5 Of The Best Hiking Trails In Tennessee

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Whether you enjoy an exhilarating family hike or you’re a hiking veteran seeking nothing but the most demanding challenges, Tennessee has something for every hiker! I enjoy an overwhelming hiking challenge myself, but I also find joy in an exhilarating hike with my family. Tennessee can enrich your hiking experience, so let’s explore hiking in Tennessee. 

Hiking in Tennessee suits families, thrill-seekers, and hiking veterans alike. Great hiking trails include Laurel Falls Trail, Rainbow Falls Trail, and Chimney Tops Trail. They have varying landscapes of rocky climbs, icy and muddy patches, waterfalls, and steep inclines for the adventurous.

Tennessee’s natural beauty is waiting for the would-be explorer, so what’s the delay? It’s time to strap on your hiking shoes, pack your poles and enjoy some of the most beautiful natural scenery!

Hiking In Tennessee

Tennesse’s hiking trails lie primarily over rocky areas, so you can expect to do a fair bit of climbing. That said, rivers, streams, and waterfalls are in abundance, and each landscape can vary depending on the season you like to visit. These trails are also well maintained, so you don’t need to worry about becoming lost.

You’ll find hikers of all ages and skill levels enjoying Tennessee’s natural scenery, although due to the many rocky areas, dogs are not always allowed to come along. Trails can take anywhere from an hour up to six hours or more to complete, and there are some unique opportunities for the aspiring photographer!

Families and new hikers can enjoy Laurel Falls Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Most of the trail has a paved path, so there’s no worry about tripping over uneven ground or roots. It inclines slightly, just enough to get the heart racing a little while still allowing parents to carry children or for children to make it up the trail themselves. 

Hikers seeking a hiking thrill and great workout will favor Rainbow Falls Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You can expect to cross bridges, rivers, minor waterfalls, and steep rocky areas before arriving at photo-rich Rainbow Falls. It’s quite a testing trail that will heavily test your endurance, so ensure that you bring enough water with you.

The hardiest hikers will undoubtedly come to love Chimney Tops Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Prepare yourself both physically and mentally for this one! You can expect a handful of waterfalls, bridge crossings, rocky areas, and steep inclines that will keep you on your toes while thoroughly testing your endurance.

Tennessee Hiking Trails For The Whole Family

Family hiking trips can bring families together, and Tennessee is no stranger to providing memorable hikes! The beginner hikes in Tennessee offer the perfect challenge for the inexperienced hiker; time to take in the scenery while enjoying a serene walk in the company of friends and family.

Laurel Falls Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

This path is located in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and takes around one hour and fourteen minutes to complete. The path is open all year and is a lovely place to explore at any time. Because this is a popular spot for hiking, strolling, and other natural excursions, you’ll very certainly run into other people while exploring.

Mountain laurel, an evergreen plant that flowers along the trail and near the falls in May, is named after Laurel Branch and the 80-foot high Laurel Falls. The region is very crowded over weekends all year round and weekdays during the summer, so arrive early if you want to have the route to yourself.

This paved road is intended to provide fire personnel access to the Cove Mountain region.  The Cove Mountain Fire Tower’s construction took place a few years after this trail formed. According to park service standards, bikes and dogs are not allowed in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Despite being paved, the waterfall trail’s aged concrete is uneven and fractured in places, making it difficult for wheelchairs and strollers to navigate. It is not listed as wheelchair or stroller friendly due to this and because of the reasonably steep to an extremely steep incline.

Furthermore, the rocks around the falls are slick, so beware of climbing on them! Many individuals have hurt themselves falling from the falls area’s sheer plunge.

Although there is a slight slope, even senior people or parents carrying children will enjoy climbing it. The short trek to the falls is well worth it!

Because the trailhead area has limited parking, it might be challenging to find a spot. Many hikers park along the side of the road heading to the trailhead, which is a good spot with mainly flat terrain and plenty of room to pull over. The trial has fantastic vistas, and it’s easy enough for people with knee problems to walk.

Mouse Creek Falls Via Big Creek Trail, Smoky Mountains

Mouse Creek Falls via Big Creek Walk is a 4-mile out-and-back trail with a waterfall in Hartford, Tennessee, suitable for hikers of all abilities. The path is open all year and is excellent for hiking, camping, and horseback riding. This hiking trail takes approximately 2 hours to traverse entirely.

This trail is a lovely hike with numerous stunning falls just off the path and convenient river access. The route is broad and simple to travel, with a consistent climb all the way to the falls. The majority of the walk goes beside the river, providing several photo possibilities.

However, keep an eye on your step because the terrain can be rough in places with rounded loose creek stones. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you’re welcome to go for a refreshing swim during summertime. Expect a steady ascent following the stream, with opportunities for side trips to explore and scramble among the rocks.

It has just enough inclination to get your heart racing but not so much that it slows you down. It became a little muddy in a few parts, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to go through. It’s also worth noting that this path is part of a much larger trail that may take many hours to complete.

