We’re coming up on an important day in the history of the National Park Service: its 100-year birthday! August 25, 2016 marks the centennial of the NPS, and in honor of that exciting milestone, we’re inviting you to explore everything that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has to offer.
If you haven’t already, check out our previous blogs with 50 ways to celebrate the National Park Service Centennial this year. This blog, our third installment, is all about ways to celebrate the Centennial this summer while meeting your exercise goals.
With more than 800 miles of trails, hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a great option for your getaway (and we’ll definitely list some of the most popular hikes in the area). But there are other ways to get your steps, burn extra calories, and have a great time in the mountains—like biking, horseback riding, and fishing, to name a few.
So strap on your Fitbit and get ready to enjoy the great outdoors in the Smoky Mountains this year!
- Try the 8-mile (roundtrip) hike to the picturesque stone outcrop we like to call “Charlies Bunion.”
- Hike through an old-growth hardwood forest, the narrow tunnel of Arch Rock, and finally reach the rocky outcrop known as Inspiration Point. You’ll find all this on the Alum Cave Bluffs Trail.
- Walk in the footsteps on an 1840s cattle herder by hiking to Andrews Bald.
- Join other visitors on the Chimney Tops Trail, one of the most popular trails in the park. The hike is 4 miles (roundtrip) and leads to impressive mountaintop views.
- Hike the 2.7-mile trail to Rainbow Falls, an 80-foot waterfall where you can see rainbows in the mist caused by the afternoon sun.
- Continue hiking past Rainbow Falls to the summit of Mount LeConte. (It’s 6.7 miles to the top, which means you’ll definitely hit your 10,000-step goal for the day!)
- Choose a shorter hike (2.6 miles total) to Grotto Falls, a 25-foot waterfall surrounded by an old-growth hemlock forest.
- Hike to one of the most popular destinations in the park: Laurel Falls. This 80-foot waterfall is named for the mountain laurel, which blooms along the trail and near the falls in May.
- Go biking in the park by cruising down the 11-mile Cades Cove Loop Road. Most roads in the park are open to cyclists, but this one is a favorite because of its wildlife opportunities and 19th-century homesites.
- For those who have been to Cades Cove a million times, try biking the roads in the Greenbrier or Tremont areas instead.
- Go biking on the Gatlinburg Trail, one of two walking paths in the national park that permits bicycles. This trail is relatively flat, offering picturesque views of the Little Pigeon River.
- For a little more cardio, choose the second path that permits bicycles: the Oconaluftee River Trail. This trail has a few small hills (which means more burned calories!) and cuts through the forest along the Oconaluftee River.
- If you have a valid Tennessee fishing license, then try an afternoon of fishing in the 2,900 miles of streams found within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. (Just be sure not to drop your Fitbit in the water!)
- Go trout fishing with friends in the Cataloochee Creek.
- Experience a guided trail ride on the back of a horse with Cades Cove Riding Stables, the only riding stables authorized by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
- Take an afternoon stroll through the Mountain Farm Museum in Oconaluftee.
- Walk through a peaceful mountain valley at Cataloochee, home to herds of elk, a variety of historic structures, and trout fishing.
- Discover the Noah “Bud” Ogle homestead near the start of the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.
- Venture to the Little Greenbrier Schoolhouse and the Walker Sisters Cabin near Metcalf Bottoms.
- After hiking in the park, take your Fitbit off for a while and go swimming in the Metcalf Bottoms swimming area.
- Try another popular swimming hole in the park that’s great for families: the Townsend Y Swimming Area.
- Get your heart really pumping by riding the white water along the Upper Pigeon River—where you’ll find Class III and Class IV rapids.
- Choose one of four challenging ropes courses with Rafting in the Smokies for unforgettable outdoor fun.
- Go ziplining in the Smokies—you may not get your steps, but you’ll definitely burn calories with your accelerated heart rate.
- Rent a canoe and take a casual cruise down one of several rivers in the Smoky Mountains.