests in the Smokies and with 6 total trails connecting to the top, there’s a trail for everyone. Every route is filled with it’s own unique beauty and will burn up any calories that you take in at Crockett’s Breakfast Camp or the Donut Friar while you’re staying with us in Gatlinburg. However, if you’re looking to put at least 14 miles of trail under your feet as well as get your heart pumping, then this is the hike for you! the Bullhead Trail and Rainbow Falls Trail share a parking area in the Roaring Fork Motor Trail section of the park, which allows you to enjoy two trails on one hike. To do the most challenging version of the hike, you’ll want to take the Bullhead Trail up to Mount LeConte, due to the trail’s total elevation gain being close to 4,000 feet it is rated as one of the most strenuous trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. No worries though, the breathtaking views along the way will keep your mind off of the climb! Once you’ve reached the end of the Bullhead Trail, take time to check out the LeConte Lodge where you’ll find snacks available for purchase by day hikers as well as sack lunches and bottomless lemonade, coffee and hot chocolate. After relaxing in the lodge’s rocking chairs, head out to the Cliff Tops and take in one of the most stunning views in the Smokies. Last, but not least stop by High Top, the mountain’s highest point and if time allows visit Myrtle Point before heading back down the mountain on the Rainbow Falls Trail. You’ll find 6.6 miles of lush vegetation, 2 waterfalls and an absolutely beautiful trail that has recently been restored thanks to the Friends of the Smokies Trails Forever program. Once back to the parking area, you’ll wrap up your day with a drive along the Roaring Fork Motor Trail. When you reach the end of the motor trail, you’ll be 5 minutes away from your room here with us at The Appy. And yes, that also means that you’ll be just 5 minutes away from a refreshing shower, a hot tub for sore muscles and an incredibly comfy bed to help you recharge for your next Smokies adventure!
Rocky Top via beginning on the Anthony Creek Trail
Chances are pretty good that you’ve heard of Rocky Top and it’s true, you won’t be finding any telephone bills at the destination of this hike. It’s also possible that once you take in the views, you may not want to come back down the mountain. A 14 mile round trip hike will take you to the top of Thunderhead Mountain and a little spot we like to call Rocky Top. This hike will give you a true taste of the Smokies as well as taking you to some iconic spots among the hills of Tennessee. The hike begins on the Anthony Creek Trail in the Cades Cove Picnic Area, offers up time along Anthony Creek during the first section of the hike as well as time through the refreshing shade of a hemlock forest. Enjoy the forest and some time by the creek because once you reach the end of Anthony Creek, you’ll be trekking up the Bote Mountain Trail before you come to the Appalachian Trail around 5 miles into the trek at Spence Field. Spence Field is also the same location of Tom Sparks’ mountain lion attack in 1920. An attack he survived but then died from a gunshot wound 6 years later in the same area. No worries though, the same mountain lion that attacked Tom Sparks and the last known mountain lion to be in the Smokies, was killed in Fontana Village months after Tom’s encounter. Spence Field is now one of the most peaceful and loved spots in the Smokies. If you’re visiting in late summer, you’ll find blueberries and blackberries, but you may also find a resident of the park stopping by for a snack as well. If so, enjoy the encounter safely and continue on to Rocky Top! Once you make your final climb to the subpeak of Thunderhead Mountain, you’ll find yourself standing on ol’ Rock Top! Take in the wondrous views of the Smokies and begin your descent to your vehicle when the scent of dinner cooking at the Park Grill in Gatlinburg start to drift your way!
In the late 1930’s the Civilian Conservation Corp built one of the most unique fire towers in the Smokies on the summit of Mount Cammerer. The blood, sweat and tears that they poured into building the tower with hand cut stone is appreciated by countless hikers today. The hike to Mount Cammerer can be done with a few different routes, but even the shortest hike is 11 miles, has a total elevation gain of over 3,000 feet and is rated strenuous. The 11 mile trip is also the most convenient route to access from our Gatlinburg hotel. The hike begins on the Low Gap Trail in the Cosby area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Your adventure to the fire tower will also take you on a portion of the Appalachian Trail, America’s most loved footpath that our hotel was created to honor. When you reach the 2.6 mile mark of the hike, you’ll not only find yourself stepping onto the AT but you will also have already completed the steepest and hardest part of your climb for the day. After climbing 2,000 feet to the Appalachian Trail and putting over half of the hike to the fire tower behind you, take some time to think of the CCC crew that not only climbed the same mountain but also transported stone to the summit. At mile 5, you’ll take a spur trail up to the same summit and the location of their incredible engineering and design. Step up to the deck of the fire tower to take in the never ending views and perfectly designed ridges and valleys of the Smokies as well. Enjoy the pay off of your hike to the top, have lunch, snap a few photos and when you’re done make your way back down the mountain and to The Appy for some rest and relaxation!
Are you ready to choose your next adventure?
We hope to see you soon!