Climbing & Hiking Trails - 13 min read

15 Best Hiking Trails in Tennessee (with Beautiful Waterfalls!)

Nicole Abbott

Nicole Abbott, Updated September 26, 2022

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If you’re looking for trails that have amazing waterfalls and scenic views, Tennessee has many things to offer and so much more! Many of our listed trails will give you gorgeous views of the Great Smoky Mountains and waterfalls to cool off on a hot day. You’ll be able to choose from easy to strenuous hikes, and even those that are dog and family-friendly. Here are our top fifteen trails that you’ll want to visit in Tennessee.

**Keep in mind: Before visiting any trail, it’s important to check the weather, if there are any parking fees, and if your selected trail is pet-friendly. As with any hiking trip, make sure you take plenty of precautions based on the environment and bring a good pair of hiking boots, plenty of water, and snacks.

Best Scenic Hikes in Tennessee

1. Twin Arches Trail

Credit: Anthony Heflin

Twin arches trail is a moderate hike that is great for the whole family. If you have kids of age who can walk, this would be a great exercise for them. If you need to bring a stroller along, we recommend opting for a different trail as this one has many staircases along the way. This trail has one of the most impressive rock arches in Tennessee that you’ll ever see.

The North arch clears about fifty-one feet, spans about ninety-three feet, and has a deck about sixty-two feet high. The south arch clears about seventy feet, spans about one hundred and thirty-five feet, and has a deck of one hundred and three feet high. On your hike, you’ll be able to view some of the rock shelters that were used by Native Americans and miners.

Based on reviews, visitors recommend going counterclockwise if you want the optimal hiking experience. They’ve raved about the breathtaking landscapes and the other wonders of nature. The trail is well-marked, easy to find, and without a parking fee.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 4.8 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 797 Feet

2. West Overlook Trail

Credit: William Silver

This difficult hiking trail is about four miles long and begins left at the Trailhead Junction. From here you will go up the west side of the mountain to West Overlook. Even with its difficult challenge, it is a short hike that is very rewarding in the end. Once you reach the end of West Overlook, you will get a glimpse of the Cumberland Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains.

Based on reviews, this trail has parts that are quite steep towards the top and many parts having to go over rocks. The trails aren’t very well-marked, so make sure you’re paying attention to trees and any markers you come across. Even though dogs are allowed, we recommend keeping them home due to the difficulty of this hike.

Difficulty: Difficult
Distance: 4 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 721 Feet 

Related Read: Best Time To Visit Tennessee

3. Edward’s Point Trail

Credit: Jason Reeve

If you’re looking for a moderate hike with quite a bit of incline, this is the perfect hiking trail for you. Hiking to Edward’s Point you will come across a downstream bridge that crosses Middle Creek. On your hike, you’ll notice the trail start to descend before you reach the top of its plateau. Once the plateau is reached, you’ll be able to experience nothing but flat trails.

Based on reviews, visitors seem to love the number of inclines on this hike. They’ve raved about the beautiful views, waterfalls, and the fact that it’s not overly crowded. This hike is dog-friendly as long as they are leashed.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 3.8 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 764 Feet

4. Alum Cave Trail

Credit: Theron Stripling III

If you’re looking for one of the most-challenging bikes, you’ll want to check out Alum Cave trail. It is the most well-known trail and route to Mount LeConte. Here you’ll find a dirt-packed trail with a lot of plants and trees. Due to its difficulty, it’s not very family-friendly so you’ll want to leave small children at home. You’ll find that this is one most iconic hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains.

If you think you’re up for the challenge of completing the entire hike, just make sure you’re very prepared for it. The hike can be very strenuous, especially for those who are not used to hiking. If you’re a beginner hiker, we recommend only doing half of the trail to start. Based on reviews, visitors’ favorite part of this hike are the views.

Tip: Make sure you take plenty of water, take your time, bring the right shoes/boots, and bring plenty of snacks along.

