Trail: Oconaluftee River Trail
Type: Out and Back
Surface: Packed Dirt
Distance: 3.2 miles
Time: 1.5 hours
Difficulty: Easy
Foot Traffic: Crowded
Other Users: Dogs and Bicycles
Restrooms: Oconaluftee Visitor Center (backcountry regulations)
Highlights: Historical Buildings, Streams, Wildflowers

Oconaluftee River Trail Trailhead

The most logical place to begin hiking the Oconaluftee River Trail is at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. However, you may begin from the opposite end of the trail at Tsali Boulevard. If you choose to start at the Tsali Boulevard entrance, park in the lot near the East Band Public Transport, cross the street, and walk about a block to the trailhead.

From the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, follow the signs next to the building to begin your hike.

Oconaluftee River Trail Description

Oconaluftee River Trail | 38 Popular Day Hikes | Dogs Allowed | My Smoky Mountain Guide

IMPORTANT: You may bring your leashed dog on this trail. However, the National Park Service Pet Policy requires you to retrieve dog waste and place it in the nearest trash receptacle immediately.

The only other trail allowing dogs is Gatlinburg Trail.

Oconaluftee Visitor Center is inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park a few miles from Cherokee, North Carolina. The center is home to the Mountain Farm Museum and the trailhead for the Oconaluftee River Trail is located there.

A concrete sidewalk next to the visitor center leads to the Mountain Farm Museum and the trail. About 150 feet into the walk the sidewalk forks, go right to the trail or keep straight to go to the open-air museum. If you have time, do not miss the Mountain Farm Museum.

NOTE: Pets are NOT ALLOWED in the Mountain Farm Museum.

Shortly after turning onto the trail, the trail surface transforms into packed dirt. This well-worn trail shadows the river for the entire distance. Occasionally, park benches allow for sitting and watching the river pass by. You may even walk down to the river in places.

Oconaluftee River | Oconaluftee River Trail | 38 Popular Day Hikes | My Smoky Mountain Guide

Photo: Mike Kalasnik

At 0.7-mile into the walk, the trail passes under the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is a great place to take off your shoes and get your feet wet if you want to. The remainder of the trail continues along the river and ends at Tsali Boulevard.

Nearby Points of Interest

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a great auto or motorcycle tour. You may drive 10 miles or 100 miles on this historic road. The fall foliage along the parkway is incomparable, especially in October. Smokemont Loop Trail is a moderate hike with beautiful views.