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10 Gatlinburg Hiking Trails You Won’t Want To Miss in 2024

10 Gatlinburg Hiking Trails You Won’t Want To Miss in 2024


There’s certainly no shortage of hiking trails around Gatlinburg, which is probably why nature lovers from across the world regularly visit. From rugged mountains to soothing river paths, there are plenty of hikes nearby when you stay in a cabin near the Smoky Mountains.

Read on to discover some of the best Gatlinburg hiking trails — and, as a bonus, we’ll tell you more about the sights you can expect to see on your next climb. Here are the trails we’ll cover in this guide:

  • Alum Cave Trail to Mount LeConte
  • Clingmans Dome Trail
  • Laurel Falls Trail
  • Grotto Falls via Trillium Gap Trail
  • Cataract Falls
  • Rainbow Falls
  • Gatlinburg Trail
  • Baskins Creek Falls
  • Sugarland Valley Nature Trail

All of the trails that made their way into our best–of list earned their spots based on the recommendations and ratings of hikers who recently shared their experiences in the AllTrails app. We considered views, trail length, elevation, route type, hiker rating, difficulty, and distance from Gatlinburg, TN. 

1. Alum Cave Trail to Mount LeConte

  • Best for: Avid backpackers who want to see a cave, waterfalls, and wildflowers
  • Trail length: 11 miles
  • Elevation gain: 3,061 feet
  • Route type: Out and back
  • Distance from Gatlinburg: 12 miles
  • Hiker rating: 4.8/5
  • Difficulty: Hard

Alum Cave Trail in Gatlinburg.

Don your hiking shoes and prepare for a challenging uphill adventure on the Alum Cave Trail to Mount LeConte. Well known for its rocky terrain and beautiful views, this trail is best hiked between April and November, when the path is least likely to transform into a slippery mudslide. A ways in, you’ll come across the breathtaking vistas of Little Duck Hawk Ridge, The Eye of the Needle, and Myrtle Point on Mt. LeConte. 

From there, you can choose to continue to Myrtle Point. Or, you can follow the lead of other hikers who recommend trekking up to the cliff-top to glimpse the mountain’s unrivaled views. Regardless of your path, be on the lookout for black bears, as there are often sightings in the area.

2. Clingmans Dome Trail

  • Best for: Visitors who want to get an unspoiled view of the Smokies from a landmark observation tower
  • Trail length: 14.9 miles
  • Elevation gain: 3,612 feet
  • Route type: Out and back
  • Distance from Gatlinburg: 16 miles
  • Hiker rating: 4.6/5
  • Difficulty: Moderate

The path to the Clingmans Dome obersvation tower in Gatlinburg.

This route starts nice and easy but quickly turns into a challenging walk once you reach the observation tower due to the steep grade of the ramp. Still, most hikers find it manageable between April and November. 

In order to find the observation tower and enjoy the 360º view of the Smokies, you’ll need to start at Newfound Gap. Unfortunately, your furry friends will have to relax at your rental cabin for the day since this is a no-pet trail. The good news is that this trail winds through miles of beautiful, dense forest where you can camp and see the river, wildflowers, and wildlife. 

3. Laurel Falls Trail

  • Best for: Hiking with kids and chasing waterfalls
  • Trail length: 2.4 miles
  • Elevation gain: 403 feet
  • Route type: Out and back
  • Distance from Gatlinburg: 7.3 miles
  • Hiker rating: 4.4/5
  • Difficulty: Easy 

Laurel Falls in Gatlinburg.

Many consider the Laurel Falls Trail to be one of the top family-friendly hiking paths in Gatlinburg, TN. Originally paved for fire trucks to access the Cove Mountain Fire Tower, the trail is now a popular option for tourists and local hikers. 

Unfortunately for those who want to escape the city crowds, this is a very popular and crowded trail, especially in the summer and on weekends. Not to mention, you’ll have to leave your bikes and dogs at home since they aren’t allowed on the trail. On the plus side, this trail is beautiful year-round, so you can also make the trip in the down-season if you’d rather. Or, you can get up bright and early to beat the crowds.

4. Grotto Falls via Trillium Gap Trail

  • Best for: Seeing wildlife without committing to a long hike
  • Trail length: 2.6 miles
  • Elevation gain: 544 feet
  • Route type: Out and back
  • Distance from Gatlinburg: 6.2 miles
  • Hiker rating: 4.6/5
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Grotto Falls in Gatlinburg.

The Grotto Falls waterfall splashes over trees and rocks and past the hiking trail into a small pond encircled by stones. Accessible seasonally, the trail starts near the base of Piney Mountain. From there, you can follow the signs for the Trillium Gap Trailhead to find your way to the falls. 

If you go at the right time of year, you’ll meet an abundance of wildflowers, wildlife like salamanders, White-tailed Deer, black bears, and several babbling streams. When you make it to the end, spread out from other hikers and cool off in the water for a while before heading back to your cabin or a night out on the town

5. Cataract Falls

  • Best for: Hikers who want to see a waterfall and stop for a picnic
  • Trail length: 1.1 miles
  • Elevation gain: 29 feet
  • Route type: Out and back
  • Distance from Gatlinburg: 3.7 miles
  • Hiker rating: 4.3/5
  • Difficulty: Easy

Cataract Falls in Gatlinburg.

