Fill your lungs with the woodsy, fresh mountain air of the Great Smoky Mountains and your heart with the urge to go and explore. Whether you prefer to sit and contemplate the quiet majesty of nature or go full steam and conquer a mountainside, there are plenty of activities to keep your heart and imagination engaged.
Hike your way to the top
The Smoky Mountains are host to more than 800 miles of trails with varying degrees of difficulty. If strolling is your style, try one of the many quiet walkways that take you along more gently sloping inclines.
If you’re a hiker, bring your gear and map your trail. The Smokies are full of hiking and trekking adventures. You can take a day trek or plan a multi-day backpacking tour. Plan your trip, check trails, and pinpoint campsites and other activities in advance.
Drive the mountainside
Just want to relax and see the sights? One of the best things about driving the Smokies is that traffic moves slowly. The journey, more than the destination, is the real adventure.
Whether you’re coming up or going down the mountain, the roads offer miles and miles of views. Vistas overlooking acres of trees, streams, and cascading waters all have ample parking to allow drivers to pull over and get a long drink of the mountainside.
The Smokies offer magical daytime vistas and night skies full of stars that will stay with you forever.
Take in the wild
The Smoky Mountains are full of campgrounds that provide nearly all the amenities or none at all. It’s up to you.
More rugged backpackers can hike with their gear and set up camp in the back country. This is not for the novice: Back-country hiking requires the stamina to hike for miles to primitive campsites hidden in the wilds of the mountains, far away from other campers and travelers.
Not feeling quite so rugged? You can also choose a campsite with restrooms, cold running water, and modern toilets. Front-country camping has individual fire grates and a picnic table at each campsite with the same beautiful trekking day trips through the mountains and forests.
This approach offers convenience of placement with campsites designed for you to stay near your parked car.
Horses love the mountains. The Smokies offer five drive-in camps for horse lovers. Bring your trailer and hitch and ride the horse-friendly trails by day.
Horse camps feature primitive camping with hitches. If you don’t own a horse, or don’t want to bring yours, there are four horse rental stables with mounts and guides to take you on a horse riding tour.
Cast a line
Most people don’t think of fishing when they think of the Smoky Mountains, but more than 700 angling miles of streams and rivers wind through the region. Rainbow trout, along with brown trout and brook, are frequent catches.
Cast a line and catch your dinner. Or simply catch, release, and relax surrounded by gently moving, clear mountain waters. Want faster water? Mountain slopes with good elevation and ample rainfall also lead to spectacular waterfalls.
Popular waterfalls in the Smokies include the Grotto, Laurel, Abrams, and Rainbow Falls. If you want to spend the day by a waterfall while fishing below a less populated cascade, gentler falls can be found on nearly every river and stream in the park.