Hiking in the Smoky Mountains is a fun outdoor adventure any time of the year. But something really special happens in autumn. A refreshing chill rolls into the mountains, bright colors begin to emerge as the leaves start to change, and the Smokies are transformed into a vibrant fall playground. It’s the perfect time of year to explore this epic slice of nature.

Take a deep breath of invigorating mountain air, marvel at cascading waterfalls, and even catch a glimpse of wildlife like elk as they enter their rutting season, and the males vie for females’ attention. With over 850 miles of trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park alone, there are plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal with the beauty of nature. Get ready to hit the trails and experience these majestic mountains with the 10 best fall hikes in the Smokies!

Andrews Bald

Right near Clingmans Dome (and its breathtaking panoramic views) is a gorgeous 3.5-mile round trip hike. Hit the trail to Andrews Bald for some of the most majestic views of Fontana Lake and the Smoky Mountains. Stroll down the Forney Ridge Trail for about 1.7 miles until you reach the outskirts of Andrews Bald, where you’ll be greeted by a stunning display of fall foliage. It’s a truly eye-popping sight with views of the Smokies that you won’t find anywhere else.

Gregory Bald

Another bald hike with incredible views of fall hues is Gregory Bald. Perched above Cades Cove, this spectacular high-elevation spot is a great place to take in the changing autumn colors and sweeping mountain views. The trail to get there – a roundtrip hike of 11.6 miles – is challenging but worth every step. You’ll pass through a mature hardwood forest packed with reds, oranges, and yellows before the trail opens up at the top to uninterrupted views of Cades Cove and the scenic Smoky Mountains.

Rich Mountain Loop

Cades Cove is certainly one of the most popular spots in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but if you want to avoid the crowds and get a different perspective of this historic area, take time for the challenging 8.5-mile Rich Mountain Loop Trail. On your way up to a maximum elevation of 3,691 feet, you’ll hike past a gorgeous meadow that’s all dressed up for autumn, surrounded by trees that are changing colors. In the midst of these autumn hues, keep an eye out for the John Oliver Cabin, one of the oldest structures in the entire park.

Laurel Falls

Before you get to Cades Cove, take a quick detour on Little River Road for a glimpse of the gorgeous Laurel Falls, which is stunning in autumn surrounded by amber-toned leaves. At 80 feet tall, this stunning waterfall is named for the mountain laurel shrub that blooms nearby in May. You’ll find the trailhead about 3.8 miles west of the Sugarlands Visitor Center, and it’s a 2.6-mile round-trip moderate hike. The upper and lower sections of the falls are divided by a walkway that crosses the stream. Enjoy the cooling mist along the walkway but stick to the path. The rocks are slick with water and algae – no wading or climbing.

Mt. Cammerer

Inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a lesser-known (which means less crowded) spot with a fire tower that is the true highlight of the hike. From Cosby Campground, you’ll take the Low Gap Trail up to the Appalachian Trail. It’s a challenging 11-mile roundtrip hike that takes you through gorgeous old-growth hardwood forests that are in full fall display. But the views at the top are worth the effort. Climb up the fire tower to soak up panoramic views of the Tennessee Valley, Little Pigeon River, and even Mt. Sterling over in North Carolina.

Alum Cave

Alum Cave’s moderate one-way 4.4-mile trail takes you through some of the most fascinating geological formations – and fall colors – in the entire Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Along the hike through a narrow tunnel underneath Arch Rock, a large concentration of black slate that formed a natural, arch-like shape over time. Next, you’ll hit Inspiration Point. At an elevation of 4,700 feet, this spot serves up stunning panoramic mountain views. Hike on to Alum Cave Bluff, which technically is not a cave. It’s a massive rock overhang that towers 75-80 feet high. Rest in its shade as you soak up the fall sights and be sure to turn around and admire the bluffs behind you!

Baskins Creek Falls

Baskins Creek Trail is a popular waterfall hike in the gorgeous Roaring Fork Motor Trail area of the Smokies. (It’s especially scenic in the fall!) This short 3-mile roundtrip trail is perfect for beginners, winding through thick forests that dazzle with autumn colors. Along the way, keep an eye out for several historic cabins like the Bud Noah Ogle Cabin. And at the end of the hike, soak up the views of a 40-foot, two-tier waterfall surrounded by fall foliage.

Middle Prong

Another great waterfall hike in the Smokies, Middle Prong Trail, boasts three major waterfalls, as well as a lot of smaller falls along the way. This 8.3-mile roundtrip hike is a moderately strenuous trek and is located in the Tremont area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In addition to the refreshing waterfalls, you’ll also find an abundance of fall foliage, plus historic artifacts from days gone by like a chimney from an old homestead and even the remains of an old Cadillac!

Meigs Creek Trail

Meigs Creek Trail starts at the Sinks Waterfall and takes you deep into the mountains where you’re surrounded by leaves with hues of oranges, reds, yellows, and browns. It’s a less-traveled and peaceful 7-mile hike that allows you to connect with nature as you cross small streams and admire several cascades. Then when you reach the end, you’re treated to the 18-foot Meigs Creek Cascades!

Ramsey Cascade

Towering 100 feet in height, Ramsey Cascades is the tallest waterfall in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and the hike to it passes through an awe-inspiring old-growth forest that is gorgeous in the fall. You’ll take the Ramsey Cascades Trail for 4 miles and gain 2,000 feet in elevation along the way. It’s an intense hike, but the trek is so worth it when you hear the rushing water as it flows over a line of glistening rocks. Don’t forget your camera!

Where to Stay After the Best Fall Hikes in the Smoky Mountains

You’ll need a place to rest up after these beautiful fall hikes. Check out our favorite places to stay in the Smokies for recommendations on cabins, chalets, classic roadside motels, and more Smoky Mountain accommodations.

Visit the Gateway to the Smokies podcast to hear about more of the breathtaking opportunities for hiking in the Smokies.