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Bicycling

The North Carolina side of the Smokies offers excellent cycling, and bicycles are permitted on most roads. However, you have to be selective about where you bike. Vehicular traffic on the main roads, especially Newfound Gap Road (U.S. 441), can be very heavy. Steep terrain, and curvy, narrow back roads with narrow shoulders and blind spots make biking difficult or unsafe in some areas.

Two good places for biking on (mostly) paved roads are Lakeview Drive—the so-called Road to Nowhere near Bryson City—and in Cataloochee Cove. Also, Balsam Mountain Road and Cove Creek Road offer pleasant biking with very little auto traffic. Since these roads are unpaved, with mostly gravel surfaces, you should use a mountain bike or an all-terrain hybrid. Helmets are not required by law in the park but are strongly recommended.

Mountain Biking

There are no mountain biking trails in the Smokies. On the North Carolina side only two hiking trails, the Oconaluftee River Trail, which begins near the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, and the lower Deep Creek Trail near Bryson City, formerly a road, allow bikes.

Tsali Recreation Area. Near the Smokies, the Tsali Recreation Area in the Nantahala National Forest, about 15 mi west of Bryson City, is a popular area for biking. With about 40 mi of trails with four excellent loops, it has been rated one of the top places for mountain biking in the country. Tsali Recreation Area, NC Hwy. 28 N., Nantahala National Forest, Bryson City, NC, 28713. Tsali is on a hilly peninsula reaching into Fontana Lake, at the base of the Smokies. From Bryson City, follow U.S. 19/74 to the intersection with NC 28. Follow NC 28 north about 3 mi. Look for a sign for the Tsali Recreation Area; turn right. Follow paved road to the campground and trailhead parking lot; park in the lot with the sign "Bikers park and pay here.". www.fs.usda.gov. Closed Nov.-Mar.

The Pisgah National Forest also offers many opportunities for cycling.

Bike Rentals

Nantahala Outdoor Center Bike Shop. Watch river rafters swoosh by on the Nantahala River as you get your bike tuned up or rent a bike at this friendly outfitter. Avid bikers on staff will give you tips on the best biking spots. Mountain bikes rent for around $35 to $50 a day. Off-season discounts are sometimes available. All bike rentals include a helmet and a bike rack to transport the bike on your car. During busy periods you should reserve a bike in advance by calling or visiting the website. 13077 Hwy. 19 W, Bryson City, NC, 28713. 828/785–5082. www.noc.com. Daily 11–5.

Boating

Fontana Lake and Dam. More than 29 mi long, and comprising around 12,000 acres of reservoir, Fontana Lake and Dam border the southern edge of the Great Smokies. Unlike most other lakes in the mountains, Fontana has a shoreline that is almost completely undeveloped, since about 90% of its 240 mi is owned by the federal government. Fishing here is excellent, especially for small-mouth bass, muskie, and walleye. On the downside, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) manages the lake for power generation, and at the peak visitor period in the fall the lake is drawn down, leaving large areas of mudflats. Fontana Dam, completed in 1944, at 480 feet is the highest concrete dam east of the Rockies. The dam's visitor center gets about 50,000 visitors a year. The Appalachian Trail crosses the top of the dam. Fontana Dam Visitor Center, off Rte. 28, 3 mi from Fontana Village, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC, 28733. 865/632–2101 TVA headquarters; 865/436-1200 park information line. Free. Visitor center May–Oct., daily 9–7.

Boat Rentals

Fontana Village Resort Marina. Boat rentals on Fontana Lake, including kayaks, canoes, and pontoon boats, are available at Fontana Village Marina. Pontoon fishing boat rentals are $50 an hour or $350 for a 24-hour overnight rental; canoes and two-person kayaks are $40 an hour or $100 for eight hours. There's also a $5 launch fee for boats, canoes, and kayaks. Tube rentals are $20 a day. Shuttle services across the lake to Hazel and Eagle creeks cost $70 per person roundtrip for one or two persons, less for larger groups. Lake boat tours (90-minutes) are $20 per person. Fontana Village Resort, 300 Woods Rd., off Hwy. 28 N, Fontana Dam, NC, 28733. 800/849–2258 toll-free; 828/498–2129. www.fontanavillage.com. Closed Nov.–Apr.; call for exact dates.

