Smokies High Peaks Multi-Day Hike

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

An epic 2 - 3 night overnight hike showcasing some of the best mountaintop views in the Smokies!

Also in North Carolina, United States of America

Hiking Severe

Distance
51 km
Ascent
2.8 km
Descent
2.8 km
Duration
1 day +
Low Point
832 m
High Point
2 km
Gradient
10˚
Smokies High Peaks Multi-Day Hike Map

This 2 or 3 night hike is one of the most epic endeavors you can attempt in the Smokies - other than thru-hiking the infamous Appalachian Trail, of course. It links the Kephart Prong Shelter to the Appalachian Trail, Newfound Gap, Chimney Tops (optional), Alum Cave, Mount LeConte, Boulevard Trail, then completes the circuit with a stop at Charlies Bunion.

Description

There are several ways to start this hike. As mapped, you'll begin at the Kephart Prong Trailhead, which has a shelter roughly 2 miles in. It's a great option to stage your first night and make sure your gear is dialed.

Alternatively, you could park at Newfound Gap, or the Alum Cave Trailhead. Both of those options cut about 5 miles off the route.

After leaving Kephart Prong Shelter, you'll make your way to the Appalachian Trail, then head south through Newfound Gap. Veer right onto Road Prong Trail, an old two-track that formerly served as an access road to Clingman's Dome. Near the bottom, you have the option to spur over to Chimney Tops, or you could save that short overlook hike for another day.

When you reach Newfound Gap Road, keep right for a 2-mile road walk to the Alum Cave Trailhead. The lower half of the trail tends to be busier than the upper half, so this will be the most trafficked portion of the loop.

Spend night two at Mount LeConte, the 3rd-highest peak in the Smokies. Reservations are required, so check their website for the most up-to-date booking information. There are few spots available along the Boulevard Trail, so you may be able to find a backcountry site that isn't already occupied.

Rounding out your hike, head north on the Appalachian Trail and pay visit to Charlies Bunion - an epic cliffside overlook and popular destination for day hikers from Newfound Gap.

Other than the Boulevard Trail, there is abundant water along this route, though it should always be treated or filtered first. The lodge at Mount LeConte also offers food and beverage and accepts both cash and credit cards. Surprisingly enough, you will likely have cell reception from the top.

Difficulty

Severe

Hiking challenging trails where simple scrambling, with the occasional use of the hands, is a distinct possibility. The trails are often filled with all manner of obstacles both small and large, and the hills are very steep. Obstacles and challenges are often unexpected and can be unpredictable.

High Exposure

3 out of 4

Some trail sections have exposed ledges or steep ascents/descents where falling could cause serious injury.

Remoteness

4 out of 4

In the high mountains or remote conditions, all individuals must be completely autonomous in every situation.

Best time to visit

April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November

Features

  • Alpine
  • Wildlife
  • Historical
  • Picturesque
  • Summit Hike
  • Wild flowers
  • Water features
  • Forestry or heavy vegetation

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area