It finally feels like fall around here! Folks in the Smokies are getting a charge out of waking up to a chilly morning and then heading out to make the most of a crisp, sunny autumn day. If you’re going to be staying in one of our Tennessee cabin rentals in the next few weeks and are still planning your activities, you should know that days like this are made for hiking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
This week, we’re passing along a few ideas for great fall hikes in the Smokies. Honestly, any destination you choose is probably going to be a great experience, but with the recommendations below, you can maximize the sightseeing opportunities as the peak colors creep down into the lower elevations and valleys.
Alum Cave Trail
This is a tried-and-true hike in the Smokies, because it has a little bit of everything – easy going in the lower elevations, challenges toward the top, beautiful vistas, interesting geological formations and, if you go all the way to the top, you reach the peak of Mt. LeConte. At nearly 5,000 feet in elevation, this is one of the higher hikes in the Smokies, and from the summit of LeConte, you can enjoy sweeping views from Little Duck Hawk ridge in the west to Myrtle Point to the northeast. If you choose to stop at the Alum Cave bluff and head back down, your round-trip hike is only five miles. If you choose to go all the way to the top of LeConte and back, it’s closer to 11. Give yourself a full day to do the entire mountain trek.
No, we’re not suggesting you take on the whole trail (it usually takes about six months to do that), but you can enjoy one scenic stretch of it that runs near the crest of the Smokies. This moderate hike starts near Clingmans Dome and covers about seven and a half miles of the AT. It all depends on how much of the trail you want to cover in one session. But if you hit it at the right time, you’ll be rewarded with a canvass of color covering both peaks and valleys. Note, however, that the Clingmans Dome observation tower is temporarily closed for renovations.
Baskins Creek Falls
This hike is easily accessible from downtown Gatlinburg. You drive to the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and look for the signs to Baskins Creek Falls. Once you’re at the trailhead, relax and enjoy an easy three-mile round-trip excursion along the creek, which is decked out in a canopy of fall foliage and accented by a two-tier, 40-foot waterfall. One of the advantages of this trail is that you don’t have to commit to an extended drive into the national park. You can get to the entrance to RFMNT by taking Historic Nature Trail (formerly Airport Rd.) from downtown Gatlinburg and out past the Park Vista Hotel. From there, it’s just a matter of following the signage. Enjoy!