Fishing

The North Carolina side of the Smokies has one of the best wild trout fisheries in the East. Deep Creek, Little Cataloochee, and Hazel Creek are streams known to serious anglers all over the country. The North Carolina side has more than 1,000 miles of streams (not all contain trout), and all are open to fishing year-round, except Bear Creek at its junction with Forney Creek, and upstream from there.

Among the best trout streams on this side of the park are Big Creek, Cataloochee Creek, Palmer Creek, Raven Fork, Deep Creek, Hazel Creek, and Noland Creek. Often the best fishing is in higher-elevation streams, in areas that are more difficult to reach. Streams that are easily accessible, such as the Pigeon River, have greater fishing pressure.

Licenses

North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. You can order a North Carolina inland fishing license, valid throughout the park, by telephone or online, or buy one from fishing shops. The NC license is good throughout the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, even on the Tennessee side. A 10-day nonresident fishing license is a bargain at $10, while an annual license is $30. Licenses for NC residents cost one-half the nonresident fee. To fish for trout outside the park, you'll also need a trout stamp, which costs an extra $10 for either NC residents or non-residents. To fish in the Cherokee Reservation (Qualla Boundary) you'll need a separate permit, available at shops on the reservation. 1751 Varsity Dr., Raleigh, NC, 27606. 919/707–0010; 888/248-6834 to buy NC fishing license. . www.ncwildlife.org.

Outfitters

For backcountry fishing trips, you may want to hire a licensed guide. Full-day trips cost around $225–$300 for one angler, $300–$400 for two. Only guides approved by the National Park Service are permitted to take anglers into the backcountry.

Smoky Mountain Fly Fishing is a park-licensed guide that conducts guided fly-fishing trips in the park. All-day wade trips in the park are $225 for one, plus $75 for each additional angler up to three. Half-day wade trips are $150, plus $50 for each additional angler up to three.

Hiking

Great Smoky Mountains National Park has more than 850 miles of hiking trails, about equally divided between the North Carolina and Tennessee sides. The trails range from short nature walks to long, strenuous hikes that gain several thousand feet in elevation.

Download a copy of the trail guide from the park's website or buy a hiking guide at park stores. You can also call the park's Backcountry Information office (865/436–1297) for information to help plan your backpacking or hiking trip.

Easy

Three Waterfalls Loop. For the effort of a 2.4-mi hike, this trail will reward you with three pretty waterfalls, Tom Branch, Indian Creek, and Juney Whank. Deep Creek also has a picnic area and campground. Tubing on Deep Creek is fun, too, although it is officially discouraged by the park. Biking also is allowed in this area. Deep Creek Rd., Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC, 28713. Trailhead at end of Deep Creek Rd., near Bryson City entrance to park. 865/436-1200 park information line. www.nps.gov/grsm. Campground closed Nov.–mid-Apr.

