12 Easy Hikes Near Gatlinburg: Top Scenic Trails

Gatlinburg, nestled at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains, is your gateway to adventure. The bonus is that there are lots of easy hikes near Gatlinburg! 

Its convenient location offers you the unique opportunity to blend outdoor activities with the charm of a small town. If you are looking for ways to spend a few days in the area, check out this 3-day Gatlinburg Itinerary!

Downtown Gatlinburg Strip. Stores lining both sides of the road and vehicles on the road.

These trails are perfect whether you're new to hiking or simply seeking a stroll through the Smokies. You'll find pathways that meander by clear mountain streams, wander through forests, and offer panoramic mountain views.

These hikes not only provide a reprieve from the more tourist-heavy spots but also offer a chance to spot wildlife, including black bears, breathe in the fresh mountain air, and unwind in the tranquility of the wilderness.

Choosing a hike close to Gatlinburg means you save time getting to the trailhead. After a short drive, you can be on a trail that suits your interests and fitness level.

Note: Most hiking trails don't allow dogs, so keep your furry friend at home when visiting the Smokies.

Tip: Be sure to stop at a visitor center to pick up a parking pass. You will need this if you plan to park in an area for more than 15 minutes. Information about parking tags can be found here.

A serene scene of a forested trail leading to Grotto Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains. The image captures a cascading waterfall in the background, surrounded by lush green foliage and rocky terrain, with several hikers making their way along the path.

Most Popular Easy Hikes near Gatlinburg

These easy trail options are the perfect fit when you're in Gatlinburg and looking for enjoyable, low-effort hiking experiences. Each trail offers scenic beauty with minimal challenge, making them a favorite choice for families and casual hikers.

A close-up view of Laurel Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains. The water cascades down a series of rocky steps surrounded by lush greenery, creating a serene and picturesque scene.

Laurel Falls Trail

The Laurel Falls Trail is a scenic, family-friendly hike to one of the most photographed waterfalls in the Smokies. It is also one of the most popular trails in the park.

  • Distance: 2.6 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: Easy / Moderate
  • Round-trip Length: 1.5- 2 hours
  • Elevation change: 314 feet
  • Surface: Paved
  • Trailhead: From Sugarlands Visitor Center, go toward Cades Cove on Little River Road and drive 3.5 miles. Parking areas are on both sides of the road.
  • Features:
    • Stunning waterfall
    • Family-friendly
A couple stands behind the cascading water of Grotto Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains. The waterfall flows over a rocky ledge into a small pool, with lush greenery and moss-covered rocks surrounding the area, creating a peaceful and romantic setting.

Grotto Falls Trail

The Grotto Falls Trail offers a unique hiking experience where you can walk behind the falls, making it a memorable adventure.

  • Distance: 2.6 miles round-trip
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Round-trip Length: 2-3 hours
  • Elevation gain: 585 feet
  • Surface: Packed dirt
  • Trailhead: Take the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail from Gatlinburg and park at the Trillium Gap Trailhead.
  • Features:
    • Walk behind the falls
    • Rest spots
    • Photo opportunities
A view of Cataract Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains, where water gently streams down a dark, rocky cliff surrounded by lush green foliage and tall trees. The scene captures the tranquil and natural beauty of the area.

Cataract Falls Trail

For a shorter excursion, the Cataract Falls Trail provides a peaceful walk through the forest, perfect for beginners. Bonus – it's less than 10 minutes from Downtown Gatlinburg!

  • Distance: 1.1 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Round-trip Length: 30 minutes to 1 hour
  • Elevation gain: 0 feet
  • Surface: Paved to gravel
  • Trailhead: Park at the Sugarlands Visitor Center. The trail starts near the outdoor restrooms and vending area.
  • Features:
    • Convenient trailhead near Sugarlands Visitor Center
    • Ideal for beginners
    • Serene forest setting

There are plenty of other waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains that are a bit more challenging but are worth the hike!

Family-Friendly Trails

When visiting Gatlinburg, you can enjoy a pleasant hiking experience with your family on trails that offer easy access and beautiful scenery suitable for all ages.

A peaceful forest trail in the Great Smoky Mountains, covered with a layer of fallen leaves. Tall trees with green and autumn-hued foliage line the path, creating a shaded and tranquil atmosphere.
Porters Creek Trail, Greenbrier, October 2017–Andrea Walton” by Great Smoky Mountains National Park is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

Porters Creek Trail

Porters Creek Trail is a gentle 2-mile round-trip hike. The path is well-maintained, making it an excellent option for small children. It provides a combination of historical structures and natural beauty.

