With the stunning mountain views and incredible wildlife, one of the most popular outdoor activities in the Smoky Mountains is hiking — and the changing leaves of September and October make fall the perfect season to go. There are around 80 different scenic trails in the Smoky Mountains, but here are three of our favorite hikes, from moderate to strenuous, to try this fall:
- Andrews Bald
Andrews Bald is a beautiful and moderate trail that begins at Clingmans Dome. After a 1.8 mile hike, you’ll arrive at an open, grassy meadow and breathtaking views of Fontana Lake and the southern Smokies. As the highest bald in the Smokies, Andrews Bald is the perfect place for a picnic and to watch the leaves change.
- The Jump Off
This 6.5-mile roundtrip hike provides beautiful scenery and a little more privacy than other hikes. You’ll enjoy the incredible views of Mount LeConte, Myrtle Point, and more, all within a secluded, relaxing setting. If you’re feeling great, hikers do have the option of trekking on up to Charlies Bunion on the return trip. This longer detour is a more strenuous hike, but it offers amazing views of Mount Kephart and Mount Guyot.
- Mount LeConte
The most strenuous hike on the list is Mount LeConte. The 11-mile roundtrip hike (more or less, depending on which trail you take) is the third-highest peak in the Smoky Mountains. It’ll take an entire day to go up and then back down the mountain — however, Mount LeConte offers a lodge for overnight guests (just make sure you have a reservation ahead of time). At the top of the mountain, you’ll find historic log cabins that can accommodate up to 50 people per night, as well as a dining hall that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Due to the high elevation of the lodge, there is no electricity — instead, each cabin is lit by kerosene lamps and heated by propane heaters. There is also no cell phone service — a “feature” that can be quite relaxing for those who really need to get away! From the lodge, you’ll be able to walk to Myrtle’s Point for 360-degree views of the Smoky Mountains or to Cliff Top for stunning sunset views. Can’t get a reservation at the Mount LeConte Lodge? Apply for a backcountry permit to reserve a spot in the nearby Mount LeConte Shelter.
There is no doubt that the Smoky Mountains are the best place to be during the fall months. These three hikes, as well as the many other trails in the Smokies, are a great way to get the most out of fall. Put ‘hiking in the Smokies’ on your bucket list this season!