Hiking Tips for Beginners in the Smokies

If you’re coming to Pigeon Forge, be sure to make plans to check out America’s most visited national park, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The park has a little something for everyone—from horseback riding to fishing in the river to viewing wildlife like the American black bear, the symbol of the Smokies.

Another favorite activity in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is hiking! With more than 800 miles of trails, experienced hikers—and first-timers, too—can enjoy hiking trails of all varieties. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing time away or a thrilling mountaintop experience, you can guarantee an unforgettable time when you hit the trails of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Never been on a hike before? Or maybe it’s been a while? No problem! We’ve come up with some tips for you—to help you prepare for your big adventure in the great outdoors!

What to Wear
For those hiking in the fall or winter, be sure to wear layers. You may start off cold, but as you begin to climb the trails, your body temperature will start climbing, too. So you’ll be glad to have a T-shirt underneath that sweatshirt or jacket. But when you reach the top, you’ll likely get cold again. The higher elevations definitely make for cold and windy weather! So don’t leave your jacket behind.

For those hiking in the spring or summer, light-colored cotton T-shirts are definitely the way to go. If you tend to be a cold-natured person, you might want to bring a jacket, but even the higher altitudes will be warm in the summertime. And even though the thermostat might be high, pants are still recommended for hiking in the park simply because they protect your legs from all kinds of pesky irritants like poison ivy or thorns.

For all seasons, you want to make sure you’re wearing appropriate hiking shoes. Hiking boots are definitely the optimal choice, but at least be sure to wear something that is comfortable and that covers your feet entirely, as rocks and sticks on the ground can easily stump your toes and exposed roots can easily trip you up.

Two other important items you’ll want to wear throughout the year include hats and sunglasses. The sun will be in your face—especially when you hit those wide-open, mountaintop spaces—no matter what season it is. You’ll be glad to have the extra protection from sunburn and sun glare while you take in the gorgeous scenery.

What to Bring
Hands down, the most important item you’ll need to bring for your hike is water, and you should be prepared to take at least one water bottle per person. Some trails—like the hike to the top of Mt. LeConte—have places to refill your water bottle at the top, but don’t depend on this. Make sure to take enough water with you for everyone in your group to stay healthy and hydrated while you’re outdoors.

Other items that you might want to bring include:

  • Rain jackets or ponchos (weather can turn on a dime in the mountains!)
  • Sunscreen (if you’ll be out for a while, you’re going to need to reapply)
  • Flashlight (just in case)
  • Camera (you’re going to want to capture those amazing views!)
  • First-aid kit (band-aids, alcohol swabs, antibacterial ointment)
  • Portable snacks (dried fruit, jerky, granola, nuts)

What you need to bring really depends a lot on the kinds of hikes you’re planning on trying. If you’re looking to try to a long trail—like some of the 10-plus mile trails that will have you out all day—then items like sunscreen and snacks will be really important. But you probably won’t needs those items for a short hike (less than 3 miles) to a waterfall.

However, if you’d rather be safe than sorry, then bring along a small backpack to carry your items in. You’ll want to have your hands free while you’re hiking, no matter how long or short the trail.

Where to Go
For help planning your hiking trip in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, visit the park’s website. You’ll find all the information you need to choose the hikes that are best for your family or group and more safety tips so you can make sure your time in the park stays worry-free and full of fun!

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