Hazel Creek and Bone Valley. This hike begins with a boat ride across Fontana Lake. After you've crossed the lake ($70 per person roundtrip for up to two persons from Fontana Resort Marina), your boat captain will give you directions on how to get from the Fontana docking point to the trailhead, depending on where you're dropped off, as changing lake levels can make the drop-off point vary from month to month. A half-mile on the Hazel Creek Trail (known on some park maps as Lakeshore Trail) will take you to the old lumber and mining town of Proctor, which was once a booming lumber town. At about 5.1 mi, bear right onto the Jenkins Ridge Trail, which will take you to the Bone Valley Trail. Bone Valley gets its name from the herd of cattle, moved here for summer pasture in 1888, which died in a spring snowstorm. If you want to keep going, you can check out Hall Cabin at mile 7.8, or turn around and make your way back. This is an easy hike (as hikes go in the Smokies), with an elevation gain of less than 500 feet. Most of the hike is on an old road and railroad bed. However, it is a long hike, 7.8 mi one-way and nearly 16 mi round-trip, not including the boat rides. Of course, you could always do a shorter section. The Hazel Creek trailhead begins near backcountry campsite 86., Hazel Creek, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC. 828/498-2122 Fontana Marina reservations; 865/436-1200 park information line. www.nps.gov/grsm.

Moderate

Clingmans Dome Trail. If you've been driving too long and want some exercise along with unbeatable views of the Smokies and an ecological lesson, too, take the ½-mile (1-mile round-trip) trail from the Clingmans Dome parking lot to the observation tower at the top of Clingmans Dome, the highest peak in the Smokies. While paved, the trail is fairly steep, and at well over 6,000 feet elevation you'll probably be gasping for air. Many of the fir trees here are dead, killed by the alien invader, the balsam wooly adelgid, and by acid rain from power plants mostly in the Ohio Valley. There's a small visitor information station on the trail. In the parking lot, often full in-season, there are restrooms. Clingmans Dome Rd., Trail begins at Clingmans Dome parking lot, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC. 865/436–1200 park information line. www.nps.gov/grsm. Clingmans Dome Rd. is closed Dec.–Mar.

Flat Creek. This is one of the hidden gems among the park's trails. It's little known, but it's a delightful hike, especially in summer when this higher elevation means respite from stifling temperatures. The path stretches through a pretty woodland, with evergreens, birch, rhododendron, and wildflowers. The elevation gain is about 570 feet. The trail is only 2.6 mi if you use a two-car shuttle, one at the trailhead at mile 5.4 of Heintooga Ridge Road, and the other at the Heintooga picnic area; if you don't do a two-car shuttle, you'll have to walk 3.6 mi along Heintooga Ridge Road to your car, but even this is pleasant, with spruce and fir lining the road and little traffic. Flat Creek Trailhead, Heintooga Ridge Rd., MM 5.4, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC, 28719. 865/436-1200 park information line. www.nps.gov/grsm. Heintooga Ridge Rd. is closed in winter.

Kephart Prong. A 4-mi (round-trip) woodland trail wanders beside a stream to the remains of a Civilian Conservation Corps camp. Kephart Prong Trail, U.S. 441, off Newfound Gap Rd., Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC, 28719. Trailhead is 5 mi north of Smokemont Campground on U.S. 441 (Newfound Gap Rd.). 865/436-1200 park information line. www.nps.gov/grsm.

Little Cataloochee. No other hike in the Smokies offers a cultural and historic experience like this one. In the early 20th century Cataloochee Cove had the largest population of any place in the Smokies, around 1,200 people. Most of the original structures have been torn down or succumbed to the elements, but a few historic frame buildings remain, such as a log cabin near Davidson Gap at mi 2.6, an apple house at mi 3.3, and a church at mi 4, preserved by park staff. You'll see several of these, along with rock walls and other artifacts, on the Little Cataloochee Trail. The trail is 5.9 mi (one-way) including about 0.8 mi at the beginning on Pretty Hollow Gap Trail. It is best hiked with a two-car shuttle, with one vehicle at the Pretty Hollow Gap trailhead in Cataloochee Valley and the other at the Little Cataloochee trailhead at Old Highway 284 (Cove Creek Road). Including the time it takes to explore the historic buildings and cemeteries, you should allow at least six hours for this hike. The Pretty Hollow Gap trailhead is near Beech Grove School in the Cataloochee Valley. Little Cataloochee Trail, Cataloochee Valley, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC, 28785. 865/436-1200 park information line. www.nps.gov/grsm.

