Smoky Mountains Trail

Smoky Mountains Trail © William Britten use with permission only

There are some wonderful and easy Smoky Mountains hikes at 5000 feet and above that will transport you from the dense hardwood forests of the Southeast to the balsam-scented spruce and fir forests of the Great North Woods.

You don’t need to be a back-country camper or Appalachian Trail through-hiker to find the surreal serenity of being transported to another natural zone. I’ve talked before about living in an area that features great changes in altitude, and this is another example of the changes when you go up to the top of the Smoky Mountains.

Smoky Mountains Trail

Smoky Mountains Trail © William Britten use with permission only

The easiest high-elevation hike of all might be the Spruce-Fir Nature Trail off Clingmans Dome Road. This trail, shown in the photo below, is less than a half-mile loop with most of the way on a boardwalk conveniently above the wet ground. Park the car and stroll through this musky pine-smelling world of ferns and fallen giants. Even in summer the air will be noticeably cooler than down in Gatlinburg.

I like to head to Newfound Gap and Clingmans Dome on a foggy day. At first it might seem like the weather is against you on such a day, but the fog-shrouded woods are so beautiful that it’s worth putting up with a little damp and mist. The photos above are two examples of such a day.

Parking at Newfound Gap, you can hop on the Appalachian Trail going either east or west. Both start out fairly level, and you can hike a mile or less just to experience the high-elevation terrain before turning around.  There are also some trails that depart from Clingmans Dome Road, such as Noland Divide, Fork Ridge, and Andrews Bald Trails.

Spruce-Fir Nature Trail

Spruce-Fir Nature Trail © William Britten use with permission only

Whenever you take a break from your hikes on the trails, please consider a visit to the William Britten Gallery along the Arts and Crafts Trail on Glades Rd in Gatlinburg. You’ll find my complete collection of Smoky Mountains Photos.

Along the Noland Divide Trail

Along the Noland Divide Trail © William Britten use with permission only

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  1. Todd

    Hello William! Thank you for all of the wonderful posts & images of the Smokies! I am from Northeastern Ohio and have been visiting the Smokies for over 27 years. In my tours of Gatlinburg, I have sought out artists that represent the area. Though respectful of painters, I have always been partial to photographers. I love your images and look forward to visiting your Gallery the next time I am in the area. Thanks again for all the wonderful images and insights into the area. Todd from Ohio

  2. Kristina Plaas

    Nice post Bill! I didn’t have time to explore the Spruce-fir Nature trail when I was up that way last week. Your photos have convinced me it’s a must do (and worth putting up with the construction traffic). Thanks!

  3. Karen Albritton

    You are an artist with a great eye for composition. Who needs a painter like me when you can capture images like this with a camera?

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