TRAVEL GUIDE TO BRYSON CITY AND THE GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS
THINGS TO DO IN THE SMOKIES
With More Than 800 Miles of Wilderness Trails, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a Hiker’s Paradise
With 40 percent of the national park in Swain County, many National Park trails are easily accessible from Bryson City. You’ll find a number of hiking trails in the Deep Creek area of the Park, just two miles north of town, and also off Lakeview Drive (the “Road to Nowhere”) six miles north of Bryson City. Download "Road to Nowhere Guide" PDF.
Not all our trails are inside the park. There are many trails along the shores of Fontana Lake, land owned by either the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) or the U.S. Forest Service. The multi-use trail system at Tsali, famous among mountain bikers, is but one example. Tsali is 15 miles west of Bryson City off Highway 28.
Dogs are not allowed on any National Park trails (even on a leash), but here are some pet-friendly alternative hikes.
Oconaluftee River Trail – One of two walking paths in the National Park where visitors can walk dogs and bicycle. ( The other is the Gatlinburg trail.) Pets and bicycles are prohibited on all other park trails. The trail travels 1.5 miles one-way from the Oconaluftee Visitor Center's Mountain Farm Museum to the outskirts of the city of Cherokee, NC. It is relatively flat, but does have a few small hills. The trail runs through the forest along side the Oconaluftee River and offers beautiful views of the river.
Old 288 River Park – About two miles from downtown Bryson City on Old Highway 288 (Bryson Walk).
Island Park – In downtown Bryson City. Take Everett Street to Bryson Street. Cross the bridge over to the park at the end of Bryson Street.
Recreation Park – There is a walking trail in the Recreation Park on West Deep Creek Road just outside of downtown Bryson City. Take Everett Street to Depot Street. Then take West Deep Creek Road to the Park.
Nantahala National Forest – Trails in the National Forest are pet friendly. One paved trail is the Nantahala River Bike Trail TR368. A nice flat trail that begins at the rafting launch site (Off Hwy 74, south of the NOC, turn left on Wayah Road). Park at the launch site and take the bridge across the river. The trail follows the river for about 1.5 miles.
Printable Pet Friendly Hikes and Walks
Deep Creek Loop (Trails: Deep Creek to Loop Trail to Indian Creek and Back to Deep Creek) — 4 miles, easy to moderate. The trail is fairly level except for a one-mile section that crosses the 420-foot Sunkota Ridge (Loop Trail section). The trail passes by two nice waterfalls – Toms Branch Falls and Indian Creek Falls. (Download a printable PDF map of the Deep Creek trails and waterfalls.)
Martin’s Gap Loop (Trails: Deep Creek to Martin’s Gap to Sunkota Ridge to Loop Trail to Indian Creek and back to Deep Creek) — Approximately 12 miles, easy to moderate.
Deep Creek Trail to Newfound Gap Road — 14.2 miles, easy to strenuous. For most this is a one-way hike, requiring a second vehicle at the end of the trail. Many choose to walk this trail “down” from Newfound Gap Road.
Noland Divide Trail to Beauregard Ridge — A vertical rise of 1,820 feet in 2.5 miles from the Deep Creek Campground. There are great views to the south over Deep Creek Valley and Bryson City. For the more adventurous, the Noland Divide Trail connects Deep Creek with Clingmans Dome Road. 11.2 miles one way. This too is a one-way hike for most.
Noland Creek Trail — 6 miles in and out, easy. From a parking lot near the end of the “Road to Nowhere”, Noland Creek trail is an old service road with a gentle grade. Near the three-mile mark you'll see the remnants of an old farm.
Through the tunnel at the end of the “Road to Nowhere”, there's the 3-mile Goldmine Loop Trail and the 42-mile Lakeshore Trail, which crosses Forney Creek, Hazel Creek and Eagle Creek on its way to Fontana Dam.
The Appalachian Trail stretches through Swain County from south of the Nantahala Gorge; across Fontana Dam and then follows the highest ridges of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park past Clingmans Dome and Newfound Gap on its way to Maine. You can access the trail at Wesser in the Nantahala Gorge, Fontana Dam, Newfound Gap, and at Clingmans Dome. A popular section of the trail is from Newfound Gap to Charlie’s Bunion, which passes through a spruce and fir forest with spectacular vistas. The 8-mile-round-trip walk has an elevation gain of 980 feet.
Self-Guided Nature Trails — The National Park has several self-guided nature trails in Swain County: Spruce-Fir -- 0.5 mile. It begins on Clingmans Dome Road. This walk introduces you to the conifer forests that grow only on the high peaks this far south in the eastern U.S.
Mingus Creek Trail — An in and out hike, 6 miles in length; easy to moderate with an elevation gain of 700 feet. Trail begins at the Mingus Mill parking lot just north of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. The lower two miles include Mingus Mill, remnants of CCC camp #4484, and if you take the right fork at Mile 1.25, an old road to a historic cemetery.
Smokemont — 0.75 mile. It begins at Smokemont Campground. The walk shows examples of human impact on the land, such as logging and farming; and Balsam Mountain: -- 0.75 mile. It begins at Balsam Mountain Campground. See how nature has reclaimed a once-logged northern hardwood forest.
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Hiking in the Smokys is a website providing detailed information on more than 70 trails throughout Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This site gives you access to trail descriptions and key features, pictures, trail length, difficulty ratings, trail maps, elevation profiles.
A Hiker's Journal — Sharon McCarthy recently completed her goal of hiking every mile of trails on the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in just one year. She describes the experience in her excellent online journal. Lots of photos.
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