Highlights: 360 Views, Exposed Rocky Summit
Round Trip: 3.8 Miles
Elevation Gain: 1487 FT
Directions: From Gatlinburg, drive 7 miles on the Newfound Gap Road (US-441) past Sugarlands Visitor Center. The trailhead is after a tunnel and features lots of roadside parking. If you reach the "loop" tunnel, then you've driven too far.
Please Note: Following the Nov. 2016 wildfires in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Chimney Tops Trail was closed to hikers. In Oct. 2017, the hiking trail has been reopened thanks to work by the Trails Forever Program. Due to extensive damage near the summit, the last section of the Chimney Tops hike near the pinnacle is still closed to hikers. In the meantime, hikers can enjoy beautiful views from a new overlook on the trail.
The Chimney Tops Trail is easily one of the most visited sights in the park for two reasons.
First, the trail is short – only 1.9 miles one way.
Next, the payoff is huge – panoramic views of the Smoky Mountains, fun rocks to climb on, and dramatic landscapes. The Chimney Tops are one of the must-see destinations in the Smokies.
The hike is gorgeous through and through with cascading streams, rhododendron and towering hemlock trees. The Chimney Tops hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park generally takes 2 or 3 hours to complete.
Chimney Tops Trail Description
Fist mile of this trail follows Road Prong Creek. There are several foot bridges and the trail is relatively tame. This serves as a good warm-up for what the rest of this challenging hike.
After you reach the halfway point of the Chimney Tops Hike, you'll come to a split in the trail at Beech Flats. The Road Prong Trail goes off to the left to Indian Gap on the Appalachian Trail, but to reach Chimney Tops, hikers should continue on the trail to the right.
At this point, the trail becomes quite steep – you'll have to climb 960 vertical ft. in one mile. Many hikers turn around at this section, but with pacing and rest stops, you can make it to the summit.
While you rest, you can admire and appreciate the recent trail restoration work. In 2014, volunteers from the Trails Forever project added stone steps and sitting areas to improve trail safety and reduce damaging runoff.
After an intense period of climbing, the trail flattens and narrows before you reach your destination. After crawling over some boulders and root systems, you'll finally reach the famous rock outcropping of Chimney Tops!
The Chimneys in the Smoky Mountains
You'll see a slanted wall of stone that you can scramble up to the top. There are plenty of foot and hand holds, but proceeding up this rock-face is completely up to you.
If you dislike heights, continuing further is not recommended and nice views are available without much climbing. If you do proceed up the rock-face, you'll be rewarded with incredible 360 views.
At the top, you'll notice that a thin rocky ridge descends down the mountain from the peak. Small towers of rock jut out from this ridge and look a lot like chimneys. Going further is not recommended because of the risk of falling and the risk of damaging fragile ridge-top ecosystems.
Insider Tip: Proceed with extreme caution if the rocks are wet and slippery. This trail is not recommended during for Smoky Mountain winter hiking when large quantities of ice and snow are on the trail as these conditions can be dangerous.
Please note that the Chimney Tops Trail is extremely popular and can become quite crowded. Arriving at the trailhead before noon is the best way to ensure finding a safe parking spot and enjoying a relaxed hike.
If Chimney Tops Trail is too crowded, another nearby alternative is the hike to Charlie's Bunion or the Jump Off from Newfound Gap Parking area.
- You can see the Chimney Tops ridge from a pull-off on the Newfound Gap Road. On a clear day, you may even spy hikers standing on rocks at the top of the outcropping.
- The nearby Chimney Tops Picnic Area is not the trailhead for the Chimney Tops Hike. The picnic area merely provides a place to view the Chimney Tops. This picnic spot is about a mile before the trailhead.
- The peak of Chimney Tops is an elevation of 4753 ft.
- For summer fun, there is a great swimming hole near the start of the trailhead. The bridge that crosses the West Prong of the Little River is a great place for rock-hopping, fishing, or taking a dip in the cool mountain water.
- A log cabin rental in Gatlinburg, TN is ideal for families planning to explore hiking trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park!
Chimney Tops Trail
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
Written by Hayden Brown