Trail: Gatlinburg Trail
Type: Point to Point
Surface: Paved Road, Concrete Sidewalk, Dirt, Gravel, Grass
Distance: 3.8 miles (RT)
Time: 2 hours
Foot Traffic: Not Crowded
Dogs: Allowed (pet policy)
Restrooms: Sugarlands Visitor Center (backcountry regulations)
Highlights: River, Historical Places, Footbridge
Gatlinburg Trail Trailhead
The Gatlinburg Trail is a point-to-point trail, which means you can begin your hike at either end of the trail. When finished, you may backtrack or have someone pick you up at the opposite end.
Gatlinburg: If you want to begin in Gatlinburg, drive to the corner of US 441 (Parkway) and River Road. Turn onto River Road and find a parking spot. The trailhead is on the left less than 200 feet from the intersection.
Sugarlands Visitor Center: Getting to the trailhead from here sounds complicated, but it is not really. Between the Sugarlands Visitor Center and the Comfort Station (the official jargon for restrooms) is a sidewalk leading to the Fighting Creek Nature Trail; take this path. At the fork, stay right and walk 0.1 mile to Park Headquarters Road. Cross this two-lane paved road and turn left onto the footpath. Walk next to the road another 0.4 miles and the trailhead will be on your right.
NOTE: If you want to take a short side trip to Cataract Falls (less than 15 minutes), turn off Park Headquarters Road onto Sugarlands Residence Road. The Cove Mountain Trail trailhead will be on your right. Double back to continue your hike on Gatlinburg Trail.
Cataract Falls | Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Gatlinburg Trail Description
Gatlinburg Trail is one of only two trails in the entire Great Smoky Mountains National Park that allows dogs. If you bring your pet, it must be on a leash no more than six feet in length. In addition, federal law mandates that “…pet excrement must be immediately collected by the pet handler and disposed of in the nearest trash receptacle”.
RELATED: Paws in the Park Pet Policy
Gatlinburg Trail is one of only four trails in the park where visitors may ride bikes. Enjoy your ride, but please be careful around pedestrians on the trail.
RELATED: Bicycling in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Gatlinburg Trail begins behind Great Smoky Mountains National Park‘s maintenance complex. Service trucks, concrete barriers, and other maintenance materials are behind a chain link fence next to numerous buildings. Yes, you are heading in the right direction; keep walking.
Just past the maintenance complex, you enter a forested area. The West Prong of the Little Pigeon River is on the right. You may hear some traffic noise from US 441, which runs parallel to the trail.
If you want to get your feet wet, several paths lead down to the water all along the trail. About 0.4 miles into your hike, you will pass under the Gatlinburg Overpass.
Farther down the path, you will come upon the remains of a cabin. The only thing left is the chimney and some rock piles.
Shortly thereafter, you pass over the river on a wooden bridge. Immediately after the bridge, the trail turns left at the Newfound Gap Road. At this point, the river is on the left.
Before you arrive at the end of the trail, a nice wooden bench is located on the left side of the trail. Relax a bit or continue on, you are almost there. The trail ends at River Road in Gatlinburg.
Nearby Points of Interest
The obvious is Gatlinburg. Less obvious may be Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail (auto tour), Fighting Creek Nature Trail (an easy hike at Sugarlands Visitor Center), and Old Sugarlands Trail. Each offers something unique.