The Gatlinburg Trail, which starts just outside of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in downtown Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is a great beginner’s hiking trail. Those with a lot of hiking experience would not be impressed, however novice hikers, those with small children and strollers, pet owners, and older people will discover that the Gatlinburg Trail offers a relatively easy hike with gorgeous scenery.
The Gatlinburg Trail starts near traffic light #10 on the south end of Gatlinburg, just near the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The trail is either paved or covered in gravel throughout. The terrain is also relatively flat. This makes the Gatlinburg Trail an especially great choice for parents pushing strollers. Although the Laurel Falls trail is marked as being stroller accessible, it is quite steep and very narrow in places. The Gatlinburg trail is certainly safer, and also quite a bit easier to manage when pushing a stroller. The Gatliburg Trail is also pet friendly for those who would like to bring your dog along on your hike. There is only one other trail in the park, the Oconoluftee Trail, on which pets are allowed. The Gatlinburg Trail is just 2 miles long and leads all the way to the Sugarlands Visitor Center within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Sugarlands Visitor Center is a great place for a bathroom break, drink break, and to learn more about the other amenities the park has to offer.
The Gatlinburg Trail follows along the west prong of the Little Pigeon River. The Little Pigeon is beautiful, with gentle rapids and even some miniature waterfalls. There are plenty of places where hikers can walk right up to the edge of the river to skip stones, do some wading, or just enjoy the lovely scenery. Large rocks dot the water, and gnarled trees create climbing and walking bridges across areas of the rushing river.
There are other scenic attractions along the Gatlinburg Trail as well. At one point you cross a large pedestrian bridge which leads you to the other side of the river. This is an excellent picture taking spot. There are some ruins of old homes that once stood in the area, as well as a run-down old cemetery. If you visit in the springtime, you will get to enjoy countless rhododendrons in bloom, as well as other wildflowers and flowering trees.
The downside of the Gatlinburg Trail is that there are a few “less-than-scenic” areas you must pass through. First of all, at some points the trail is right next to the road leading in to the park. The traffic noise is hardly wanted while hiking a peaceful trail. Also, the Gatlinburg Trail passes right along the maintenance center for the park. The unkempt buildings, large maintenance trucks, and generally dirty appearance of the area certainly take away from the trail’s ambiance.
Overall, the Gatlinburg Trail is a great trail to experience. If you have small children, are less-than-fit, want to bring along your beloved dog, or just want a leisurely stroll instead of a grueling hike, the Gatlinburg Trail is an excellent choice within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.