Difficulty: Difficult
Distance: 11 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 3,061 Feet

Related Read: 60 BEST Things To Do Memphis, TN

5. Grotto Falls Trail

Credit: PT Hamilton

A round trip hike through Grotto Falls will take you about two-point six miles and about two to three hours to complete. Throughout your hike, you will get to experience breathtaking nature and scenic landscapes. This Grotto Falls trail also has many streams you will go across so make sure you bring a good pair of hiking shoes. Also on your hike, you will get to experience the twenty-five-foot waterfall.

Before leaving on this hike, make sure you have a decent pair of hiking shoes for water and unpaved trails. Even though this hike is a bit strenuous, it is worth it! Based on reviews, visitors give this hike a five-star rating of its nature to well-maintained trails.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 2.6 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 544 Feet

6. Chimney Tops Trail

Credit: Gabriel Quiles

Chimney Tops trail is a strenuous hike that is not for the weak of heart. If you’re a beginner hiker, you may want to opt for an easier trail before you take this one on. When hiking Chimney Tops trail you can expect a steep hike, but once you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful view of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Even though this trail is only two miles, not all hikers end up completing it. The first half of the trail is simple, but the second half is a nine hundred and sixty-foot elevation climb to the top. Some things you should bring on this hike are rain gear, water, extra clothes, a map, food, a flashlight, matches, and a whistle just in case you get lost.

Based on reviews, visitors say this trail is beautiful and well-maintained. There are a lot of stairs, but the views are worth it in the end.

Difficulty: Difficult
Distance: 2 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 960 Feet

Related Read: 20 Top Treehouse Rentals in Gatlinburg, Tennessee

7. Rainbow Falls Trail

Credit: Theron Stripling III

Rainbow Falls trail is one of the many trails in Tennessee that lead to Mount LeConte. While on your hike, you’ll come across a waterfall located almost three miles in. If you’re planning a quick hike, count this one out. This trail takes anywhere from three to five hours to hike. It’s one of the most scenic trails located among the Great Smoky Mountains.

If you’re planning a family hike, you may want to leave small children at home as it’s not recommended to bring them in difficult conditions. The trail can often be uneven so make sure you bring a good set of hiking boots. Shoes without good treads will not work for this hike. Based on reviews, this is a great hike for more experienced hikers.

Tip: It is recommended that you DO NOT climb the rocks near the waterfall as they could become slippery and algae-covered. Serious injuries may occur.

Difficulty: Difficult
Distance: 5.1 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 1,167 Feet

8. Abrams Falls Trail

Credit: Theron Stripling III

Due to different areas with ascends and descends, Abram’s Falls trail is considered a moderate hike. Throughout your hike, you’ll see many scenic locations. The trail is well-maintained and very easy to follow. Along the way, you may encounter wildlife such as deer, foxes, and bears.

Abram’s Falls trail also comes with a waterfall, but don’t think you’ll be taking a dip anytime soon. The waterfall creates a strong current from the rush and could create a strong undertow. Before your hike, make sure you come prepared with a good pair of hiking boots with support. The trail can become rocky which gives it it’s moderate rating.

Based on reviews, visitors love the alteration of slopes. If you wanted a hike with a little crowd, this is the one for you.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 5.5 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 629 Feet

9. Porters Creek Trail

Credit: Timothy L Barnes

Porter’s Creek trail is a great family-friendly trail. If you’re hiking during the spring, you’ll be able to see some of the best wildlife the Great Smoky Mountains have to offer. After you have completed your hike, you’ll come to Fern Branch Falls, which is forty feet tall. This is the perfect rest stop to rehydrate and fuel up before hiking back, especially if you have children.

Also during your hike, you’ll be able to view some of its gorgeous scenery. You’ll see gravel roads, a canopy of trees, streams, of rock-covered moss. You’ll also get to see some historical buildings from settlers in the 1900s. Based on reviews, visitors say this is a well-maintained trail and very clean. It has restrooms available, a campsite, and ample parking.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 7 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 1,412 Feet

10. Machine Falls Loop Trail

Credit: JacobLoyacano

The Machine Falls Loop Trail is a gorgeous hike located one hour from Nashville. Due to its short, deep descent, it’s rated as a moderately challenging hike. If you’re going during the springtime, make sure to hike during April so you get a full experience of the wildflower. Machine Falls is included in the Short Spring Nature Area.

