The Gatlinburg Trail is one of the most unique trails in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It’s one of only two trails that will allow both bicycles and dogs, in other words. The other trail that allows this is Oconaluftee River Trail (on the North Carolina side). So, You certainly wouldn't want to miss out on this, whether you live in Gatlinburg or you’re just visiting.
There are plenty of reasons to visit Gatlinburg: you might have a family reunion, a vacation with your friends or family, or even a wedding to attend! So while you’re there, check out the Gatlinburg Trail. It’s dog friendly and one of the nicest places you’ll find to walk.
It heads straight up to the park boundary, to the outer part of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. You can walk, run, or bike right out of Gatlinburg into the country’s most visited national park.
Being so close to Gatlinburg and a busy National Park visitor center, and knowing it’s across from Newfound Gap Road the entire way so, I wouldn’t recommend choosing the Gatlinburg Trail for solitude and silence. But if you’re wanting some outdoor activities, beautiful views of the river, and an array of multi-colored beautiful leaves in the fall all from a very convenient access point, it’s a great choice! Who knows, You might even meet other hikers and make some new friends!
The Gatlinburg Trail is just under four miles round-trip and as its against the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River so the ground is pretty level. This makes it great for peope with strollers, for seniors, and even young children ready to take the longer hikes. If you come in the springtime you’ll see a variety of trees and blooming flowers along the trail as winter fades and new life begins. Take a few hours and enjoy this scenic hike! You might even see some of the native wildlife along the trail. There's all kinds of animals near Gatlinburg such as otters, birds, deer, raccoons, snakes, rabbits and plenty more!
The trail begins in the maintenance yard by the Sugarland Visitor Center and goes along the West Prong of the Little River through thickets and second-growth hardwoods and continues to Gatlinburg but you can start at either end of the trail, with the rapids and sporadic cascades, the river is a wonderful companion keeping you company along the graveled path.
Watch for relics of old homesteads in these riverside woods like stone walls, foundations, and even old chimneys, so bring a camera!
When you’re about a half-mile in, you’ll walk beneath the Gatlinburg Bypass. Once you’ve passed this reminder of civilization, you’ll come across a sturdy, beautiful footbridge over the West Prong. Near the bridge, and at other points during the trail, there's easy access points to the river itself: which children seem to love! Continue through the bankside forest, where it’s shady and nice, till you reach the edge of Gatlinburg before you know it.
A few Tips:
- Remember! Unlike your usual Great Smoky Mountain National Park hike, you’re going to be sharing this trail with people on their bicycles. So stay alert during your hike, and please be courteous
- Remember hiker safety! Even though the trail is flat, and safe, it’s always good to let someone know where you’re going, and when you’ll be back. Of course, there will be plenty of others on the trail if you get hurt, but it’s still a smart idea to let your family and friends know if you’re going out alone.
- Don’t walk the Newfound Gap Road on your way back, it’s way too busy. Either backtrack along the Gatlinburg Trail, or arrange for transportation to pick you up.
- If you want to see something truly beautiful, and you’re up for a detour, take the quick walk to Cataract Falls, a very impressive, gorgeous tiered waterfall that's definitely something you're going to remember.
- Don’t litter! If you bring your dog, make sure you bring little baggies to clean up after them. Bring back what you brought in, and make sure this trail stays clean and gorgeous for the next set of hikers.
Directions for the Trailhead:
From Gatlinburg, Tennessee drive into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the main parkway. Once you enter the park, continue for nearly two miles to the Sugarlands Visitor Center on your right side. You can park at the visitor center and then you just walk behind where the main visitor center is to join the trail. If you have a hard time finding it, don’t be afraid to ask a Park Ranger for directions (it can be quite tricky sometimes to find!).
This nearly four mile round trip riverside stroll through the woods is right at Gatlinburg’s border and it simply can’t be compared to anything you’ve ever been on before. It’s very convenient for families, bicyclists, visitors with dogs, and runners. Take your time, enjoy it.