Chimney Tops#10 in Best Things To Do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
One of the most popular trails in the park, Chimney Tops is one of the few mountains that has a bare rock summit and the views from the summit are spectacular. It's a short but very steep climb that requires scrambling over rocks to reach the top, so it's not for novice hikers or young children.
Hikers who visited recently noted that although climbing the pinnacles is not possible due to fire damage from 2016, the vistas from the viewing platform (which is part of the lower portion of the trail from Gatlinburg, Tennessee that is still accessible) is worth the trek. Some recommended taking a break at the scenic picnic area by the stream, located below the chimneys. Many also cautioned that the area is bear territory.
To reach the trail, drive a little more than 6 miles south of the Sugarlands Visitor Center on Newfound Gap Road. You'll spot a large parking area on the west side of the road. For updates about the trail, check the park website.
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#1 Newfound Gap Road
Also known as notches or passes, gaps are the low points in a mountain ridge. The Newfound Gap, which sits at an elevation of 5,046 feet, is the lowest drivable pass in the park. The 31-mile, scenic Newfound Gap Road – U.S. Route 441 – runs through the center of the park from the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, over the mountains and into Cherokee, North Carolina. Mile markers denote several interesting attractions along the way, including the Newfound Gap, Mingus Mill, the Oconaluftee Visitor Center and Mountain Farm Museum, and the Smokemont Campground and Nature Trail.
Recent travelers who drove along this route raved about the mountain views and photo ops, although some called the twisting mountain road "an automotive roller coaster." Many recommended the Newfound Gap visitor area for its quality facilities and access to trailheads, noting that the Appalachian Trail also crosses here. If you're visiting on a holiday weekend, prepare for crowds: some travelers said they were unable to find parking at many of the stops.
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