One of the best things about living in East Tennessee is having access to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In a short drive you can be in the middle of the most visited national park in the country. How amazing is that? When I’m in the park I feel at peace with the world. It’s a spiritual retreat for me.
If you’re interested in hiking the Smokies in the coming months it can be hard to know which trail to choose. In an effort to offer guidance I made a list of 5 of my favorite tried-and-true hikes to go on this spring. For the most part these are easy hikes so bring the family and make a day of it!
Each trail name contains a hyperlink so you can click on it to check out the full details. I arranged the trails from longest to shortest in miles.
At 8 miles round-trip Charlies Bunion clocks in as the longest and most difficult trail on my list but I would still classify this trail as “moderate”. The featured photo showcases the unbelievable panoramic views that make Charlies Bunion such a desirable hike. I have to admit that I am biased given that this trail was named for my great-grandfather. If it was up to me, everyone would hike Charlies Bunion at least once. This was taken in the early spring a few years ago and we got pelted with snow and rain on the way down. Late spring into early summer would be ideal for this hike.
Next up is Abrams Falls which is 5 miles round-trip. This is a great hike in the summer when the temperatures heat up. You’ll want to bring your swimsuit along for this moderately difficult hike. You can wade or swim once you get to the falls and you’ll be dry by the time you get back to the car. Use good judgement when you reach the falls. If it has been raining quite a bit and there is a strong current then it’s not safe to swim. Also be careful to bring shoes that transition easily from water to land.
The Alum Cave trail is also 5 miles round-trip but it stands out to me because of the different land forms you get to see on the trail. Alum Cave isn’t so much a cave as a gigantic bluff so you’re not completely closed in. The rock formations leave enough open space so that you won’t feel claustrophobic and you can enjoy the gorgeous views. Like I said, it’s a change of pace from the hikes to waterfalls and boasts a unique history as a former site for mining epsom salt in the 19th century.
The hike to Andrews Bald is only 3.6 miles round-trip and is the perfect place to take a packed lunch and have a picnic. You can find the trail head very near to Clingman’s Dome. Andrews Bald is a sprawling grassy area with views for miles. I think Andrews Bald is one of the first hikes Christopher and I ever went on together if not the first. 6 years of hikes blur together! I do remember how relaxing it was to sit down and eat lunch while simultaneously feeling the sun’s warmth and the blowing wind.
Laurel Falls is the shortest hike on my list and is only 2.6 miles round-trip. However, this trail is still considered “moderate” by the National Park Service. This trail is quick but still breathtaking. Laurel Falls is popular so you’ll want to plan your trip accordingly. It is also worth noting that you are likely to cross paths with a bear so be sure to read the recommendations of the National Park Service in the link.
~Pro tips for hiking~
- Get there as early as possible to avoid crowds and for parking.
- Bring extra water.
- Put on bug spray.
- Good hiking shoes can make all the difference in the world.
- Go at your own pace but also be courteous and let people pass.
- Do not leave any food or trash in the park.
- Do not take anything out of the park.
- Check for restroom locations on a map of the park.
- Bring a camera! You’ll want to save this memory.
- Never approach a bear cub or any bear for that matter. If you can see a cub then mama bear can see you.
I hope you get to enjoy a hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park this year. If you do, you can post pictures to the You, Me, and Tennessee Facebook page or post on Instagram with the hashtag #youmeandtennessee. Be sure to save this to Pinterest for later.
Until next time,