Cataract Falls is a modest waterfall that rushes impressively following a good rainstorm. Foliage surrounds the trail and falls that cascade over a wall of rocks, and the hike to get there only takes about 21 minutes to complete. 

It’s a super easy walk that starts at the trailhead by the Sugarlands Visitor Center, and it’s so serene that some couples even decide to get married there before trekking back to their honeymoon cabin. But that’s not all that we love about this trail — it’s also one of the most accessible hikes in Gatlinburg, making it possible for people pushing strollers or using mobility aids to enjoy. 

6. Rainbow Falls Trail

  • Best for: Getting lost in a lush forest and finding a gushing waterfall
  • Trail length: 5.1 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,617 feet
  • Route type: Out and back
  • Distance from Gatlinburg: 4.2 miles
  • Hiker rating: 4.7/5
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Rainbow Falls in Gatlinburg.

The Rainbow Falls trail is one of the best waterfall hikes in Gatlinburg — especially from March to September — even if it’s a fairly challenging trek. The falls earned its name because a rainbow appears in the mist of the 80-foot single-drop waterfall on extra sunny days, creating a tranquil ambiance. 

Whether you seek the exhilaration of conquering this heart-pumping hike or the peace of solitude in the forest, this hike is worth lacing up your hiking boots. 

7. Gatlinburg Trail

  • Best for: Hiking with kids and dogs
  • Trail length: 3.9 miles
  • Elevation gain: 164 feet
  • Route type: Out and back
  • Distance from Gatlinburg: 3.7 miles
  • Hiker rating: 4.3/5
  • Difficulty: Easy

The bridge path at the Gatlinburg Trail in Tennessee.

Much like its next-door neighbor, Cataract Falls, the Gatlinburg trail starts at the Sugarlands Visitor Center. But that’s where the similarities end. 

As one of the few trails in Gatlinburg that welcomes pets, this year-round hike is truly fit for the whole family. You can also bring your bike or all-terrain mobility equipment to make your way down the trail. 

Just keep in mind that the bridge over Little Pigeon River is sometimes a squeeze for wheelchairs and strollers, so be sure to assess the width before trying to pass through. 

8. Baskins Creek Falls

  • Best for: Seeing a two-tiered waterfall and picnicking
  • Trail length: 3.7 miles
  • Elevation gain: 1,030 feet
  • Route type: Out and back
  • Distance from Gatlinburg: 4.5 miles
  • Hiker rating: 4.5/5
  • Difficulty: Moderate

Baskins Creek Falls in Gatlinbur.

Baskins Creek Falls is a hidden sanctuary where a pristine, 40-foot, double-tiered waterfall and mossy rocks converge. The best way to get there is by starting at the Rainbow Falls Trailhead and following the signs for Baskins Creek. 

Altogether, the hike takes most people just over two hours to complete. Just remember to save your energy on the way down to the falls because it’s a steep and rocky uphill trek on the way back. 

9. Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail

  • Best for: Walking and playing in the water with kids
  • Trail length: .5 miles
  • Elevation gain: 19 feet
  • Route type: Loop
  • Distance from Gatlinburg: 4 miles
  • Hiker rating: 4.3/5
  • Difficulty: Easy

A stream near the Sugarlands Valley hiking trail in Gatlinburg.

The Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail is a popular paved walking and running trail. Since it runs alongside the Little Pigeon River, it’s the perfect place to listen to the sounds of nature and beat the heat during the summer. 

This is also an extremely beginner-friendly trail because it is practically flat and has several benches throughout. That said, consider taking your kids to the Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail for a day of summer fun. Aside from being an easy walk, there’s also a dedicated area where they can safely run off their energy, climb, and play in the water. 

FAQs About Hiking in Gatlinburg

Still have questions about Gatlinburg Hiking Trails? Well, we have the answer. Keep reading to find out. 

What Is the Easiest Hike to a Waterfall in Gatlinburg?

The hike to the Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail is the easiest in Gatlinburg. This is because the trail is mostly flat, well-maintained, and short. It’s a good option for families and newbie hikers. 

What Is the Five-Mile Loop in Gatlinburg?

The five-mile loop is the most popular hiking trail in Cades Cove. It follows Abrams Creek and ends at Abrams Falls, a rushing 20-foot-high waterfall. However, it’s a bit of a misconception that the falls are in Gatlinburg. You’ll actually have to drive about an hour and a half southwest to reach the trailhead. 

Do You Need To Carry Bear Spray When Hiking on Gatlinburg Hiking Trails?

Yes, you should carry bear spray whenever you travel where bears live. There’s a possibility that you could encounter some black bears on your hikes, but they’re rarely aggressive. See more black bear facts and encounter tips in our comprehensive guide.

Still, carrying bear spray in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is legal, and you can strap a canister to your gear if it brings you peace of mind. 

Unwind at the Elk Springs Resorts After a Long Day on Gatlinburg Hiking Trails

After a long day of hiking, there’s nothing better than heading back to a creekside cabin where you can warm up beside the fire, soak your bones in a Jacuzzi, or challenge your family to a game. 

When you’re ready to book your dream stay, secure your spot online or give us a call if you want a custom recommendation.