January 31, 2020
by Julie Dodd
If you’re looking for a easy-to-walk trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, consider walking the Gatlinburg Trail.
The trail has the advantage that it is located on the outskirts of Gatlinburg. You won’t have to drive miles into the park to get to a trailhead or be kept from getting to the trail because of weather-related road closures in the park.
The trail is 1.9 miles one-way. You can park either at the Sugarlands Visitor Center or in a small parking area just beyond the last traffic light as you drive out of Gatlinburg into the park.
The trail is relatively flat and travels along the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River.
This is a good hike for families with small children (even children in strollers). The hike is good those who want to experience the Smokies but aren’t able to do a more strenuous hike.
The trail provides lots to see, including several old homesites and chimneys that are visible along the trail. In warm weather, you can soak your feet in the water and you can see wildflowers.
In a few places, you can hear and see traffic on the Gatlinburg Bypass or US Hwy 441. But for most of the hike, you’d think you were deep in the woods.
You could park in the parking area near Gatlinburg, walk to the Sugarlands Visitor Center, enjoy the exhibits, view a 20-minute film about the park, explore the gift shop, and then talk back to Gatlinburg for a 3.8-mile walk.
If you park at the Sugarlands Visitor Center, you will walk along Park Headquarters Road (which has little traffic) to reach the Gatlinburg Trail.
The Gatlinburg Trail is one of only two trails in the park that you can walk dogs or ride your bike. (The other trail is Oconaluftee River Trail in North Carolina.)