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Moderate Hiking Trails in the Smokies


Looking to get your heart pumping and legs a-burnin? We’ve all gotten a little stir crazy over these last few months and what better way to get those endorphins flowing than some moderate hiking in the great outdoors? These trails are considered moderate either due to length, elevation gain, or trail conditions (creek crossings, rocky footing, etc). Find your next day hike here and don’t forget to pack snacks and water.

Always practice leave no trace meaning do not litter, take all trash with you (yes even toilet paper), bury your poo poo ???? 6-8 inches deep, only potty more than 200 feet (2 football fields) from a water source, and give wildlife plenty of space – it’s their home! Not all trails have restroom facilities.

Graphic courtesy of

Flat Laurel Creek Trail

Difficulty Level: Moderate
Length: 2.5 Miles
Lying just below Sams Knob and Black Balsam Knob, this loop trail is a great alternative to the better-known Graveyard Fields if the parking lot looks packed. This loop takes you around the headwaters basin of Flat Laurel Creek, which starts in a high-elevation valley surrounded by sharp peaks, grassy balds, and spruce-fir forests. On the Blue Ridge Parkway, you will take Black Balsam Road to the end, parking area is on the left. The trail gets narrower and rockier as it travels down the flank of Sams Knob. It’s not very steep overall, but there are some rocky and eroded sections, and some sections can stay wet and muddy, wear proper shoes.

Andrews Bald

Difficulty Level: Moderate
Length: 3.5 Miles
This out and back hike in the Great Smoky Mountains begins from Clingmans Dome and it moderate due to the elevation gain, you’ll gain 899ft total. Andrews Bald is accessed via the Forney Ridge Trail, which is located at the far end of the parking lot of Clingmans Dome. At just over one-tenth of a mile from the trailhead the Clingmans Dome Bypass Trail branches off to the right. This connector path leads to the Appalachian Trail. To continue on towards Andrews Bald hikers should turn left at this junction. Around 1 mile in, the trail will split again, just continue straight. At 1.7 miles you will reach the outskirts of Andrews Bald. For the best views continue on for another hundred yards or so. Enjoy several acres of open grassy meadow from which to choose a picnic spot, or to simply take in the spectacular panoramic vistas. From this vantage point, you’ll have stunning views of Fontana Lake and the southern Smokies.

Buckeye Ridge Trail

Difficulty Level: Moderate
Length: 5.7 Miles
Following both trail and old roads, this loop trail takes you to panoramic views and views of Max Patch in the Pisgah National Forest. Park on SR 1182 at the Cherry Ridge trailhead. Follow the yellow blazes on Buckeye Ridge Trail. Dogs are welcome in this area on a leash. This trail is shared with horseback riders, always give riders the right of way.

Flat Creek Trail

Difficulty Level: Moderate
Length: 5.2 Miles
An out and back creekside trail near Cherokee with a small waterfall and scenic views at the turnaround. The trailhead begins off Heintooga Road, located at Milepost 458 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. At Milepost 458, turn onto Heintooga Ridge Road, and follow it down about 5 miles.  You’ll cross into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the way.  The small parking lot and trailhead will be located on your left.

Little Cataloochee Church Hike

Difficulty Level: Moderate
Length: 8 Miles
Before the Great Smoky Mountains National Park came into existence there were settlers living in Cataloochee Valley from 1854 – the 1930s. When the park boundaries were established the settlers were offered lifetime leases to their homes however major restrictions on logging and farming led to all of them leaving by the end of the 1940s. This hike will lead you to their old cabins and will feature many rock walls and stacks that were built when they began clearing the land for farming. Little Cataloochee Church sits at the 4-mile turnaround point. It is open to the public and you can explore inside as well as the small historical cemetery to the right of it. This trail crosses a few creeks, wear proper shoes. 

Not quite ready to take on the longer and steeper trails, or just looking for something easy and enjoyable? Check out our Easy Hikes in the NC Smokies post.

Share your adventures with us tagging @visitncsmokies and #haynow

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