Smokemont Loop Trail. A 6.1-mi (round-trip) loop takes you by streams and, in spring and summer, lots of wildflowers, including trailing arbutus. The trail also passes a field with old chestnut trees killed by the chestnut blight decades ago and the old Bradley Cemetery. With access off Newfound Gap Road (U.S. 441) at Smokemont campground near Cherokee, this is an easy trail to get to. Smokemont Campground, U.S. 441, off Newfound Gap Rd., Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC, 28719z. Bradley Fork trailhead is at D section of Smokemont campground; follow Bradley Fork Trail to Smokemont Loop Trail. 865/436-1200 park information line. www.nps.gov/grsm.

Difficult

Mt. Sterling. A 5.4-mi (round-trip) hike takes you to an old fire watchtower, which you can climb. The route is steep, with an elevation gain of almost 2,000 feet, so you should consider this a strenuous, difficult hike. Mt. Sterling, Cataloochee, (Old Hwy. 284), Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC, 28785. Trailhead on Cove Creek Rd. (Old Hwy. 284), midway between Cataloochee and Big Creek Campground. 865/436–1200 park information line.

Horseback Riding

Get back to nature and away from the crowds with a horseback ride through the forest. Guided horseback rides are offered by one park concessionaire stable at Smokemont near Cherokee. Rides are at a walking pace, so they are suitable for even inexperienced riders.

Another option is to bring your own horse. Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the best places to ride in the Southeast. There are five horse camps in the Smokies, three on the North Carolina side and two in Tennessee. About 550 miles of the park's hiking trails are open to horses.

Outfitters

Smokemont Riding Stable. The emphasis here is on a family-friendly horseback riding experience, suitable even for novice riders. Choose either the 1-hour trail ride ($30) or a 2½-hour waterfall ride (usually departing daily at 9, noon, and 3, $75). There's also a four-hour ride for $120. Riders must be at least five years old and weigh no more than 225 pounds. Smokemont also offers wagon rides ($10). Check with the stable for dates and times. 135 Smokemont Riding Stable Rd., off US Hwy. 441 near MM 27.2, Cherokee, NC, 28719. 828/497–2373. www.smokemontridingstable.com. Late Mar.–early Nov. Closed mid-Nov.–early Mar.

Skiing

It doesn't snow much at the lower elevations of the Smokies, but in winter the higher elevations of the park frequently get heavy snow. Newfound Gap, at nearly a mile high, gets almost 5 feet of snow in the average year. You can check on the amount of snow on the ground at the higher elevations by visiting the park's Web cam at Purchase Knob, on the North Carolina side at about 5,000 feet (www.nature.nps.gov/air/webcams/parks/grsmpkcam/grsmpkcam.cfm). Some roads, including Clingmans Dome Road and Balsam Mountain Road, are closed in winter, and even the main road through the park, Newfound Gap Road, closes when there's snow and ice, cutting off access to snowy areas. If Newfound Gap Road is not closed, you can enjoy cross-country skiing and hiking in the snow along Clingmans Dome Road, which is closed to vehicles in winter. For weather information, call 865/436–1200, Ext. 630, and for road closings, Ext. 631.

Tubing

On a hot summer's day there's nothing like hitting the water. On the North Carolina side, you can swim or go tubing on Deep Creek near Bryson City. The upper section is a little wild and woolly, with white water flowing from cold mountain springs. The put-in is at the convergence of Indian Creek and Deep Creek where the sign reads "No tubing beyond this point." The lower section of Deep Creek is more suitable for kids. Put-in for this section is at the swimming hole just above the first bridge on the Deep Creek Trail. There are several tubing outfitters near the entrance of the park at Deep Creek. Some have changing rooms and showers. Wear a swimsuit and bring towels and dry clothes to change into that you can leave in your car. Most tubing outfitters are open April–October.

