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7 Easy Hikes in the Smoky Mountains for Anyone to Enjoy

7 Easy Hikes in the Smoky Mountains for Anyone to Enjoy


The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the biggest and most visited natural playgrounds for folks all over the country. The national park spans over 521,000 acres and includes 800 miles of hiking trails. But you don’t have to be an avid mountain climber to enjoy this park. In fact, there are many easy hikes in the Smoky Mountains that are just as beautiful and rewarding to finish as expert-level trails.

Here are some of the best beginner and family-friendly trails in the Smokies near Gatlinburg.

1. The Gatlinburg Trail

A view of the Gatlinburg Trail in Fall.

Those looking for easy hikes in the Smoky Mountains should look no further than the Gatlinburg Trail. This dog-friendly trail near Gatlinburg begins as a wide footpath and travels 1.9 miles along the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River. This easy hike starts at the Sugarlands Visitor’s Center and ends in the outskirts of the City of Gatlinburg. Hikers love the dense forest, dipping their toes in the Little Pigeon River, and viewing remnants of an old homestead along the way.

  • Total trail length: 3.9 miles
  • Trail type: Out and back
  • Average duration: 1-1.5 hour(s)
  • Great for: People hiking with pets or young children 

 2. Clingmans Dome Observation Tower Trail

The final stretch of the hike up to Clingmans Dome observation tower.

Clingmans Dome Observation Tower Trail is one of the shortest hikes in the Smokies, but this easy hike leads you to the top of one of the highest peaks on the Eastern Seaboard. Standing at 6,643 feet, the Clingmans Dome observation tower is the tallest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

It’s also the third-highest mountain east of the Mississippi and the tallest mountain in Tennessee. The short trail that leads up to the top of the observation tower is paved and only .5 miles. Once atop the tower, you’ll get a bird’s eye view, with visibility at nearly 100 miles on a clear day. 

  • Total trail length: 1.3 miles
  • Trail type: Out and back
  • Average duration: 30-45 minutes
  • Great for: People hiking with strollers or looking for spectacular 360 views 

3. Oconaluftee River Trail

A view of the Oconaluftee River Trail that runs through the Smokies.

If you want to find the perfect balance between hiking and history, the Oconaluftee River Trail is your best bet. The trail begins just beyond the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Cherokee Visitor Center and follows along with the Oconaluftee River for just over three miles. 

This trail also travels by the “Mountain Farm Museum,” a collection of log buildings that show how people who homesteaded in Appalachia lived 100+ years ago. 

  • Total trail length: 3.1 miles
  • Trail type: Out and back
  • Average duration: 1 hour
  • Great for: Families seeking a historic river hike 

4. Schoolhouse Gap Trail

The Schoolhouse Gap Trail in Gatlinburg, TN.

Schoolhouse Gap Trail is a rolling trail accessed near the Townsend side of the park for an easy hike off the beaten path. This trail offers a wide path perfect for families or small groups to walk side by side. This easy hike in the Smokies is a hidden gem for wildflower viewing. In the spring, hikers can see wildflowers such as: beaked violets, pink lady’s slippers, southern harebell, fairy wand, golden aster, purple ironweed, Robin’s plantain, sun drops, Catesby’s trillium, Joe Pye weed and lyre-leaf sage. 

The Schoolhouse Gap Trail is 4.1 miles long round trip and has an elevation gain of 521 feet. However, since the path is well-maintained and has a gentle incline, it makes for a relaxing and fun hike for all.

  • Trail length: 4.1 miles
  • Trail type: Out and back
  • Average duration: 2-3 hours
  • Great for: Seeing wildflowers 

5. Metcalf Bottoms Trail

Water rushing over the rocks at Metcalf Bottoms in Gatlinburg, TN.

If you are looking for an easy hike in the Smokies that the whole family can enjoy, Metcalf Bottoms Trail is for you. Your family can picnic after a hike at the Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area and then climb up and along this trail that runs parallel to the Little Greenbrier River. At the end of this trail, hikers can enjoy seeing the historic Little Greenbrier Community, which includes a schoolhouse, graveyard, and cabin. 

  • Trail length: 1.5 miles, out and back
  • Average duration: 1 hour
  • Great for: History buffs and families with young children 

 6. Andrews Bald Trail

A sign on a hiking trail in the Smoky Mountain National Park directing guests to Andrews Bald.

Andrews Bald is your best bet if you are looking for a short hike in the Smokies that rewards you with gorgeous panoramic views. 

This easy hike near Gatlinburg leaves from Clingmans Dome parking lot. Hikers ascend 900 feet, passing through spruce-fir forest and briefly joining up with the Appalachian Trail before turning toward this magnificent bald. After 1.7 miles, you will arrive at the top of Andrew’s Bald and experience an incredible 360-degree view of the Great Smoky Mountains as well as several acres of open grassy meadow.

  • Trail length: 3.6 miles, out and back
  • Average duration: 2 hours
  • Great for: Panoramic views and picturesque picnics

 7. Elkmont Nature Trail

Beautiful view of the river on the Elkmont Nature Trail

A great easy hike near Gatlinburg, Elkmont Nature Trail features a short loop with very little elevation gain. This short hike is only .8 miles and is a great trail for kids and family members of all ages. Leaving from Elkmont Campground, Elkmont Nature Trail has great signage with white arrows to lead the way. This easy hike in the Smokies is ideal for wildflower viewing in the spring, too!

  • Trail length: .8 mile loop
  • Average duration: 20-30 minutes
  • Great for: Families of all ages

Come back to a cozy cabin after a hike in the Smoky Mountains 

There are an abundance of natural wonders and easy hikes in the Smoky Mountains. Between beautiful waterfall hikes, rolling river jaunts, and historic homesteads, you are sure to find a great beginner-friendly trail to suit your interests!

And when your wondrous day of hiking, smelling wildflowers, and splashing in waterfalls comes to a close, you can find your way back to the comfort of Elk Springs Resorts cabins. With rental options in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, you can relax and unwind all night, and head right back up to the Smokies first thing in the morning.