The Best Cherokee NC Hiking Trails

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Cherokee, NC hiking trails are some of the best and most beautiful trails you can hike. In fact, the trails are one of the best things about living near Cherokee and the Great Smoky Mountains.

Located in the southernmost tip of the Great Smoky Mountains, you won’t be hard-pressed to find spectacular views and great outdoor activity options.

With views of both the Great Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Southern Appalachians, everywhere you look is a memorable view.

There are so many hiking trail options in Cherokee, so many beautiful waterfalls, and mountaintop views. I put together a list of some awesome and popular hiking destinations for you to check out. 

Here, you will find easy, moderate, and hard hiking trails. Then, you can enjoy a list of more great places to explore in the Smoky Mountain National Park.

Easy Hiking Trails

Mingo Falls Trail

This 0.3 mile out and back short walk near Cherokee, North Carolina is one of the best places for kids and dogs.

Mingo Falls Trail is considered a moderately challenging route, but it only takes an average of 10 minutes to complete.

This is a very popular area for hiking and running, so you’ll likely run into other people and other dogs so make sure yours are on a leash. The best times to visit this trail are March through November. 

Oconaluftee River Trail

3.1 miles out and back, this trail is considered easy and takes about an hour to complete according to other hikers. This is a very popular area for hiking, road biking, running, and dog walking. The trail is open year-round and is beautiful to visit anytime. 

Kephart Shelter Via Kephart Prong Trail

Most people consider this an easy trail. It’s a 3.9 mile out and back trail that is said to take an average of 1 hour 59 minutes to complete. This trail is very popular and open year-round. It’s beautiful to visit any time of year. Keep in mind that dogs aren’t allowed on this trail.

Bradley Fork Trail

This trail is an 8.3 mile out and back hike and, despite its length, it’s considered an easy trail. It takes hikers an average of 3 hours and 5 minutes to complete. You’ll hike alongside a beautiful mountain stream for most of the hike. This trail is also used for horseback riding and dogs are not allowed. 

Soco Falls Trail

This 0.2 mile loop trail takes around 7 to 10 minutes to complete. While it’s rated as easy by most hikers because it’s a short trail, it can actually be a little challenging.

The trail takes a bit of a steep route down to the falls. It’s not a leisurely 0.2 mile walk. There are even ropes to assist hikers. It’s a short hike though, so can be managed by most people and older or more experienced kids. The parking area can get crowded on weekends so plan for that ahead of time.

Moderate Hiking Trails

Smokemont Loop Trail

This loop trail is 5.9 miles and is considered moderately challenging. Hikers have reported that it takes an average of 3 hours to complete. This is a popular trail for camping, hiking, and horseback riding, but dogs aren’t allowed.

The flat parts of the trail are the most scenic. Once you head uphill you’ll be surrounded by forest and maybe see some wildlife. This one is open year-round.

Flat Creek Trail

Set aside about 2 hours and 30 minutes for this 5.1-mile out-and-back trail.

Flat Creek Trail is generally considered a moderately challenging route. Another popular trail for camping, hiking and running, but no dogs are allowed.

Even though it’s popular, most hikers say you hardly ever see other people on the trail. It’s open year-round and can get pretty muddy after rain. 

Chattooga Gorge Trail

3.4 miles out and back, this neat trail has both moderate and more intensely difficult sections.

On average, hikers complete this trail in an hour and a half. Depending on the season there may be wet areas you’ll have to cross. This trail tends to be a little rougher and not necessarily recommended for children. But if you’re kids are more experienced hikers, they’ll be fine.

Your leashed dogs are welcome on this trail, and you might see a campsite or two along the way. 

Andrews Bald Trail

This trail has lots of stairs and elevation gain, but the view of the high peaks at the top is worth it. It’s a 3.6 mile out-and-back trail that’s considered moderately challenging.

Give yourself at least 2 hours to complete this trail. There are a lot of rocks so be careful of uneven footing making it a tough hike for kids. No dogs are allowed on this trail.

Mingus Creek Trail

This 5.9 mile hike takes around 3 and a half hours to complete. You’ll cross some creeks on this trail and if you like water the view is great.

Mingus Creek Trail is open year-round and it’s not a super busy trail so you’re not likely to show up on a crowded day. Dogs are not allowed on this trail.

Hard Hiking Trails

Appalachian Trail, Lost Cove, and Lake Shore Loop

This longer hike is considered challenging at 11 miles long. It’s located near Fontana Dam and takes people an average of 6 hours and 14 minutes to complete.

If you want to check it out but don’t want to go the whole 11 miles, it’s still a great hike to just go a couple of miles in and turn around.

Many people use this trail for backpacking, camping, and fishing. Dogs aren’t allowed and the best time to visit is between March and November.

Noland Divide Trial

This is another long one coming in at 11.1 miles point-to-point. It’s considered challenging, but remember you can do sections of the trail at a time. Most people say it takes a typical 6 hours to complete this hike. It’s popular for all the usual backpacking, camping, and hiking, but again, no dogs are allowed here. Visit this trail between April and November. 

Appalachian Trail: Sam’s Gap to Big Bald

This is one of those scenic hikes that you won’t soon forget. It’s a day trip if you do the whole 13.6 mile out-and-back trail.

It takes hikers an average of 7 hours and 20 minutes to finish. The spectacular views at the end of the trail are panoramic and well worth the work it takes to get there. The best times to visit are March through October and leashed dogs are welcome.

Chasteen Creek Trail

This trail is a 10.4 mile out-and-back hike with some fairly strenuous hike up hill sections.

It takes the average hiker around 5 hours and 45 minutes. The best times to visit this trail are March through November. Dogs aren’t allowed on this trail.

More great places in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a beautiful place to visit and enjoy an outdoor adventure. There are tons of hiking trails and walking paths but there are plenty of other fun and family-friendly things to do there.

Picnicking

There isn’t a picnic area in the Great Smoke Mountains National Park that isn’t surrounded by beautiful views.

There are 11 different picnic areas within their park, and 6 of them are open year-round.

You can even plan ahead and rent a pavilion for a family get-together or other celebration. For a map of picnicking areas, click here

Fishing

With about 2,900 miles of streams within its boundaries, you’ll have plenty of options for fishing in this park.

A fishing license for TN or NC is required inside the park. If you are on the North Carolina side you won’t need a TN permit. For more information, click here

Cades Cove

Drive or bicycle through this beautiful 11 mile valley of Cades Cove.

If you want to see abundant wildlife, this area provides the best opportunity for that.

Usually the best way to see Cades Cove is by car, but vehicle-free access takes place each Wednesday, from May through September. On these days, you can walk or bike through.

Even though an 11 mile drive seems like it should only be around a 15 to 20 minute drive if you’re taking your time to enjoy the sides, you should actually allow two to four hours because of heavy tourist traffic. Click here for more info. 

Camping

The park offers several different camping options. If you like backpacking and camping along the trails, you can camp in what they call their backcountry camping sites.

You also have the option of front country hiking, which is close to the parking spots with running water and restrooms. Group campgrounds and horse camps are also an option. For more information, click here

Horseback Riding

Whether you’re a newbie to horseback riding or you want to bring your own horse to the park, there are plenty of options for everyone. About 550 miles of the park trails are open to horseback riding. Check out your options here.

Before you go, here are more posts you’ll enjoy:

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Cherokee NC Hiking Trails