Outfitters

You can rent an inner tube for tubing on Deep Creek for around $5 a day at these outfitters, all located near the Deep Creek entrance to the park near Bryson City. Tubes come in a variety of sizes, and some have seats and backrests.

Deep Creek Lodge & Creekside Tubing. On the left near the Deep Creek entrance to the park, Creekside Tubing has hot showers, a game room, and snack bar as well as tubes for rent. It also rents rooms and a cabin. 1881 W. Deep Creek Rd., Bryson City, NC, 28713. 828/488–2587. www.deepcreeklodgetubing.com. Tube rentals: mid-Apr.–Sep., 8 am–dusk.

Smoky Mountain Campground, Deep Creek Store & Tubes. About 50 yards from the Bryson City entrance to the park, this (highly) commercial operation rents tubes and sells camping supplies. It also has a campground and rental cabins, with free Wi-Fi. 1840 W. Deep Creek Rd., Bryson City, NC, 28713. 828/488–9665. www.smokymtncampground.com. Closed Nov.–Mar.

Deep Creek Tube Center & Campground. About 1 mi from the park entrance, Deep Creek Tube Center rents tubes with plastic seats ($5 a day) and sells creek shoes and other tubing accessories in its camp store. The Tube Center also has a campground with more than 50 sites and rental cabins (including two restored log cabins) with Wi-Fi. 1090 Deep Creek Rd., about 1 mi from downtown Bryson City, Bryson City, NC, 28713. 828/488–6055. www.deepcreekcamping.com.

Bicycling

Tennessee requires that children age 16 and under wear a helmet, and it's strongly recommended that all riders do so, regardless of age.

Cades Cove. Arguably the best place to bike, the 11-mile loop road is mostly level, and being on a bike allows you to get around traffic back-ups. However, traffic can be heavy, especially on weekends in summer and fall, and the road is narrow. The best time to bike the Cove is from early May to late September on Wednesday and Saturday mornings until 10 am when it is closed to motor vehicles. Bicycles and helmets can be rented ($20 per day) in summer and fall at an annex behind Cades Cove Campground Store (Cades Cove Campground 865/448–9034).

Foothills Parkway West. The 17.5-mile road has light vehicular traffic and is a scenic and fairly safe place for bicycling. Safe biking also is available on the lightly used access roads to Greenbrier picnic area and Cosby campground.

Mountain Biking

Cherokee National Forest. Mountain biking is available in the nearby Cherokee National Forest, which encompasses 650,000 acres in eastern Tennessee, stretching from Chattanooga to Bristol along the North Carolina border. Cherokee National Forest, Cleveland, TN, 37312. 423/476–9700. www.fs.usda.gov/cherokee.

Gatlinburg Trail. This is the only hiking trail on the Tennessee side where bikes are permitted. The trail travels 1.9 miles (one-way) from the Sugarlands Visitor Center to the outskirts of Gatlinburg. Pets on leashes are also allowed on this trail.

Parsons Branch Road. The unpaved, narrow, one-lane back road that twists and dips from near Cable Mill on the Cades Cove Loop Road to U.S. 129, appeals to mountain bikers.

Fishing

There are more than 200 miles of wild trout streams on the Tennessee side of the park. Trout streams are open to fishing year-round. Among the best trout streams on the Tennessee side are Little River, Abrams Creek, and Little Pigeon River.

Licenses

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. A Tennessee fishing license, required of anyone 13 and over, is valid throughout the Great Smokies park and also for fishing in other areas of Tennessee. A one-day, non-resident adult fishing license good for all types of fish including trout is $16; a three-day license is $33.50; 10-day is $50.50; and an annual nonresident license is $81. Licenses for Tennessee residents vary but cost less. A special trout-fishing nonresident license for the Gatlinburg area (outside the park) costs $11.50 for one day and doesn't require a state license. Note that to buy a Tennessee fishing license, you have to provide all types of personal information, including citizenship status, your Social Security number, driver's license number, height, weight, and much more. North Carolina fishing licenses are significantly cheaper and require less government red tape, and since either NC or TN licenses are good anywhere in the park, you'll save time and money by buying a NC license. 3030 Wildlife Way, Morristown, TN, 37814. 800/332–0900 info for East Tennessee; 615/781–6585 buy fishing license by phone. www.tn.gov/twra.

