Hikers enjoy the Smoky Mountains during all months of the year with every season offering is own special rewards. During winter, the absence of deciduous leaves opens new vistas along trails and reveals stone walls, chimneys, foundations, and other reminders of past residents. Spring provides a weekly parade of wildflowers and flowering trees. In summer, walkers can seek out cool retreats among the spruce-fir forests and balds or follow splashy mountain streams to roaring falls and cascades. Autumn hikers have crisp, dry air to sharpen their senses and a varied palette of fall colors to enjoy.
One of the most daunting tasks facing hikers is choosing a trail. Start by deciding on what you would like to see. Waterfalls? Old-growth forests? Endless views? Then decide how far you would like to hike. If you haven't hiked much recently, be conservative. Five miles roundtrip is a good maximum distance for novices.
Thinking about a multi-day backpacking trip? Reservations and permits are required for all overnight stays in the park's backcountry.
When choosing your route, check the Backcountry section of the Temporary Road and Facilities Closures page to determine if the trail you are considering is open and that there are no warnings or special notices posted for it.
Be sure to allow plenty of time to complete your hike before dark. As a rule of thumb, hikers in the Smokies travel about 1.5 miles per hour. Many people travel slower. Sunset times vary from just after 5:00 p.m. in December to almost 9:00 p.m. in June. Important hiking safety tips.
Download a copy of the park's trail map or purchase one from the Great Smoky Mountains Association which also sells a wide variety of hiking books, maps, and guides to help choose a hiking route and plan your backcountry trip. Visit the Association's online bookstore or phone (888) 898-9102. The Great Smoky Mountains Association is a nonprofit organization that supports educational and scientific programs in the park. In addition, a GeoPDF map of the park can be downloaded from the Discover Life in America website.
You may also call the Backcountry Information Office at (865) 436-1297 for information to plan your hiking or backpacking trip. The office is open daily from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time). In addition to answering your backpacking questions, the experienced backpackers in the Backcountry Information Office can provide you with tips to make your trip safe and enjoyable.
Bear pepper spray may be carried by hikers within Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the strict purpose of protection against bodily harm from aggressive wildlife. It should not be applied to people, tents, packs, other equipment or surrounding area as a repellent. Bear pepper spray is a chemical formula designed specifically to deter aggressive or attacking bears. It must be commercially manufactured and labeled as "Bear Pepper Spray" and be registered with the Environmental Protection Agency and individual states. Bear spray must contain between 1% to 2% of the active ingredients capsaicin and related capsaicinoids.
Hiking Trails of the Smokies covers all 150 official trails in the park with in-depth narratives and profile charts that show mileage, elevation change, and major stream crossings. Includes information on all backcountry campsites, shelters, regulations and permit/reservation information.
Day Hikes of the Smokies covers 34 of the best day hikes in the park, plus all of the self-guiding nature trails. Includes shaded relief maps for each hike plus accurate elevation profile charts.
Visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park's official online store for other books, maps, and guides to the park. Operated by the nonprofit Great Smoky Mountains Association, proceeds generated by purchases at the store are donated to educational, scientific, and historical projects in the park.
Did You Know?
Approximately 1,500 black bears live in the park. This equals a population density of approximately two bears per square mile. Bears can be found throughout the park, but are easiest to spot in open areas such as Cades Cove and Cataloochee Valley. More...