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Moderate Hiking Trails in the Smokies


Hiking NC Smokies

Are you itching to get outdoors and feel the rush of adrenaline as you hike? After months of being cooped up, moderate hiking trails offer the perfect opportunity to get those endorphins flowing. These trails are classified as moderate due to factors such as length, elevation gain, and trail conditions like rocky footing or creek crossings. Get ready to embark on your next day hike and don’t forget to pack snacks and water.

While you enjoy the great outdoors, it’s essential to practice the 7 principles of Leave No Trace. Remember, hiking is meant to be enjoyable and relaxing, so choose trails that suit your comfort level. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or a beginner, there’s a trail out there for you. So grab your gear, lace up your hiking shoes, and embark on a memorable adventure in the great outdoors. Happy hiking!

Waterrock Knob

Difficulty Level: Moderate
Length: 1.2 Miles
The last hiking trail along the Parkway as you travel toward the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is scenic Waterrock Knob. If any members of your group don’t feel like hiking, savoring the view from a picnic table near the parking area will still provide a panoramic look at the Smoky Mountain landscape—an adventure in itself. If you do choose to hike, the 1.2 miles out and back trail will take you up a moderate incline and reward you with stunning scenery along the way and at the summit. Waterrock Knob is one of the best places to watch a sunrise or sunset. This hiking spot is just a quick 15-minute drive from Maggie Valley, where you can grab breakfast to fuel up for your hike or find some more Smoky Mountain activities for your group to get into.

Family at Waterrock Knob in Haywood County, NC

Sam Knob Trail

Difficulty Level: Moderate
Length: 2.5 Miles
Looking for a fun and adventurous trail? Look no further than Sam Knob Trail! This trail offers a variety of options for hikers, including the opportunity to do the Sam’s Knob Loop. By combining the Sam Knob Trail, Little Sam Knob Trail, Mountain-to-Sea Trail, and Flat Laurel Creek Trail, you can embark on an epic hiking adventure. Along the way, you’ll encounter several breathtaking waterfalls and picturesque creeks. And don’t forget to take a short spur off the Sam Knob Trail to reach the summit of Sam Knob, standing tall at 6068 ft. The views from the top are absolutely worth it!

pc: @forsomethingmore

Flat Laurel Creek Trail

Difficulty Level: Moderate
Length: 7.5 Miles
Lying just below Sams Knob and Black Balsam Knob, this out-and-back trail is a great longer 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. Approximately a mile and a half into the Flat Laurel Creek Trail, you can reach Wildcat Falls, a picturesque waterfall on a tributary of the west fork of the Pigeon River. Wildcat Falls stands at around 50-60 feet tall. 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, so make sure to wear proper shoes.

pc: Hike WNC

Big Creek Trail

Difficulty Level: Moderate
Length: 10.4 miles
If you’re in the mood for adventure and natural beauty, look no further than Big Creek Trail! This trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers a little something for everyone. As you embark on your hike, keep your eyes peeled for vibrant wildflowers that dot the path. Big Creek is a highly sought-after destination within the park, boasting a multitude of attractions. Visitors flock here for the inviting picnic area, the well-equipped campground, and the array of enticing hiking trails. One of the highlights is the accessibility to Mouse Creek Falls, a captivating waterfall, and Midnight Hole, a popular swimming hole that’s perfect for cooling off in the summer heat. Take a dip in the crystal-clear waters or simply relax and enjoy the peaceful surroundings. Trust us, it’s worth the trek! So grab your hiking boots, pack a picnic, and get ready to explore the wonders of Big Creek Trail.

Graveyard Fields – Upper Falls

Difficulty Level: Moderate
Length: 3 miles

Explore the breathtaking beauty of Graveyard Fields Upper Falls, a picturesque hiking trail nestled in the heart of Blue Ridge Mountains. Despite its eerie name, the trail offers nothing but natural splendor and tranquility. Named after the remnants of tree stumps that resemble gravestones, this trail takes you on a journey to discover two stunning waterfalls—the multi-tiered second falls and the majestic cascades of the upper falls. As you traverse the trail, you’ll meander through a valley adorned with streams and surrounded by wild blackberry and blueberry bushes. During late summer, these bushes burst with vibrant fruits, creating a joyful feast for the senses. Additionally, unlike many other hiking spots along the Parkway, Graveyard Fields offers restroom facilities for your convenience.

Devil’s Courthouse

Difficulty Level: Moderate
Length: 0.8 miles
Devil’s Courthouse can be found on the Blue Ridge Parkway and presides over some of the most spectacular views in the Blue Ridge Mountains. From its 5,720-foot summit, you’ll be able to see into South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee on a clear day. Another trail with an interestingly spooky name, it’s possible that Devil’s Courthouse may have been named after its oddly ominous rock formation, or because, as legend holds, the devil held court in the cave that lies beneath the rocks. According to a Cherokee tale, this cave is the private dancing chamber and home to the slant-eyed giant, Judaculla. Whatever the source of its name—Devil’s Courthouse is a must-see during your visit. This mostly paved trail isn’t far from other popular hiking spots like Graveyard Fields, Black Balsam Knob, and Richland Balsam.

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 blog post. Share your adventures with us tagging @visitncsmokies and #haynow

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