If you’ve never beheld the truly awesome sight of the Smoky Mountain Fall Hiking, the Autumn color change is breathtaking. Climb to the top of any trail, ridge or any height where you can see the Appalachians stretched out, and you will see sights that people from all over the world venture to see.
The best way to see all the seasonal wonder of the Smoky Mountains Fall colors is to go hiking. There are people who journey thousands of miles just to hike the trails.
Albright Grove Loop Trail
Trail Location: Cosby Roundtrip Length: 6.7 Miles Total Elevation Gain: 1475 Feet
Avg. Elev Gain / Mile: 440 Feet Highest Elevation: 3330 Feet
- The Baxter Cabin (one-room historic cabin).
- Historic stone walls.
- Old-growth forest.
- Very large tuliptree standing more than 135 feet.
- Connects to additional trails and paths.
From Light #3 in downtown Gatlinburg, which is located at the intersection of Parkway and 321, head East on 321 out of town. You will drive east on 321 for approximately 15.4 miles. Turn right on Baxter Road (immediately past the Imagination Mountain Camp Resort) and continue for just under a half-mile until you see a sign for the Maddron Bald Trailhead on the right. You will make a hard right-turn and drive a short distance to the small parking area.
Alum Cave Trail
Trail Location: Newfound Gap Road Roundtrip Length: 4.4 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 1125 Feet Avg. Elev Gain / Mile: 511 Feet
Highest Elevation: 4955 Feet
- Plentiful rosebay rhododendron.
- The Arch Rock landmark.
- A heath bald that showcases views of Little Duck Hawk Ridge.
- “The Eye of the Needle”.
- Stairs cut into the rock ground leading to the “cave”.
- The Alum Cave itself. Alum Cave is not really a cave, but a huge concave rock structure that is worth the excursion to see.
- Trail has been renovated and restored in recent years.
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Trail Location: Clingmans Dome Area Roundtrip Length: 3.5 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 899 Feet Avg. Elev Gain / Mile: 514 Feet
Highest Elevation: 6310 Feet
- Spruce-fir trees dating back to the Ice Age.
- Access to the Appalachian Trail.
- Famous open grassy meadow where views are at their peak. Often used as a picnic spot.
For more information on this hike, click here.
Baskins Creek Falls
Trail Location: Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail Roundtrip Length: 3.0 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 953 Feet Avg. Elev Gain / Mile: 635 Feet
Highest Elevation: 2927 Feet
- Short, easy trail for casual hikers.
- Views of Gatlinburg in Winter months.
- Falls Branch – the first waterfall on the trail.
- Baskins Cemetery.
- The Baskins Creek waterfalls that give the trail its name.
Trail Location: Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail Roundtrip Length: 5.9 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 1607 Feet Avg. Elev Gain / Mile: 545 Feet
Highest Elevation: 4217 Feet
- A heath-covered bald providing wonderful views of the mountains.
- Views of several rock cliff faces along the trail.
- Two small caves created by overhanging slabs of rock.
- Connection to Mt. Leconte path.
The Bullhead Trail actually begins from the Rainbow Falls Trailhead. If you’re looking for a challenge, this is the perfect hike for you. The trail ascends quickly as you climb the Bullhead, a heath-covered bald off Balsam Point. It has an elevation of about 4,300 feet. Along this trail, you’ll pass rock cliff faces, two small caves, and “The Pulpit.” The Pulpit was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and allows hikers to stand and view the mountains, including Brushy Mountain and the Greenbrier Valley. You can choose to turn around at The Pulpit or continue for another 4.2 miles to the summit of Mount LeConte.
Grapeyard Ridge Trail
Trail Location: Greenbrier Roundtrip Length: 5.8 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 980 Feet Avg. Elev Gain / Mile: 338 Feet
Highest Elevation: 2540 Feet
- Proximity to the Little Pigeon River.
- Views of enormous mountains Mt. Chapman, Mt. Sequoia and Mt. LeConte.
- Rhododendron Creek.
- Old homestead sites.
- Injun Creek with remains of old steam engine.
A quiet Smoky Mountain backcountry trek, the Grapeyard Ridge Trail rambles up ridges and down ravines as it links the Greenbrier area in the east with the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail in the west. History buffs will love the numerous old homesteads and other heritage sites scattered along the route. Indeed, this is one of the most historically interesting walkabouts in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Trail Location: Cades Cove (Forge Creek Road) Roundtrip Length: 11.3 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 3020 Feet Avg. Elev Gain / Mile: 535 Feet
Highest Elevation: 4949 Feet
- Incredible flame azaleas that are found along the path.
