5 Hikes that Beat the Crowds in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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.

a hiker stands near Abrams Creek
Abrams Creek Trail. Photo © Jason Frye.

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.

Mount Cammerer

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.

Lakeshore Trail

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.

Big Creek

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.

Abrams Creek

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.

Jason Frye

About the Author

Raised deep in the mountains of West Virginia, Jason Frye moved to North Carolina to pursue a master of fine arts in creative writing. There, his love for the state deepened into a longing to stay, settle, explore, and be a part of its people, culture, and history.

Jason has contributed stories to VisitNC.com, AAA's Go Magazine, Our State magazine, Southern Living, Salt, the CharlotteObserver, and Raleigh News & Observer, and acts as a culinary critic for the Wilmington StarNews. He is also the author of Moon North Carolina, Moon North Carolina Coast, and Moon Asheville & the Great Smoky Mountains.

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