By Leif Palmer
Posted on February 20, 2018
Strange things are going on outside this week. That big yellow ball in the sky is shining once again, sharing its light and warmth with all us sun-starved creatures here on earth. So this week has the makings of great hiking weather. Whether you're making your first visit to the Great Smoky Mountains or you've been coming here your whole life, we hope you can find some time to get outside and hit the trail in the national park.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers more than 800 miles of hiking trails, ranging from easy nature strolls to daylong mountaintop treks. This week, we're passing along a handful of suggestions for some of the more popular hiking destinations.
• Laurel Falls – This is a good, easy introductory hike or if you have small children with you. Round trip, it's only 2.3 miles to the cascading falls and back, and the trail is actually paved, so it's stroller-friendly. You'll gain about 314 feet in elevation in reaching the 80-foot waterfall. The trailhead is located 3.8 miles west of the Sugarlands Visitor Center. There's a good bit of parking, although during peak season, you may find yourself parking on the shoulder of the road and walking to the trailhead.
If you don't want to drive, you can actually take the Gatlinburg Trolley to the trailhead parking lot, so if you're parking in downtown Gatlinburg, you could hop the trolley and head out for a hike without having to drive yourself.
• Mt. Cammerer – The trailhead is near the Cosby Campground entrance. Round trip, the hike is 11 miles, but it's still the shortest route to the top. The route intersects a network of other hiking trails and for a while runs concurrently with the Appalachian Trail. At the five-mile point, you'll reach a rugged spur trail that takes you to the top of the mountain, where you'll be rewarded with awesome views and the preserved remains of a western-style fire tower, which was built in the 1930s and used until the 1960s to help spot forest fires.
• Abrams Falls – To get to this cool waterfall, drive to the Cades Cove section of the park and follow the one-way auto loop almost five miles to the trailhead. The 2.6-mile hike to the fall itself is gently rolling and easily manageable, and at the end, you'll come across the 20-foot high fall.
About Leif Palmer
Leif Palmer loves residing in Gatlinburg. He is an avid outdoorsman: rowing for exercise on the lake, trail hiking, and free climbing rocks in the mountains. He indulges his arty side by periodically beating up pieces of marble by sculpting. He is always frustrated by his inability to sink long putts, and hates his curly hair (but his wife loves it). Leif has been known to muster enough courage to change a diaper, and hopes his son will become a chip off the old block.