No American hike bucket list can be complete without exploring at least one of the beautiful Smoky Mountain Trails.
If you are thinking of exploring the Smokies we have put together our top five that you simply cannot miss.The Mountains are some of America’s most visited and are well known for their diversity of plant life and being home to the American Black Bear.
The Smoky Mountain Range runs along the Tennessee - North Carolina border in south-eastern USA. The mountains are home to over 850 miles of hiking trails, making it a hiker’s paradise.
The mountain range is best known for being the home of the Smoky Mountains National Park, which is America’s most visited National park.
Stretching from the Pigeon River in the northeast to the Little Tennessee River to the southwest, the Smoky Mountain Range form part of the Appalachian Mountain chain.
The Smokies are the tallest in the range but only form a small portion thereof.
Elevation within the park ranges from 875 feet to 6,643 feet, with sixteen of the peaks rising above 5,000 feet.
The rocks in this area are predominantly sedimentary type, which are formed by deposits of rock, which over millions of years become layers of hard rock.
The Smokies are home to a variety of flora and fauna, the most famous famous probably being the great American Black Bear.
In total, the park is home to 65 different species of mammals, some of the best known being groundhog, white tailed deer and chipmunk.
With 200 species of birds, the park is every bird-watching enthusiast's dream. Interestingly, of these birds, 85 migrate from the neo-tropics.
Plants are something that the Smoky Mountains National Park is renowned for. Due to the diversity in temperature, rainfall and geology the park calls over 1,600 flowering plant species resident.
This is alongside five forest types that support 4,000 non-flowering varieties of plants.
The hiking trails in the Smokies accommodate a variety a people, with trails ranging from easy day hikes, to more challenging multi-day hikes.
With so many options you can be sure that you will find something that caters to your preference.
Smoky Mountains National Park is situated on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina.
Although there is always free information available online, nothing beats a hard copy, especially when you are busy hiking.
For this reason we recommend National Geographic’s waterproof, tear resistant topographic map of the Smokies National Park.
The hike starts off easily and meanders along an old gravel road. The path winds through a forest following the banks of Porter’s creek. After crossing a footbridge you will reach a fork in the path, and for the next two junctions you should veer left.
After crossing a second footbridge the path will wind its way to Fern Branch Falls. The hike ends here but you can choose to make it longer, by continuing onwards to Backcountry Campsite 31.
Le Conte Lodge (there are no other motels or lodgings in the park available, and the lodge can only be reached by foot) or Smokemont is the closest group campsite.
Watch Hikethesouth’s video to get an idea of of the beautiful views and pristines forests of the Porters Creek hike.
The hike takes you through an old hardwood forest, beginning by crossing Walker Camp Prong and Alum Cave Creek.
About 1.3 miles in, you should reach your first prominent landmark - Arch Rock. The trail winds beneath the arch and at reaching the top, you will begin climbing towards Alum Cave.
About halfway on the round trip trail you will reach the Cave. You can choose to turn around at this point or continue onwards to the summit of Mount Le Conte.
Le Conte Lodge or Elkmont being the closest group camping.
The Sir Pod’s video shows you the Alum Cave hike with narration of the journey.
This spectacular hike begins in the Newfound Gap parking lot.
From here you will travel along the Appalachian Trail (which takes roughly 7 days to complete) with the first part of the hike being a steady climb.
It will feel as if you are walking along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains, as you will have stunning views on either side of the ridge.
Finally you will arrive at your destination, Charlies Bunion, a rocky outcropping with a spectacular view.
Le Conte Lodge or close to either Smokemont or Elkemont group campsites.
The GreatSmokyMoutain’s provides an informative video on the hike to Charlies Bunion.
The hike starts at the Clingmans Dome parking lot, beginning with a descent down the southern side of Clingmans Dome, after this climb down the hike flattens out onto a broad ridge.
The first section passes through a spruce fir forest.
After this ridge you will climb through the forest before finally reaching the grassy Andrews Bald.
Andrews Bald is a high elevation grassy meadow, and is the highest in the park.
Le Conte Lodge or Smokemont group campsite.
This video provides you with a fantastic overview of the hikes and its spectacular views.
One of the park most popular hikes, this is definitely not one to be missed. The hike isn’t particularly long but provides hikers with amazing views.
The hike has a relatively steep elevation gain in a short space, so this makes for a sharp climb.
When you reach the first rock pinnacle, you will have to climb to the top to see the amazing views the hike has to offer.
Le Conte Lodge or Smokemont group campsite.
The GreatSmokyMountains video gives you an educational video of the Chimney Tops trail and its history.
For a fantastic guide book on Smoky Mountains we recommended is Moon Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Travel Guide).
The guide includes itineraries, strategies for getting around the Smokies as well as colourful images and detailed maps.
If an accident should occur that requires medical assistance and evacuation you will want proper hiking insurance that will cover the costs of air ambulance and treatment.
Medical teams and Rangers are always on duty to assist with medical emergencies at the Smoky Mountains Park.
This article on travel and hiking insurance proves great information on what type of insurance you need, as well as provides an easy quote calculator from a leading travel operator.
Check out the World Nomads calculator for a quick calculation of the cost of travel insurance for your trip to the States.