The Best Fall Hikes in the Smoky Mountains

September 6, 2019

Autumn is one of the most scenic times of year to hike in the Smoky Mountains.

The bright colors of fall are painted across mountains and valleys, creating a setting that beckons one to explore. With over 500,000 acres comprising the Great Smoky Mountains National Park choosing where to hike and go sightseeing can be a bit overwhelming. Use this helpful list of the best fall hikes in the Smoky Mountains to get a head start on your journey.

Best Smoky Mountain Hikes to See Fall Foliage

Albright Grove Loop Trail

  • Trail Location – Cosby
  • Distance – 7 miles round trip
  • Difficulty – Strenuous

An excellent example of a hardwood forest, Albright Grove is one of the most diverse forests in America. Hiking here during the fall offers a rich blend of different colors and foliage. Plus, some of the oldest and tallest trees in the Smokies are found along the way.

Alum Cave Trail: Flickr/Daveynin

Alum Cave Trail

  • Trail Location – Gatlinburg
  • Distance – 5 miles round trip
  • Difficulty – Moderately Strenuous

Hikes in the Smoky Mountains don't get much better than Alum Cave Trail. With an elevation of almost 5,000 feet, Alum Cave Trail offers outstanding views of the Smoky Mountains. Sweeping views of Little Duck Hawk Ridge to the west and Myrtle Point to the Northeast give hikers quite the reward.

View from the Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail

  • Trail Location – Clingmans Dome or Newfound Gap Road
  • Distance – Varies
  • Difficulty – Moderate

I recommend hiking the 7.5-mile section of the Appalachian Trail located from Clingman's Dome to Newfound Gap when searching for fall hikes in the Smoky Mountains. Canvassed with color, the peaks and valleys you pass through are a true highlight this time of year.

Baskins Creek Falls

  • Trail Location – Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
  • Distance – 3 miles round trip
  • Difficulty – Easy

Hike to Baskins Creek Falls to enjoy a canopy of fall foliage complemented by a two-tiered, 40-foot waterfall.

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a favorite route for fall color

Little River Trail

  • Trail Location – Elkmont
  • Distance – 4.9 miles round trip
  • Difficulty – Moderate

History and outdoor beauty combine at the Little River Trail. The entire length of the trail hugs a river of the same name, with a slow elevation gain making it an easy climb.

Mount Sterling, looking south from the Mount Cammerer lookout: By Brian Stansberry via Wikimedia Commons

Mt. Cammerer

  • Trail Location – Cosby
  • Distance – 12 miles round trip
  • Difficulty – Strenuous

If you’re up for a challenge, the 12-mile round trip hike to the summit of Mt. Cammerer is among the fantastic fall hikes in the Smoky Mountains. The summit offers exceptional views of peaks and valleys; some say they’re the best in the National Park.

Mountain ridges glow with autumn color, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Mt. LeConte

  • Trail Location – Newfound Gap Road
  • Distance – 11 miles round trip
  • Difficulty – Strenuous

Mt. LeConte rises 6,593 feet, making it the third-highest peak in the Great Smoky Mountains. The reward at the top is endless views. In addition, the hike can be combined with Alum Cave so you get two experiences in one.

path going through a forest of autumn fall trees with yellow and orange leaves

Hiking trails don't get any prettier than this!

Old Settlers Trail

  • Trail Location – Greenbrier
  • Distance – 17 miles one way
  • Difficulty – Moderate

Old homesteads and a diverse collection of flora and fauna make the Old Settlers Trail a unique fall hike.

An old homestead on Porters Creek Trail: Robyn Barbee Malone/Facebook

Porters Creek Trail

  • Trail Location – Greenbrier
  • Distance – 4 miles round trip
  • Difficulty – Moderate

A variety of scenery, including historic sites, waterfalls, and a meandering stream, create an easy yet rewarding Smoky Mountain hike.

Even driving to the best hikes in the Smoky Mountains is beautiful.

Sugarland Mountain Trail

  • Trail Location – Clingmans Dome Road
  • Distance – 7 miles round trip
  • Difficulty – Moderate

The Sugarland Mountain Trail follows the ridge between Clingmans Dome and Little River Road. Peaceful and pristine, the forest here features a wonderful walk through the bright leaves of fall.

The Mountains are Calling

Get outside this autumn and see the splendor of Mother Nature. The entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is just minutes away from Gatlinburg, so you can easily access the best fall hikes in the Smoky Mountains.

Be sure to headquarter yourself in Gatlinburg, Tennessee for easy access to all trails. Glenstone Lodge, Old Creek Lodge, and Bearskin Lodge on the River are a few nearby lodging options.

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