In Gatlinburg, the mountains are the main attraction. Sure, this family destination is home to a variety of museums, shows, and activities ranging from mini-golf to earthquake simulators. But attractions like the vibrant Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies or the spooky Mysterious Mansion wouldn’t have found a home in Gatlinburg were it not for the majestic Great Smoky Mountains.

In that spirit, one of the most popular activities at Gatlinburg Town Square by Exploria Resorts isn’t actually located at the resort – it’s away in the mountains. We put adventure right on the schedule, with guided hikes through the Smoky Mountains.

Activities Manager Rhonda Morris loves introducing guests to the Smoky Mountains.

Activities Manager Rhonda Morris loves introducing guests to the Smoky Mountains.

For the past four years, Activities Manager Rhonda Morris has been leading weekly hikes through the Gatlinburg region’s most majestic trails. “I love to take our guests hiking,” Rhonda says, and her passion for the mountains shows in her beautiful photos.

A hike into the Smokies can be an all-day adventure, and a trip back in time. “We pack a lunch and eat at the waterfall, on a rock, or sit on the front porch of an old cabin,” Rhonda tells us. And there’s always a good reason to go hiking here: “In the winter, if guests have the stamina, we go. In the spring, we have wildflower trails that I take them on. In May, the waterfalls are pretty spectacular so I make sure we hit a lot of those. The summer is waterfalls, creeks, and high places to get cooler. The fall is spectacular no matter which trail we pick.”

Spring buds light up the mountain forests while a cabin’s porch beckons to hikers. Photo: Rhonda Morris.

Spring buds light up the mountain forests while a cabin’s porch beckons to hikers. Photo: Rhonda Morris.

Of the 800-plus trails in Great Smoky Mountain National Park, it’s nearly impossible to see them all without devoting a decent portion of your life to hiking. That makes a good guide an invaluable part of your Smoky Mountain experience – someone who knows where to find the most breathtaking vistas, the most spectacular waterfalls, and best of all, find all this on trails matched to your skill level.

Rhonda’s hikes usually last a few hours and cover between three and six miles, rain or shine. Tailoring each experience to the day’s group, she’s sometimes able to lead hikers down more than one hiking trail in a single outing. Trailheads are close to Gatlinburg Town Square – the farthest one she uses is about thirty minutes away, although season and traffic play a factor.

If you’re planning your Gatlinburg trip around the wow factor in the mountains, be prepared for a different hiking experience in every season. In winter, the delicate structures of the leafless trees provide a spectacular frame for panoramic views of the valleys below that can’t be seen in summer’s lush season, while you enjoy the quiet region in its off-hours. In spring, wildflowers and blooming trees light up the mountainsides, reaching their height of color in late April and early May.

Mountain streams plummet into waterfalls large and small. Photo: Rhonda Morris.

Mountain streams plummet into waterfalls large and small. Photo: Rhonda Morris.

Summer brings crowds, certainly, but it also brings emerald-green hills, rushing waterfalls, and dazzling vistas from viewing sites on mountain peaks. In fall, of course, the leaf-peeping is in full swing by October, with the higher elevations starting their shift to oranges and reds as soon as September.

Can’t decide when to visit? Maybe this photo gallery from the National Park Service can help you make up your mind – although it just might make you plan a trip for every season.

No matter when you choose to visit, you’ll find fun, hospitality, and old-fashioned charm at every turn in Gatlinburg. And at Gatlinburg Town Square By Exploria Resorts, your hiking guide is waiting to show you her mountains.

Find out more about Gatlinburg Town Square By Exploria Resorts, including accommodations, amenities and availability, by visiting the Destinations tab.

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