The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most visited parks in the United States. Located in beautiful East Tennessee and North Carolina, the park is full of amazing hiking trails, beautiful waterfalls, wildlife, and so much more. There are so many things to do that it would be impossible to see it all if you only have one day in the Great Smoky Mountains.
This itinerary will help you create your perfect day in the Great Smoky Mountains. There is a mixture of driving, hiking, and relaxing, while taking in some of the best scenery in the park.
If you’re interested in spending the majority of your day hiking, check out one of these 7 Must Hike Trails In The Great Smoky Mountains.
How To Spend One Day In The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Stop # 1 : Drive The Cades Cove Loop
Cades Cove is an 11 mile, scenic loop and is the perfect spot to start your day in the park. The one-way loop will take about 2 hours to complete. It does get very crowded during the summer and fall, so starting early is the best option.
There are churches, log homes, and a grist mill along the trail. Wildlife viewing is also fantastic in Cades Cove. There are plenty of pullouts and parking available along the loop, so be sure to utilize them as needed.
This is the perfect spot to start your day in the park. It’s truly unique and shouldn’t be missed.
Stop # 2 : Hike Laurel Falls
Hiking in The Smokies is a must. Since you only have one day in the Great Smoky Mountains, I’d suggest hiking Laurel Falls. It’s a short (2.3 miles round trip), paved, relatively easy hike that the whole family can do. This hike will take 1-2 hours to complete.
The waterfall is gorgeous and provides the perfect background for some photos. It’s also a great spot to relax and have a snack.
A few other easy, nearby hiking trail options are Spruce Flats Falls (close to Cades Cove), Little River Trail (Elkmont, close to Laurel Falls trail), and Grotto Falls (Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Gatlinburg area.)
Whatever trail you chose, you’re sure to experience some of the beauty of the Smoky Mountains.
Stop # 3 : Chimneys Picnic Lunch
The Chimneys Picnic area is the perfect spot for a picnic lunch in the Great Smoky Mountains. It’s located right next to the Little Pigeon River and is very relaxing, which makes it a great spot to recharge.
After you eat, be sure to check out the river, which is a short walk from any picnic site.
Alternatively, you could make the drive to Gatlinburg for lunch at one of the many great restaurants in town.
Stop # 4 : Mountain Views At Clingmans Dome
Clingmans Dome is the best option to take in the breathtaking mountain views if you only have one day in the Great Smoky Mountains. The hike is only half a mile to the summit on a steep, paved trail. It’s rated as a moderate hike because of the incline. The views at the summit observation tower are some of the best in the park.
However you decide to spend your day, you’re sure to have a memorable day in one of the most beautiful parks in the United States.