Boasting a seemingly endless horizon of rugged mountain tops and great, imperial forests, it can be of little surprise that the Smoky Mountains National Park offers an almost unrivaled range of hiking opportunities.
Although experienced trekkers can challenge themselves to conquer the park’s more imposing summits, all ages, experiences, and levels of difficulty can be catered to, each route offering visitors a glimpse of the Smoky Mountains below the treeline, a world chattering with wildlife and glistening with highland freshness.
For flower-lovers, those with a passing interest in the field or simply anyone seeking astonishing natural beauty, this trail is a must. It is well-known throughout the botanical world as arguably the best spot to see flame azaleas, a striking and aptly named little flower that each spring and summer, coat the entire scene in the most dazzling shades of orange. Anyone who embarks on this journey and is lucky enough to see the expanse in full bloom will know they have played witness to a truly humbling sight.
Monte Le Conte
Without a doubt, one of the best-loved trails in the park and with very good reason. The route is littered with distinctive geological features that can captivate for hours while those willing to tackle the more challenging aspects of the route will be rewarded with a potential glimpse of falcons going about their yearly nesting ritual.
Despite the fact that this waterfall is only 20ft tall, it is by far voluminous and scenic in the park and although it will require a roundtrip in excess 5 miles to reach it, the sights, sounds and smells produced by the cascade make it more than worth the effort.
This particular route is undoubtedly most striking in winter but, owing to the less-than-ideal conditions and potential hazards that this presents, only the most experienced hikers are advised to attempt the climb. For those willing to tackle the trip, however, a truly glorious scene awaits, great overhanging icicles framing the mouth of the cave, a crystalline world lifted straight from a fairy-tale. The expedition also proves a superb vantage point from which to view The Eye of the Needle, one of the Smoky Mountains’ most distinguishing geological features.
Upon arriving at the summit, visitors will be left in no doubt as to why this spot has long been considered by many to be the most beautiful in the park, equipped with a lookout post offering 360-degree views of the smoky blue surroundings.
The route is another that is awash with wildflowers, every colour, and shape represented. The presence of streams and brooks also attracts wildlife and woodchucks, squirrels and deer all relatively common sights. In addition to the flora and fauna, however, hikers will also be able to savor the remnants of a time gone by, with cottages, barns, and wells serving as a testament to the early settlers that once called this area home.