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  • Writer's pictureJ&L

Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee: Top Things to See, Eat, and Drink

Updated: May 26, 2023

Fun Fact

Smoky Mountain National Park has one of the oldest mountain ranges on THE PLANET at 200-300 million years old! With over 10 million visitors annually, this is the most visited national park in the United States.

Table of Contents


What you should not miss at Great Smoky Mountain National Park

[10 Miles; 2,929 ft. Elevation Gain; Out & Back; Rating: hard]

This was our favorite hike we did in the Smoky Mountains. Although one of the longer hikes we did, the trail is packed with landmarks to look forward to every step of the way. 1.4 miles into the trail you will reach Arch Rock, where the trail leads you up a staircase through the rock structure.

Hike an additional mile (1125 ft elevation gain) and you will come across Alum Cave Bluffs, a breathtaking natural formation. If you are looking to shorten this hike, a lot of people hike the 4.6 mile round-trip to Alum Cave and back. There are plenty of wonderful views along the first 2.3 miles of this trail, making it a spectacular day-hike as well.

However, if you want to make it to the Mount LeConte summit, there are 2.7 additional miles of hiking to go! The elevation gain, as well as, overall difficulty does increase during the next 2.7 miles. There are some narrow passageways, steep drop-offs, and intense inclines, however, the path is very well maintained with guide ropes, stepping stones, and signage. If you are up for the trek, we highly recommend it for the epic views!

Tip: Once you get to the Mount LeConte Lodge, BE SURE to go the extra 0.2 miles to the Cliff Tops view.

A local at our campsite gave us this advice and it would be a shame to have hiked all 10 miles without seeing this view! While the view from Mount LeConte Lodge is very beautiful, Cliff Tops gives you an un-obstructed view of the beautiful mountain range. This is the most EPIC spot to make yourself a cup of coffee with your lightweight stove, or enjoy a snack.

[8.6 Miles; 1,981 ft. Elevation Gain; Out & Back; Rating: moderate]

This is a wonderful portion of the Appalachian Trail, that makes for a beautiful day-hike. The best part about this trail is that depending on your preference, you can really turn around at any point. The views on this trail are beautiful from start to finish, therefore, you do not have to hike all the way to Charlies Bunion if you are looking for shorter miles (although we highly recommend making it to the epic views).

This trail is accessible from the Newfoundland Gap parking lot. Be sure to get on the trail heading north (follow the sign to the "Boulevard Trail in 2.7 miles"), once at the Boulevard Trail junction, veer right to stay on the Appalachian Trail towards Charlies Bunion (an additional 1.3 miles from the junction). This summit is characterized by a large boulder protruding from the mountain, and is one of the only bare-rock summit's in the entire park.

Fact: This summit is characterized by a large boulder protruding from the mountain, and is one of the only bare-rock summit's in the entire park.


[1.2 Mile; 331 Ft Elevation Gain; Out & Back; Rated: moderate]

This is a short, paved, half-mile hike from the Clingmans Dome parking lot. The half-mile is straight uphill, however, the views are certainly worth it for the highest elevation in the park at 6,643 miles.