View from Clingmans Dome in the Smoky Mountains

4 Smoky Mountain Hikes That Are Connected to the Appalachian Trail

Dec 23, 2021

The Appalachian Trail is a nearly 2,200 mile long public footpath that runs through 14 different states! The Smoky Mountains section of the trail covers almost 72 miles in both Tennessee and North Carolina. If you wanted to, it is estimated you could hike this small portion of the trail in about a week. What some people don’t realize is there are many popular destinations in the Smokies that overlap with the famous trail. Here are 4 Smoky Mountain hikes that are connected to the Appalachian Trail:

1. Charlies Bunion

Charlies Bunion Trail The hike to Charlies Bunion is right around 4 miles one way, and is a part of the Appalachian Trail. To access this amazing hike, drive to the Newfound Gap parking lot and the trailhead is just to the left of the outlook. During the hike, you will experience an elevation change of just over 1,600 feet. The trail features beautiful wildflowers during the warmer months of the year. Along the way to the main prize, the route traverses multiple different peaks, including Mount Ambler and Mount Kephart. When you reach Charlies Bunion, you will be amazed by the rare rock formation that was formed as a result of a bare-rock summit.

2. Clingmans Dome

At 6,643 feet in elevation, Clingmans Dome is the highest point of the entire Appalachian Trail. There is a parking lot area there so you don’t even have to hike to experience all the incredible views! However, if you want to enhance your experience, you can take the 1.2 mile walk out to the observation tower. It offers a spectacular 360 degree view of the Smoky Mountains that will leave you in awe. On clear days, it is estimated that you can see over 100 miles away!

3. Newfound Gap

Newfound Gap Road The Appalachian Trail crosses over Newfound Gap Road where you can access many different Smoky Mountain hikes. You can also drive along the road through what is known as the lowest pass through the Smoky Mountains. The 31-mile road encompasses a variety of different scenes, including many unique forest ecosystems. With an elevation of 5,046 feet, you will be amazed how quickly the temperature will begin to fall. Also, did you know that Newfound Gap Road is the only fully paved road in the Smokies that travels through the center of the national park? On your next vacation, you do not want to miss out on a trip to Newfound Gap!

4. Cataract Falls

Do you love waterfalls? Cataract Falls is one of the most popular waterfall hikes in the Smoky Mountains and it crosses right over the Appalachian Trail. This is a perfect hike for families because it is relatively short in distance at just 1.1 miles. The waterfall itself consists of two low-flow streams that create a beautiful 25-foot fall, which is a sight the whole family is sure to love!

Now that you know about some Smoky Mountain hikes that are connected to the Appalachian Trail, be sure to check out some of the other trails in the Smokies to explore! We hope to see you soon!