17 Lesser-Known Trails & Hidden Gems of the Great Smoky Mountains

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Are you ready to discover the Great Smoky Mountains' best-kept secrets? This guide reveals 17 must-see hidden gems that deserve a spot on your bucket list.

From secluded waterfalls and stunning overlooks to remote hiking trails winding through old-growth forests, these off-the-beaten-path treasures showcase the Smokies' wild beauty at its finest.

Pack your sense of adventure and get ready to be wowed — these jaw-dropping natural wonders are bound to create memories that'll last a lifetime.

1. Curry Mountain Trail

The Curry Mountain Trail offers a moderate to challenging experience through the lush landscapes of the Smoky Mountains. Stretching over 6 miles, this trail connects with the Meigs Mountain Trail.

Here, you can enjoy the occasional wildlife sighting and the dense forest's solitude. Remember to carry water and be prepared for variable weather conditions.

2. Panther Creek Trail

Panther Creek Trail, just 2.3 miles up the Middle Prong Trail, is another lowkey destination for both hikers and backpackers looking for a moderately difficult trek.

Spanning approximately 7 miles, this trail boasts beautiful waterfalls and ample opportunities for camping along the creek. Hikers should be aware of potential stream crossings and the need for proper footwear, as the trail can also be muddy.

3. Goshen Prong Trail

Goshen Prong Trail is ideal for those seeking a longer, more strenuous hike. At about 8 miles one way, it leads to the stunning backcountry of the Smokies.

The trail is known for its beautiful wildflowers in spring and early summer. You can learn more about the other wildflower spots within Great Smoky Mountains National Park here: 10 Lesser-Known Wildflower Spots in the Smokies For Floral Finds.

Given its length and the potential for sudden weather changes, start early, carry plenty of water, and be prepared with appropriate gear.

4. Caldwell Fork Trail

The Caldwell Fork Trail, approximately 11 miles long, is a loop trail that offers a mix of natural beauty, including streams, old-growth forests, and historical sites like old homesteads.

This trail is moderately difficult and is excellent for those interested in both nature and history. Horseback riding is also permitted, so be mindful of sharing the trail. Due to its length, starting early and packing enough supplies are recommended.

5. Lynn Camp Prong Trail

The Lynn Camp Prong Trail is relatively short, at about 1.5 miles, but it's perfect for a family outing or those looking for a less strenuous adventure. The trailhead starts at the Tremont area and leads to the enchanting Lynn Camp Prong Cascades.

The trail is well-maintained, making it accessible for most visitors. It's also an excellent spot for photography, especially in the fall.

You can check out other great national park locations for outdoor photography here: 9 Most Scenic U.S. National Parks for Stunning Photography.

6. Lumber Ridge Trail

The Lumber Ridge Trail, a moderately challenging hike, spans about 4 miles and offers serene views of the surrounding forest and glimpses of the Smokies beyond.

This trail is ideal for those seeking solitude and a moderate workout, as it features elevation changes that can be quite rewarding. Hikers are advised to bring water and snacks and to be on the lookout for wildlife.

Lumber Ridge connects with other trails for those interested in extending their hike, providing opportunities for a longer adventure.

7. Snake Den Ridge Trail

Starting from the Cosby Campground, the Snake Den Ridge Trail climbs approximately 5.3 miles to its junction with the Appalachian Trail.

This strenuous hike rewards adventurers with stunning views and a diverse range of flora and fauna, particularly in the spring and early summer when wildflowers are in bloom.

Due to its elevation gain and challenging terrain, be well-prepared with proper hiking boots, water, and snacks. Checking the weather before heading out is also crucial, as conditions can change rapidly.

8. Bullhead Trail

The Bullhead Trail is a less traveled path that offers a peaceful alternative to the more popular routes up Mt. LeConte. Approximately 7 miles long, it features remarkable views, especially during the fall when the foliage is changing colors.

The trail is considered strenuous, with a significant elevation gain that requires good physical condition. Hikers can enjoy the solitude and natural beauty, with occasional wildlife sightings.

9. Brushy Mountain Trail

Brushy Mountain Trail, an approximately 6.8-mile trail, is a demanding yet rewarding hike that leads to Brushy Mountain's summit, providing panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

It's a fantastic option for experienced hikers seeking a challenge. The trail can be accessed from Trillium Gap Trail and involves a steep ascent.

You are encouraged to start early, wear appropriate hiking gear, and be prepared for varying weather conditions, especially at higher elevations.

10. Turkeypen Ridge Trail

Turkeypen Ridge Trail offers a moderate hike of about 3.5 miles through beautiful wooded areas and past streams, making it perfect for a day hike. The trail's relatively gentle terrain makes it accessible to a wide range of hikers, including families.

However, hikers should still come prepared with water, comfortable footwear, and snacks. The trail also allows for bird watching and wildlife observation.

11. Cane Creek Trail

The Cane Creek Trail is a lesser-known path that offers a peaceful hiking experience along its 5-mile length. This trail is perfect for those looking to escape the crowds and quietly immerse themselves in nature.

The hike is moderate, with some sections requiring careful navigation around roots and rocks. The trail winds along Cane Creek, providing picturesque views and opportunities for spotting wildlife.

12. Mannis Branch Falls

Mannis Branch Falls is a stunning natural feature accessible via a relatively easy hike, making it a perfect destination for families and those looking for a less strenuous outdoor experience.