The best time for this hike is in late March and April so that you can see the Smoky Mountains' famous wildflowers. Spring is one of the best seasons in the Smoky Mountains!

  • Length: 2 miles (round trip distance)
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation Gain: 699 feet
  • Surface: Old Forest Road, Forest Trail
  • Trailhead: Greenbrier Cove Area, 6 miles east of Gatlinburg
  • Features: Historic buildings, beautiful wildflowers

Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail

Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail is a favorite for families, especially those with strollers or wheelchairs. This flat, half-mile paved loop is surrounded by forest and offers educational exhibits along the way. It's a perfect way to start your trip.

  • Length: 0.5 miles (loop)
  • Difficulty: Very Easy
  • Elevation Gain: Minimal
  • Surface: Paved
  • Accessibility: Stroller-friendly, wheelchair-accessible
  • Trailhead: From Sugarlands Visitor Center, drive south on US 441 (Newfound Gap Road) for 0.4 miles, and the Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail trailhead is on the left.
hiking, trail, smoky mountains
Photo by theSOARnet on Pixabay

Fighting Creek Nature Trail

Starting at the Sugarlands Visitor Center, the Fighting Creek Nature Trail is a great option for a quiet hike. This loop takes you through a dense forest and features the historic John Ownby Cabin.

This trail gets crowded and is sometimes closed due to bear activity.

  • Distance: 1.2 miles loop
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Round trip time: 45 minutes
  • Elevation gain: 160 feet
  • Surface: Packed dirt with occasional roots and rocks
  • Trailhead: Park at the Sugarlands Visitor Center. The trail starts near the outdoor restrooms and vending area.
  • Features:
    • Historic cabin
    • Forested path
    • Quiet and serene

Quiet and Secluded Trails

In the bustling area of Gatlinburg, you can find tranquility on less traveled trails. These paths invite you with the promise of solitude and the beauty of the Smokies.

A serene creek flowing through the Great Smoky Mountains, surrounded by lush green trees and large, smooth rocks. The sunlight filters through the canopy, creating a tranquil and picturesque natural scene.

Little River Trail

Walking the Little River Trail, you'll enjoy the sounds of the flowing river and the sights of old-growth forest. This trail is perfect for those looking to immerse themselves in nature without a strenuous workout.

Since it's an out-and-back trail, turn around whenever you want to shorten the length.

  • Distance: 4.9 miles round trip (out and back)
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Surface: Old logging road
  • Features: River views, light traffic, historical remnants
  • Trailhead: Behind the Little River Trail parking area near Elkmont Campground. 

​If you enjoy wildflowers, this trail is a great option for April and May.  The Smoky Mountain fall colors in October are stunning as well.

Noah “Bud” Ogle Place Nature Trail

This self-guiding walking trail takes you through a well-preserved homestead alongside a mountain stream.

  • Distance: 0.75 miles loop
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Round trip time: 30 minutes – 1 hour
  • Elevation change: 90 feet
  • Surface: Packed dirt trail has roots and rocks
  • Trailhead: Cherokee Orchard Road – parking is just before the one-way Cherokee Orchard Loop Road starts.
  • Features:
    • Historic buildings
    • Stream
Graphic showing pages to a Free 'Boredom Buster' Ebook - Tips for Turning Long Drives into Fun, Engaging Journeys.

Accessible and Paved Trails

If you're seeking leisurely trails that are easy to navigate and offer a glimpse of Gatlinburg's natural beauty, the paved pathways of Gatlinburg Trail and Ogle Place Nature Trail are ideal choices.

Gatlinburg Trail

The Gatlinburg Trail is one of the few dog-friendly and bicycle-friendly trails within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This scenic walk offers views of the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River.

  • Distance: 1.9 miles one-way
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Round trip time: 2 hours
  • Surface: Paved Road, Concrete Sidewalk, Dirt, Gravel, Grass
  • Trailhead: Turn onto River Road from US 441 and find a parking spot. The trailhead is on the left, less than 200 feet from the intersection.
  • Features:
    • River views
    • Wildflowers
    • Historical structures

Quiet Walks

For those seeking tranquility and solitude, these quiet walks offer peaceful paths through the natural beauty of the Smokies. These trails are less crowded, providing a serene hiking experience.

The interior of a rustic, historic schoolhouse in the Great Smoky Mountains, featuring wooden desks and benches facing a large, worn chalkboard. The room is entirely constructed from wood, with sunlight streaming in and illuminating the carved messages and drawings on the chalkboard.
Little Greenbrier School” by Frank Kehren is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Metcalf Bottoms Trail

Metcalf Bottoms Trail is a short trail leading to the historic Little Greenbrier Schoolhouse. This easy walk is perfect for exploring history in a quiet setting.

