Another of the most popular hikes located off of U.S. Hwy-441 through the park is, 'Chimney Tops Trail.' This is a personal favorite of mine. I really enjoy the challenge of climbing 1700 feet in just two miles.
We recommend this trail to only the folks in relatively good physical condition and to those with hiking experience. In season, you'll experience a crowded parking area, much like the Alum Cave Trailhead and parking area. You'll probably see cars parked along the roadside in the grass as well.
From the trailhead you will be greated with warning signs about the summit. Once you reach the summit you will notice that you are on the end of a rocky ridgeline. The warning sign has an actual picture that illustrates what you will have to do to get to the top of Chimney Tops. You will have to scramble/climb/crawl along a rocky spine-like ridge that make up Chimney Tops. This climb is dangerous for those with fear of heights or those with physical limitations. However, you don't have to climb all of the way out along the ridge to get a good view of your surroundings. But if you want the full affect of the near 360-degree views that are possible here, you'll need to scramble the majority of the way out along the spine. We can't stress enough how careful you need to be here. The "slow-go" definitely "wins the race" here. Take your time and pay attention to your footing. Views into Tennessee are tremendous. You can see Hwy-441 just below you and vice-versa once you get back to your car and drive North a bit to see the predominant Chimney Tops. We would also like to suggest having a picnic prepared for when you get back to the trailhead and parking area. Take a basket out onto one of the many huge boulders located in and along the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River. You'll need to refuel after your strenous hike and I can't think of a better place to do so. Also, you should consider jumping into the river on a hot summer day. Just below the footbridge you will have to cross to continue up the trail, is a very nice swimming hole to jump into. The rocks make for a nice platform to spring from. Make sure the water level is high enough if planning on jumping from a high position. The swimming hole is approx. 6-8 feet deep when water levels are normal. I almost always make a point to jump in to cool off after my hike. The water is freezing cold but feels so refreshing once you come out. If you enjoy fishing, bring your pole. The West Prong is loaded up with some nice Rainbows, Browns and the occasional Native Brook Trout. Be sure to have a valid NC or TN fishing license on you, and be aware that you can only fish with artificial single-hook bait.
From Cherokee, NC take U.S. Hwy-441 North into Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Continue on the curvy yet scenic hwy for 26.3 miles to the small and usually crowded parking area on the Left.