- Summit is the bald that gives it its name with many views worth the challenging climb. Cades Cove, Fontana Lake and Thunderhead Mountain are among them.
- Backcountry site with three footbridge crossings required to get there.
- Blueberry patches that ripen toward the end of August and into early September.
Gregory Bald is a 15.5 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Robbinsville, North Carolina that features beautiful wild flowers and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail is primarily used for hiking, camping, horses, and backpacking and is best used from March until November. Horses are also able to use this trail.
Little River Trail
Trail Location: Elkmont Roundtrip Length: 4.9 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 412 Feet Avg. Elev Gain / Mile: 168 Feet
Highest Elevation: 2637 Feet
- Old gravel railroad bed.
- Proximity to Townsend Wye River.
- Homesteads of vacation cottages that were built in the 1920s.
- Rhododendron patches.
- Huskey Branch Falls cascades.
- Connects to other hiking trails.
The trail begins on an old railroad bed converted for pedestrian use. It is wide and well maintained. Little River Trail parallels the Little River for more than 6 miles, and terminates at Backcountry Campsite #30.
However, the historical hike on the trail is much shorter, only 2.4 miles in each direction. If you choose to continue on Little River Trail past Cumberland Gap trail, the trail surface gradually changes to a regular mountain trail.
Trail Location: Cosby Roundtrip Length: 11.1 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 3045 Feet Avg. Elev Gain / Mile: 549 Feet
Highest Elevation: 5054 Feet
- Old world hardwood forest.
- Gorgeous wildflower patches.
- Summit overlooks dozens of miles of Appalachia and the Pigeon River Gorge.
- Stone house fire lookout building.
- Trail overlaps with Appalachian Trail and others.
There’s more than one way to reach the lookout tower atop Mount Cammerer, but the most popular route begins at Cosby Campground. From this trailhead the trip to the summit is 5.2 miles one way (11.2 roundtrip) and fairly strenuous in difficulty.
Porters Creek Trail
Trail Location: Greenbrier Roundtrip Length: 4.0 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 699 Feet Avg. Elev Gain / Mile: 350 Feet
Highest Elevation: 2642 Feet
- Proximity to Porter’s Creek.
- Elbert Cantrell farmstead.
- Historic stone walls.
- Ownby Cemetery.
- John Messer historic farm site.
- Fern Branch Falls waterfalls
Porters Creek Trail begins at the very end of Greenbrier Rd. Once you turn onto Greenbrier Rd, it’s about 3 miles to the end. The road is very narrow in some places, with some pretty steep drops, so go slow and watch for oncoming cars.
At the end of Greenbrier Rd, you veer right onto the loop. The Porters Creek trail entrance is at the very back of the loop. There are some restrooms at the picnic area before the loop, and also off the right just before reaching the loop. I would suggest using them, as there are no facilities on the trail itself.
Once on the loop, there are a number of “pull overs” to park in, just be sure your car is out of the road.
The trail entrance is just past a metal gate and is a gravel road. The first half of Porters Creek trail, follows the windy Porter’s creek. There are a number of places to access the creek along the way, and we would highly recommend doing so. There are some great photo opportunities and small waterfalls to just find a big rock to sit on and enjoy.
Rich Mountain Loop
Trail Location: Cades Cove Roundtrip Length: 8.5 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 1736 Feet Avg. Elev Gain / Mile: 408 Feet
Highest Elevation: 3691 Feet
- Proximity to and views of Cades Cove.
- Turkeys may be seen.
- John Oliver cabin.
- Lots of wildflowers expected. Mountain laurel, flame azalea, purple phacelia, violets, rattlesnake hawkweed, yellow ragwort, butterfly weed and more.
- Access to Cerulean Knob, the highest point of Rich Mountain.
- Rich Mountain Fire Tower remains.
- Crooked Arm Falls waterfalls.
One of the best views of Cades Cove can be experienced from Rich Mountain, but few hikers take advantage of the trail.
This is a great trail near a wonderful attraction, but you won’t see many other hikers. Solitude is abundant on this trail. Views of the valley, amazing wildflowers, deer, and wild turkeys, can be expected on the Rich Mountain Trail.
From Rich Mountain Loop Trail, turn onto Indian Grave Gap Trail and then Crooked Arm Ridge Trail. This will take you back to the trailhead at the Cades Cove entrance.