Outfitters

For backcountry trips, you may want to hire a guide. Full-day trips cost about $200–$300 for one angler, $250–$300 for two. Only guides approved by the National Park Service are permitted to take anglers into the park backcountry.

Little River Outfitters. This large fly-fishing shop and school has been in business since 1984. It specializes in teaching beginners to fly fish. Although it does not offer guide services, it can hook you up with guides for fishing in the Smokies or elsewhere. 106 Town Square Dr., Townsend, TN, 37882. 865/448–9459. www.littleriveroutfitters.com.

Fly or spin trout-fishing trips are available at Rocky Top Outfitters. A full-day trout fishing trip for two is $250–$270, and a half-day trip for two is $200–$210.

Smoky Mountain Angler. This well-equipped fly-fishing shop offers equipment rentals, fishing licenses, and half-day and full-day fly- and spin-fishing trips with guide. Full-day guided trout fishing trips (wading) in the park are $250 for one person and $300 for two. 466 Brookside Village Way, Gatlinburg, TN, 37738. 865/436–8746. www.smokymountainangler.com.

Hiking

Elkmont Nature Trail. This 1-mi loop is good for families, especially if you're camping at Elkmont. It passes by many of the remaining buildings in the Elkmont Historic District. Pick up a self-guided brochure (50¢) at the start of the trail. Near Elkmont campground, Elkmont Nature Trail, TN, 37738. 865/436–1200 park info number. www.nps.gov/grsm.

Gatlinburg Trail. This is one of only two trails in the park (the other one is Oconaluftee River Trail on the North Carolina side) where dogs and bicycles are permitted. Dogs must be on leashes. The trail, which starts at Sugarlands Visitor Center, follows the Little Pigeon River. The first 0.3 mi of the 1.9-mi trail (one-way) is through the park headquarters and on a service road. Trailhead at Sugarlands Visitor Center, Sugarlands Visitor Center, Off US Hwy. 441, Gatlinburg, TN, 37738. 865/436–1200 park info line. www.nps.gov/grsm.

Laurel Falls. Mostly paved, this trail is fairly easy. It takes you past a series of cascades to a 60-foot waterfall and a stand of old-growth forest. The trail is extremely popular in summer and on weekends almost anytime (trolleys from Gatlingburg stop here), so don't expect solitude. The 1.3-mi paved trail to the falls is wheelchair accessible. Wooden posts mark every one-tenth of a mile, and the total round-trip hike is 2.6 mi. Trailhead is on the west side of Little River Rd. between Sugarlands Visitor Center and Elkmont campground, about 3.9 mi west of Sugarlands, Laurel Falls Trail, Gatlinburg, TN, 37738. www.nps.gov/grsm.

Little River Trail at Elkmont. This 5.1-mi loop (if Cucumber Gap and Jakes Creek trails are included) offers a little of everything—historical buildings, fly-fishing, a waterfall, and wildflowers. The first part of the trail wanders past remnants of old logging operations and cottages that were once the summer homes of wealthy Tennesseans. Huskey Branch Falls appears at about 2 mi. The Little River Trail passes the junction with three other trails, offering the possibility for even longer hikes—Cucumber Gap at 2.3 mi, Huskey Gap at 2.7 mi, and Goshen Prong Trail at 3.7 mi. The trail is normally open even in winter. At any point you can try your hand at fly-fishing for trout in the Little River, one of the best trout streams in the park. Parking at the trailhead has been improved and expanded. This is the habitat of the synchronous fireflies, which put on their light show on June evenings. Trailhead is near Elkmont campground. Turn left just before entrance to campground and go 0.6 mi to a fork in the road. The trail is a continuation of the left fork, Little River Trail, Gatlinburg, TN, 37738. www.nps.gov/grsm.

