800 Miles of Trails
The closest National Park trail to Cherokee is the Oconaluftee River Trail, a short 1.5 mile trail connecting the GSMNP Visitor Center with Cherokee, near the Saunooke Village area. It is not a loop, so you can begin your walk from either end of the trail. It’s an easy walk, and the only area trail where dogs and bicycles are allowed.
Next to the Oconaluftee Indian Village in Cherokee, there is a half-mile nature trail of the Cherokee Botanical Garden featuring many of the native flora of the mountains. The gardens are maintained by the Cherokee Hisotircal Association and have been open to the public since 1953. The gardens are open from mid-April through October. More info
Drive out Big Cove Road5.1 miles from Saunooke Village and take a short uphill trail to the beautiful Mingo Falls. Difficulty: moderate. 600 yards round trip.
Both the Oconaluftee River Trail and Mingo Falls are on the Cherokee map on this site.
TRAILS IN THE NATIONAL PARK
Download PDF Map of Park trails
Self-guided Nature Trails
The National Park has several self-guided nature trails in Swain County: Spruce-Fir — 0.5 mile. It begins on Clingmans Dome Road. This walk introduces you to the conifer forests that grow only on the high peaks this far south in the eastern U.S.
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The Appalachian Trail
The AT stretches through Swain County from south of the Nantahala Gorge; across Fontana Dam and then follows the highest ridges of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park past Clingmans Dome and Newfound Gap on its way to Maine. You can access the trail at Wesser in the Nantahala Gorge, Fontana Dam, Newfound Gap, and at Clingmans Dome. A popular section of the trail is from Newfound Gap to Charlie’s Bunion, which passes through a spruce and fir forest with spectacular vistas. The 8-mile-round-trip walk has an elevation gain of 980 feet.
0.75 mile. It begins at Smokemont Campground. The walk shows examples of human impact on the land, such as logging and farming; and Balsam Mountain: — 0.75 mile. It begins at Balsam Mountain Campground. See how nature has reclaimed a once-logged northern hardwood forest.
Kephart Prong Trail
The Kephart Prong Trail (‘prong’ means a bend in the river) is a four mile round trip moderate hike that crosses the Oconaluftee River six times, with narrow footbridges at each crossing. The trail itself is an old road-bed with broken and exposed pavement at the beginning of the trail, which travels through a diverse hardwood forest to a backcountry shelter.
Deep Creek Loop
(Trails: Deep Creek to Loop Trail to Indian Creek and Back to Deep Creek) — 4 miles, easy to moderate. The trail is fairly level except for a one-mile section that crosses the 420-foot Sunkota Ridge (Loop Trail section). The trail passes by two nice waterfalls – Toms Branch Falls and Indian Creek Falls.
Martin's Gap Loop
(Trails: Deep Creek to Martin’s Gap to Sunkota Ridge to Loop Trail to Indian Creek and back to Deep Creek) — Approximately 12 miles, easy to moderate.
Deep Creek to Newfound Gap Rd
14.2 miles, easy to strenuous. For most this is a one-way hike, requiring a second vehicle at the end of the trail. Many choose to walk this trail “down” from Newfound Gap Road.
Noland Divide to Beauregard Rdg
A vertical rise of 1,820 feet in 2.5 miles from the Deep Creek Campground. There are great views to the south over Deep Creek Valley and Bryson City. For the more adventurous, the Noland Divide Trail connects Deep Creek with Clingmans Dome Road. 11.2 miles one way. This too is a one-way hike for most.
Nolan Creek Trail
6 miles in and out, easy. From a parking lot near the end of the Bryson City “Road to Nowhere” (Lakeview Drive), Noland Creek trail is an old service road with a gentle grade. Near the three-mile mark you’ll see the remnants of an old farm.
The Road to Nowhere Trails
Through the tunnel at the end of the Bryson City “Road to Nowhere” (Lakeview Drive), there’s the 3-mile Goldmine Loop Trail and the 42-mile Lakeshore Trail, which crosses Forney Creek, Hazel Creek and Eagle Creek on its way to Fontana Dam.
Hiking and Walking