  • Distance: 1.2 miles round trip
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Round trip time: 1 hour
  • Elevation gain: 100 feet
  • Surface: Dirt with large tree roots
  • Trailhead: Follow Little River Road to the Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area
  • Features:
    • Historic schoolhouse
    • Forest views
    • Peaceful surroundings
    • Nearby bathrooms, water fill station, and picnic area
    • Fishing and Swimming in the river
A once charming, rustic cabin with a stone chimney located in the Elkmont area of the Great Smoky Mountains. The cabin is nestled among tall trees and dense foliage, with sunlight filtering through the branches, creating a serene and inviting woodland scene.

Elkmont Nature Trail

The Elkmont Nature Trail offers a peaceful walk through a historic area once known for its logging community. It's a great place for solitude and reflection.

  • Distance: 0.8 mile loop
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Round trip time: 30 minutes
  • Elevation gain: 95 feet
  • Surface: Packed dirt
  • Trailhead: Little River Road, near the Elkmont Campground
  • Features:
    • Historical remnants
    • Forest views
    • Quiet atmosphere

Riverview Quiet Walk

The Riverview Quiet Walk is an easy and peaceful trail that meanders along the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River. It's an excellent spot for a quiet walk with beautiful river views.

The trail tends to get overgrown, and you might find it easier to turn back instead of taking the full loop.

  • Distance: 0.9 miles round trip loop
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Round trip time: 25 minutes
  • Elevation change: 175 feet
  • Surface: Packed dirt
  • Trailhead: Newfound Gap Road, 2 miles from the Sugarlands Visitor Center
  • Features:
    • Scenic river views
    • Tranquil atmosphere
    • Ideal for solitude

These quiet walks are perfect for those who wish to escape the crowds and enjoy the peaceful beauty of the Smokies.

A scenic hiking trail in the Great Smoky Mountains, lined with tall trees and dense green foliage. The dirt path winds gently through the forest, offering a peaceful and inviting route for hikers.

FAQ's: Easy Hikes near Gatlinburg

Which trails offer easy access to waterfalls close to Gatlinburg?

The Laurel Falls Trail is a 2.6-mile round-trip hike leading to a stunning 80-foot-high waterfall. It's paved and generally considered an easy trek suitable for most visitors.

What is the shortest hike that features scenic views in the Smoky Mountains?

The Clingmans Dome Trail is only 1.2 miles round trip. Although steep, it leads you to the highest point in the Smokies, offering panoramic views from an observation tower. There are benches along the way if you need to take a break.

Can you recommend any easy trails suitable for young children around Gatlinburg?

Cataract Falls Trail is just 0.75 miles round trip and takes you through a peaceful forest setting ending at a beautiful waterfall, making it ideal for young children.

Where can I find an easy and relaxing trail loop near Gatlinburg?

The Cades Cove Loop Road is an 11-mile one-way loop road, but you can enjoy many easy walking trails that branch off this loop, such as the Cades Cove Nature Trail, which is short and pleasant. Be sure to visit the Cades Cove Visitor Center!

Which accessible trails near Gatlinburg have the best views for minimal effort?

Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail is a 0.5-mile loop that's fully accessible and features river views, forested settings, and a variety of wildlife in their natural habitat.

A picturesque stream in the Great Smoky Mountains, flowing over and around large, smooth rocks. The surrounding forest is lush and green, with sunlight filtering through the trees, creating a peaceful and vibrant natural setting.

Final Thoughts: Easy Hikes near Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg offers an array of easy hiking trails that cater to all skill levels, making it an excellent place for beginners and families to explore the natural beauty of the Smokies.

Whether you are seeking a short trail with scenic views, a waterfall trail, or a leisurely walk through a dense forest, Gatlinburg has something for everyone.

From the tranquil pathways of the Cataract Falls Trail to the historical charm of the Porters Creek Trail, each hike promises a unique and memorable experience.

So, lace up your hiking boots, pack your camera, and get ready to discover the best easy hikes near Gatlinburg. Happy hiking!

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A promotional image featuring three pictures of hiking trails and natural scenery near Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The top-left image shows a creek flowing through a forest, the top-right image displays a rustic log cabin surrounded by autumn foliage, and the bottom image depicts a forest trail covered in fallen leaves. The text in the center reads, "12 Easy Hikes near Gatlinburg, Tennessee," with the website "anacreinthecity.com" at the bottom.
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