Great Smoky Mountains National Park can attract large numbers of people, especially at certain times of the year or along popular trails. Beat the crowds by planning a wintertime hike, or explore these lesser-known regions of the park.
Balsam Mountain Road
The road’s location off the Blue Ridge Parkway means people tend to forget this beautiful corner of the park. Head here in the fall to immerse yourself in foliage and be safe from the typical leaf-peeping traffic.
This strenuous hike is avoided by many, but rewards with an unparalleled view. The few folks on this trail are here to be surrounded by the Smokies—and to dodge the crowds.
Start this trail from Fontana Dam to avoid trail traffic. You’ll see the dam and have a tough uphill right off the start, but the western end of the trail is a beautiful one.
An almost-forgotten campground and some awesome hikes in a corner of the park most casual visitors forget? That’s Big Creek. Camp here, backpack to Mount Sterling, or check out the suited-for-everyone Big Creek Trail.
This seasonal campground is rarely full; even if it is, several great hikes originate here. Hit the Rabbit and Abrams Creeks Loop or hike the easy (and wildflower-rich) Little Bottoms Trail.