Trail: Chimney Tops Trail
Type: Out & Back
Surface: Mountain Trail, Packed Dirt, Roots, Rocks, and Stone Steps
Distance: 4 miles
Time: 4 hours
Foot Traffic: Crowded
Restrooms: Sugarlands Visitor Center and Oconaluftee Visitor Center (backcountry regulations)
Highlights: Amazing Panoramic Views, Streams, Cascades, Wildflowers, Footbridges
2016 Wildfire Information
On 23 November 2016 at approximately 5:00 pm, two suspects allegedly started a fire at Chimney Tops Trail. The ensuing wildfire consumed nearly 20,000 acres of the National Park and parts of nearby Gatlinburg. Due to the destruction caused by the fire, the National Park Service closed Chimney Tops Trail.
However, the renovation of Chimney Tops Trail has been completed under the direction of the Trails Forever program, and is now reopened.
Chimney Tops Trail Trailhead
From Sugarlands Visitor Center: On Newfound Gap Road, drive 6.7 miles toward Cherokee and parking for the trailhead is on the right.
From Oconaluftee Visitor Center: On Newfound Gap Road, drive 21.9 miles toward Gatlinburg and parking for the trailhead is on the left.
Chimney Tops Trail Description
Chimney Tops Trail is one of the most popular in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is also one of the most strenuous. So what makes one of the most strenuous trails one of the most popular? That is easy; the end of the trail reveals one of the most amazing views in the entire park.
Hikers reviewing Chimney Tops on Google say things like, “absolutely breathtaking”, “wow, go climb this mountain” and “wow, man, this is a great hike!” The view is the payoff, but getting there is a challenge.
Chimney Tops Trail | Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Over the years, weather erosion took its toll on this trail. Hiking was not very safe and the amount of foot traffic damaged the environment. In 2012, Friends of the Smokies invested several years rehabbing the trail through the Trails Forever program. After the extensive trail renovation, the trail remains in good repair.
Bridge on Chimney Tops Trail | Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Chimney Tops Trail is a four-mile (RT) “out and back” with an elevation rise of 1,400 feet over two miles. The first mile is a challenging 400+ feet elevation change.
Hikers proceed along the trail and crisscross the West Prong Little Pigeon River and the Road Prong stream several times via footbridges.
However, this is nothing compared to the 960 feet climb in the second mile. The 367 stone steps placed on the trail during the renovation are helpful, but the climb is still unyielding. Prepare for this climb ahead of time.
The final 50 to 75 feet is dangerous and only the most skillful rock climbers should attempt to climb it.
The bare rock summit is a narrow rock formation with steep drop-offs on every side. Hikers should proceed at their own risk. Many people have been injured attempting this climb.
Nearby Points of Interest
The Chimneys Picnic Area and the Chimney Tops Overlook are just 1.5 miles back towards the Sugarlands Visitor Center. Clingman’s Dome is 12.6 miles in the direction of Cherokee.