Tennessee Hiking Trails For The Intermediate Hiker

Tennessee has an exciting selection of intermediate hiking trails that will provide a satisfying physical and mental challenge – and the breathtaking scenery is very rewarding, too, of course! 

Rainbow Falls Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

This 5.1-mile track exists in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. It is very challenging and takes a little over 3 hours to finish. Although this is a popular hiking path, you may still find some peaceful moments during the calmer hours of the day. The path is open all year, although the months of March through November are the best for hiking.

This walk is pretty steep as it meanders along Le Conte Creek, beginning at the Rainbow Falls and Bullhead Parking Area. Take note that the parking lot fills up quickly, so arrive early! There is a second parking spot farther along Cherokee Orchard Loop. Unfortunately, dogs are not permitted to accompany you on this path.

Nature will reward you with a beautiful view after about a mile of hiking. As you continue down the route, you’ll pass under a couple of bridges and begin to view some lesser falls.

You may expect to encounter many difficulties along the course, including muddy patches and fallen trees that you will have to climb over.

It is, however, a beautiful serene winter wonderland trek with a gradual ascent the entire way up. There are a few slick river crossings and plank bridges along the way, but you’ll reach two tiny waterfalls at the top before reaching Rainbow Falls, the true show-stopper.

You’ll arrive at the famous Rainbow Falls after a bit more hiking. It’s a dreamy spot where the afternoon sun catches the mist from the falls, creating a faint rainbow – don’t forget to bring your camera for special moments like these!

Most hikers turn around here and return to the parking lot; however, the route continues beyond if you want to go for a longer walk.

Charles Bunion Via Appalachian Trail, Smoky Mountains

Charlies Bunion via Appalachian Path is a moderately-trafficked 8-mile out-and-back trail in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, with magnificent wildflowers. The trail is best utilized from April to October and is excellent for hiking. Hiking takes between 4 and 30 minutes.

It’s worth noting that the route to Charlies Bunion isn’t well-marked from Newfound Gap, so look for signs for the Appalachian Trail and Icewater Spring instead. Continue for around 20 minutes after reaching the spring to reach Charles Bunion.

The trail begins with a moderate elevation of roughly 300 feet in the first mile. The path is mainly wooded; however, there are some exciting vistas on the Ice Water Spring-AT shelter approach. The shelter is one of the more exemplary buildings in North Carolina along the AT.

If Lady Luck is on your side, you could come upon an elk as you go through the region. The path is well-marked and extends approximately a mile north of the shelter along a side trail. After that, it heads left to Charlies Bunion, a massive granite outcropping caused by a fire, rain, and landslides years ago.

The track can still be ice in February, so microspikes and trekking poles can spare you some grief on the more treacherous stretches. Hiking boots with a good grip, of course, will help a lot. Overall, it’s a lovely walk, and as you reach the evergreens, you can smell the Christmas tree perfume.

If you’re planning on hiking this path, go to Newfound Gap early because parking can be hard to find at this popular destination. Bonus tip: when you arrive at Charlie’s Bunion, check behind you for a bit of a cliff. Climb around it for a much better perspective with fewer people!

Tennessee Hiking Trails For The Born Mountaineer

Hiking enthusiasts can enjoy Tennessee in all its natural beauty while working up a satisfying sweat! Prepare yourself for a strenuous workout as you make your way along Tennessee’s toughest hiking trails. You can expect very icy areas to traverse, as well as steep inclines and descents and landscapes that will test your endurance.

Chimney Tops Hiking Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

This 4.4-mile out-and-back trail exists in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. It takes around 2 hours and 42 minutes to complete and is considered a challenging course. Because it’s a famous hiking region, you’ll almost certainly run into other people while exploring.

The path is open all year, although the months of March through November are the finest for hiking. Additionally, dogs are not permitted, so you must leave your canine pals at home for this event.

The spectacular views of the mountains at the summit make every step worth it, despite the steepness. The route begins at the Chimney Tops parking area off Newfound Gap Road, east of the Chimney picnic area. It is relatively level at first but gradually gains height.

The first mile takes you across the flowing Road Prong, through minor waterfalls and bridges. You’ll come to an intersection for the Road Prong Trail as the trail begins to bend west. You may take this path, which will take you through a few other waterfalls before meeting with the Appalachian Trail at Indian Gap.

This path continues the ascent along the Chimney Tops Trail straight. Although the rise is complex, the trail is well-marked and well-maintained. A freshly constructed observation platform at the top provides spectacular views of the Smoky Mountains, including Mount LeConte and Sugarland Mountain.

It’s worth mentioning that part of the trail was closed a quarter-mile from Chimney Tops due to wildfire damage in 2016. Consequently, you’ll find a gate that restricts hikers from approaching the damaged area. Avoid hiking past the fence and instead take in the view from the observation platform.


New hikers and beginners will enjoy Laurel Falls Trail Great Smoky Mountains National Park for just the right level of challenge. Seasoned hikers can tough it out at Rainbow Falls Trail and Chimney Tops Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.