Although there are plenty of great ways to pass the time on a summer vacation in the Smokies, one of the top pastimes is hiking. Countless trails weave through the Smoky Mountains, and many of them offer shade, cooler temperatures and even a swimming hole or two at the end. Check out these five fun summer hikes worth exploring on your next trip to the Smokies.
1. Mount LeConte
One of the most popular and beautiful hikes in the Smokies is the 5.5 mile hike up to Mount LeConte. You’ll walk along Alum Cave Trail to reach the summit, which is one of the highest peaks in the entire mountain range. Because of the serious elevation at the summit, temperatures will be much cooler at the top of Mount LeConte, offering a nice reprieve on a sunny summer afternoon. Although the hike is a serious challenge, at the summit there is a lodge where you can grab a cold drink for the hike down.
2. Gregory Bald
The hike to Gregory Bald starts at Cades Cove, and it is a challenging 5.6 mile trek to reach your destination. The views from Gregory Bald are stunning at any time of year, but during the summer there is a special reward. Each June, azaleas begin to bloom at the summit of Gregory Bald. Once you’ve reached the peak, be prepared to spot a meadow full of colorful azaleas in hues like red, pink, orange and yellow. To enjoy this longer hike during the summer months, start early and tackle the uphill portion before it gets too hot.
3. Abrams Falls
Since Abrams Falls is one of the most appealing and impressive waterfalls in the park, it makes for a fantastic summer hike. In the middle of the five-mile round-trip hike, the splash from the falls is the ultimate way to cool down.
4. Porters Creek
The trail along Porter’s Creek is ideal for a hot summer day, because it winds along the water and under old-growth forest. Most of the easy, four-mile hike is shaded, and the sight of water along the ways helps to keep you cool. At approximately halfway, look out of Fern Branch Falls, a beautiful waterfall within view of the Porter’s Creek trail.
5. Alum Cave
Alum Cave is an incredible natural attraction in the heart of the Smoky Mountains, and it also serves as the focal point for some truly incredible hikes. Park at the Alum Cave Trailhead just outside of Gatlinburg for the most popular four-mile hike to the cave itself. During the summer, expect to see lots of rhododendron in full bloom near the beginning of the trail, and then prepare for the amazing Arch Rock. At the turn-around point, Alum Cave, you’ll realize that the so-called cave is actually a bluff. During the winter, icicles form on the edge of the bluff, but during the summer all you’ll need to worry about is the occasional drip of water. Alum Cave is cool and shaded, making it a perfect summer hike.
Even when the temperatures rise in the summer, the Smokies are an amazing place for hiking. These five trails represent some of the top spots to hike this summer.