Noah "Bud" Ogle Nature Trail. Settlers Noah "Bud" Ogle and his wife, Cindy, built a cabin and started farming here in 1879. Although this is more of a nature walk than a hike, it offers a lot in a 0.75-mi loop. You'll see the Ogle Tub Mill on LeConte Creek, lots of wildflowers, and the Ogle cabin and barn, which you can explore. It's a fine trail for families with kids. Cherokee Orchard Rd., just at entrance tor the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Gatlingburg, TN, 37738. www.nps.gov/grsm.

Sugarlands Valley Trail. The easiest trail in the park, it's only 0.25-mi one-way, virtually level, and paved, so it's suitable for young children, strollers, and wheelchairs. A brochure available at the start (50¢) explains the numbered exhibits and features of the trail. Sugarlands Valley Trail, U.S. Hwy. 441 (Newfound Gap Rd.), Trailhead is 0.3 mi south of Sugarlands Visitor Center, Gatlinburg, TN, 37738. www.nps.gov/grsm.

Moderate

Abrams Falls. This 5-mi round-trip trail is one of the most popular in the Smokies, in part due to the trailhead location near stop #10 on the loop road in Cades Cove, which gets more than 2 million visitors a year. Beginning at the wooden bridge over Abrams Creek, the trail first goes along a pleasant course through rhododendron. It becomes somewhat steep at a couple of points, especially near Arbutus Ridge. The path then leads above Abrams Falls and down to Wilson Creek. Though only about 20 feet high, the falls are beautiful, with a good volume of water and a broad pool below. Cades Cove Loop Rd., park in the large parking lot on an unpaved side road between signposts 10 and 11, Townsend, TN, 37882. www.nps.gov/grsm.

Appalachian Trail at Newfound Gap. For those who want to say they hiked part of the AT (www.nps.gov/appa), which celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2012, and runs some 72 mi through the Great Smokies park, this section is a great place to start; it's easy to get to and not too steep. Park in the Newfound Gap parking lot and cross the road to the trail. From Newfound Gap to Indian Gap the trail goes 1.7 mi through spruce-fir high-elevation forest, and in late spring and summer there are quite a few wildflowers. The total round-trip distance is 3.4 mi. Appalachian Trail, U.S. Hwy. 441 (Newfound Gap Rd.), park at Newfound Gap parking lot, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, NC. www.nps.gov/grsm.

Trillium Gap Trail to Grotto Falls. Grotto Falls is the only waterfall in the park that you can walk behind. The Trillium Gap Trail, off of the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, which leads to Grotto Falls, is primarily through a hemlock forest (many of the hemlocks have been killed by the hemlock woolly adelgid). Only 1.3 mi long, with an easy slope, this trail is suitable for novice hikers and is one of the most popular in the park. The total round-trip distance to Grotto Falls is 2.6 mi. Trillium Gap Trail continues on to LeConte Lodge, a total one-way distance of about 8 mi. It is a horse trail, and llamas resupplying the lodge also use it. The Roaring Fork Motor Trail is closed in winter. Trillium Gap Trail, off Roaring Fork Motor Tr., Gatlinburg, TN, 37738. Take Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail to stop # 5 on the auto tour, then look for trailhead for Trillium Gap Trail. www.nps.gov/grsm.

Difficult

Chimney Tops Trail. Pant, wheeze, and gasp. This is a steep trail that will take a lot out of you, but it gives back a lot, too. The payoff for the difficult climb is one of the best views in the Smokies, from the top of Chimney Tops. In places the trail has loose rock, and the elevation gain is 1,350 feet. This trail is not recommended for small children. The total distance round-trip is 4 mi. Trailhead is about halfway between Sugarlands Visitor Center and Newfound Gap, 6.7 mi south of Sugarlands, Chimney Tops Trail, off U.S. Hwy. 441 (Newfound Gap Rd.), Gatlinburg, TN, 37738. www.nps.gov/grsm.