Since the waterfall is the main attraction, don’t worry about trying to find it, these trails are very well-marked. If you’re planning a trip, we recommend visiting on a weekday as the parking lot can become crowded on the weekend. Make sure you come well-prepared and wear waterproof boots.

Based on reviews, this is a great hike, even for kids to enjoy. The trails are smooth and easy to follow even for beginner hikers. Visitors love to go swimming at the falls of this location.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 4.07 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 732 Feet

Related Read: 42 Things to Do in Nashville

11. Middle Prong Trail

Credit: Paul Massie Photography

When you begin your hike, you’ll begin at a footbridge where you’ll hear water flowing, see a graveled trail, and many trees. You’ll want to make sure you bring a good pair of hiking boots as you’ll come across exposed roots and rocks that may make your hike a bit more of a challenge.

Don’t plan on bringing your pets. Dogs are not allowed on this trail so you’ll have to look for different options if you can’t leave your furry friend at home. In the spring, this trail is great for viewing wildflowers and you’ll even see Great Blue Herons along the creek hunting for food.

Based on reviews, visitors have recommended bringing a pair of water shoes and a swimsuit for the waterfall. The waterfall is easy to miss so you want to make sure you have proper directions before beginning your hike.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance:  8 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 1,100 Feet

12. Tri-State Peak Trail

Credit: Jimmy Emerson

Tri-State Peak trail is a moderate trail that has a gravel path and dirt trail and is located in Cumberland Gap National Park. The parking is fairly small holding only about twenty cars, so if you want to hike this trail we recommend going on a weekday to avoid over-crowding. If you’re starting from the parking lot area, this hike should take you about an hour to complete.

Once you have reached the Tri-State Peak area, you’ll be able to see Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia. This trail also offers a lot of Civil War history. So if you’re a history fanatic, you’ll want to make this a trail to check out. Based on reviews, this trail is quick to hike and well-maintained, and they’ve even recommended checking out the waterfall.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 2.5 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 659 Feet

13. Andrews Bald Trail

Credit: Kelly VanDellen

This moderately challenging hike will give a beautiful view of the Great Smoky Mountains. It is great for experienced hiking families and should take around three hours to complete. With its rocky trails, this trail could become somewhat strenuous if you’re an inexperienced hiker. Here you’ll run into staircases and diverse walkways.

For the best hiking experience, it is recommended to visit this trail from June to the beginning of July. Avoid hiking on rainy days as the trails and staircases may become slippery. Get to the trail before sunrise to make sure you get a parking spot, as this area can become crowded. Based on reviews, visitors have said this trail is well-maintained and has gorgeous views that are well worth the hike.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 3.6 Miles Roundtrip
Total Elevation Gain:

14. Backbone Rock

Credit: Mike Stephens

The Backbone Rock trail in Tennessee is a moderately challenging hike that takes about three hours to complete. Throughout your hike, you’ll hike up many steps to get to the top of Backbone Rock. You’ll want to make sure you’re paying extra attention as the spur route has a deep dropout with no available railings.

When you arrive, there is a two-dollar fee to use the parking and picnic areas. The best time to visit this trail is from March to October. This trail is dog-friendly as long as they are leashed. Based on reviews, this trail has a lot of steps to conquer. If you plan on bringing children, the heights could be a little intimidating for them.

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 4.6 Miles Roundtrip
Total Elevation Gain: 1,150 Feet

15. Fighting Creek Trail

Credit: Jordan Kercheff

This easy hike along the Fighting Creek trail can take you around forty-five minutes and can come a bit crowded with visitors. Right before your hike, you’ll pass restrooms at Sugarlands Visitor Center. If you’re a beginner hiker, this trail is right down your alley, as it has packed dirt and almost flat trails. Along the way, you may come across black bears, otters, deer, elk, and butterflies.

This hike comes highly recommended for families with small children who are looking for easy exercise. Based on reviews, visitors love this trail but seem a little disappointed with how close it is to the road, as it can become noisy. Families have raved about how it is the perfect place for their kiddos to explore cabins, fallen trees, and even certain places with water.

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1.4 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 124 Feet

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