The falls are best visited after rainfall when they are most impressive. The path to the falls is well-marked, but visitors should wear appropriate footwear as the trail can become slippery.

13. Huskey Branch Falls

Green Moss Around Husky Branch Falls in the Smokies

Just along the Middle Prong Trail, Huskey Branch Falls is a charming cascade that offers a refreshing stop for hikers. The trail to the falls is about 2 miles from the trailhead, providing a moderate hike.

The falls cascade over moss-covered rocks — a picturesque scene ideal for a picnic or a quiet break.

14. West Prong Falls

Rushing Water Flows Over Rocky Shoal in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, West Prong Falls

West Prong Falls is another hidden treasure and a relatively secluded spot. The falls are accessible via a short but somewhat steep path, leading to a peaceful area where the sounds of cascading water dominate the landscape.

The area around the falls is perfect for those looking to find a moment of solitude in nature. Due to its less frequent location, be sure to have a map.

15. Carlos Campbell Overlook

The Carlos Campbell Overlook provides one of the most breathtaking views of the Great Smoky Mountains, especially at sunrise or sunset.

This easily accessible overlook offers panoramic vistas of the mountains, including Mt. LeConte, and is a must-visit for photographers and nature lovers alike. No hiking is required, making it suitable for most visitors.

16. Cane Creek Twin Falls

Cane Creek Twin Falls is a small yet charming waterfall off the beaten path. The journey to the falls is an adventure in itself, requiring a hike through dense forest.

The falls are particularly striking after periods of rain, and the surrounding area is ideal for exploration and relaxation.

17. Crooked Arm Ridge Trail

Crooked Arm Ridge Trail is a 4.5-mile trek known for its wildflowers in the spring and vibrant foliage in the fall. This moderately challenging trail climbs steadily, offering views of the surrounding mountains and forests.

It's an excellent option for those looking to experience the beauty of the Smokies without venturing too far into the backcountry.

You should prepare for the elevation gain and carry sufficient water and snacks.

Before Your Trip, Consider Seasonal and Trail Conditions

Here's a quick guide on trail difficulty and seasonal conditions before heading out to the Great Smoky Mountain spots on our list.

(And if you're set to visit in the winter, make sure to save our tips: 12 Crucial Tips for Visiting the Great Smoky Mountains in Winter.)

For the most accurate and up-to-date information, including any accessibility and temporary trail closures or advisories, always check with the National Park Service or other official sources before planning your visit.

Trail Name Difficulty Rating Seasonal Access and Conditions
Curry Mountain Trail Moderate-Challenging Generally accessible year-round, but best from spring to fall. Winter conditions can make the trail more challenging due to snow and ice.
Panther Creek Trail Moderate Accessible year-round; however, stream crossings may be difficult or dangerous during periods of heavy rain. Spring and early summer offer the best waterfall views.
Goshen Prong Trail Strenuous Best from late spring to early fall. High elevation can lead to unpredictable weather, including snow in early spring and late fall.
Caldwell Fork Trail Moderate Accessible year-round. Spring brings wildflowers, while fall offers colorful foliage. Winter snows can add challenge. Historical sites are visible year-round.
Lynn Camp Prong Trail Easy Suitable for all seasons, but especially picturesque in the fall. The trail is well-maintained, making it accessible throughout the year.
Lumber Ridge Trail Moderate Best from spring to fall for wildflowers and autumn colors. Winter hikes are possible, but cold-weather gear is recommended.
Snake Den Ridge Trail Strenuous Spring through fall is ideal, with wildflowers peaking in spring and early summer. Winter weather can make the trail difficult.
Bullhead Trail Strenuous Spring to fall for the best weather conditions and fall foliage. Winter hikes are less common due to the challenging conditions.
Brushy Mountain Trail Strenuous Late spring through early fall is best for hiking to avoid snow and ice. Offers excellent views when the weather is clear.
Turkeypen Ridge Trail Moderate Year-round access, with each season offering a different experience. Winter conditions may be milder here compared to higher elevations.
Cane Creek Trail Moderate Best hiked from spring to fall to avoid the coldest temperatures. The trail may be more challenging during and after rain.
Mannis Branch Falls Easy Accessible year-round, but the falls are most impressive during and after periods of rainfall, typically in spring or after summer storms.
Huskey Branch Falls Moderate Ideal in spring and summer for wildflowers and greenery. Accessible year-round, but like other waterfalls, it is most vibrant when water flow is high.
West Prong Falls Moderate Accessible year-round, with the best time to visit being after rainfall for a more impressive waterfall. Be prepared for a steep approach.
Carlos Campbell Overlook Easy Accessible year-round, with clear days offering the best views. Sunrise and sunset are particularly spectacular.
Cane Creek Twin Falls Moderate Spring to fall for the best access and water flow. The hike can be more challenging in wet conditions.
Crooked Arm Ridge Trail Moderate Spring for wildflowers and fall for foliage are ideal. Accessible throughout the year, but prepare for elevation gain and potentially slippery conditions in wet or icy weather.

Embrace the Journey and Cherish the Memories

As you set out to explore these magnificent hidden gems scattered throughout the Great Smoky Mountains, remember to savor every moment.

Final tips: Respect the wilderness by following Leave No Trace principles, pack essential supplies like water and snacks, and always prioritize your safety by heeding trail advisories and being prepared for changing weather conditions.

We hope you find time to create your Smokies story today!

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