Horseback Riding

Several hundred miles of backcountry trails on the Tennessee side are open to horseback riders. Horses are restricted to trails specifically designated for horse use; check the park trail map ($1) for horse trails and rules and regulations about riding in the backcountry. You can also download a map from www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/horseriding.htm.

Outfitters

Cades Cove Riding Stables. This park concessionaire offers carriage rides ($12), hayrides ($12), and ranger-guided hayrides ($14), along with horseback riding ($30 an hour). First-come, first-served with no reservations except for large groups. Call the stables to find out times and dates of ranger-led hayrides. Horseback riders must be at least 6 years old and weigh no more than 250 pounds. Cades Cove Campground, 10018 Campground Dr., Townsend, TN, 37882. 865/448–9009. www.cadescovestables.com. 9-4:30 daily during open season. Closed early Dec.-mid-Mar.

Smoky Mountain Riding Stables. You'll find 40 trained trail horses at Smoky Mountain Riding Stables, a park concessionaire. One-hr rides in the park are $25, 1 1/2-hr rides, $45, 2-hr rides $60. No reservations except for large groups. Riders must be at least 5 years old and weigh no more than 225 pounds. 1720 E. Pkwy., 4 mi east of downtown Gatlinburg, Gatlinburg, TN, 37738. 865/436–5634. www.smokymountainridingstables.com. Mid-Mar.-May and Sep.-Nov. 9-4; June-Oct. 9-6. Closed Dec.-mid-Mar.

Skiing

Ober Gatlinburg Ski Resort & Amusement Park. Whenever temperatures fall low enough, the resort makes snow for the eight skiing and snowboarding trails, open weekends only. A single-session chairlift ticket is $36 on Saturday and Sunday and $20 on Friday night. There is also a snow-tubing park with 10 lanes and a 50-foot vertical drop. Rate for snow tubing is $15 for each 90-minute session. Ober Gatlinburg's winter season usually begins in mid-December and ends in early March, although the chair lift, amusement park rides, small zoo, ice skating, and other tourist facilities—and we mean touristy—are open daily year-round. Parking fee for all activities is $5. 1001 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN, 37738. 865/436–5423; 800/251–9202 snow report line. www.obergatlinburg.com.

Tubing

Tubing requires little skill beyond the ability to let yourself float down a river and can be done at almost any age. Little River is the most popular tubing river on the west side of the Smokies. It flows east to west from its headwaters in the park through the town of Townsend. The Little River is mostly flat water (Class I), with a few mild Class II rapids. Although you can tube on the Little River within the park, several outfitters in Townsend rent tubes and life jackets and provide shuttle buses or vans that drop you at an entry point from which you can float a mile or two downriver to the outfitter's store. Expect to pay from $8 to $13 per person, which includes a full day's tube and life-jacket rental plus unlimited use of the shuttle. Kayak rentals are also offered by some outfitters. Typically the cost is $15 for the kayak rental and the first shuttle trip, and $5 each for additional shuttle trips. Outfitters are generally open May–September or October.

Outfitters

Here you'll find inner tubes available for rent on the Little River, a go-kart track, and a barbecue restaurant. One-day tube and life-vest rental and all-day shuttle service is $9.

Smoky Mountain River Rat. This outfitter, the best of the bunch in the Townsend area, offers tubing on the Little River during warm-weather months. Tube rental, life jacket, and all-day shuttle is $13. A season pass is available for about $30. 205 Wears Valley Rd., Townsend, TN, 37882. 865/448–8888. www.smokymtnriverrat.com. Closed Oct.–Apr.