The Great Smoky Mountains National Park sprawls across the Tennessee-North Carolina border and serves as a destination for millions of people from around the world each year. With breathtaking views, an extraordinary diversity of plant and animal life, and glimpses of the Appalachia of old, the Smokies offer a well-rounded experience for everyone.
The ancient Appalachian mountains differ in appearance and height from the newer Rockies in the western part of the U.S. but still offer significant peaks within the Great Smoky Mountains. The Appalachian Trail passes over several of the highest peaks.
Let’s have a look at the 5 highest peaks in the Smoky Mountains!
5 Highest Peaks in the Smoky Mountains
1. Clingmans Dome
Not only is Clingmans Dome the highest point in the Smoky Mountains, but it’s also the highest point along the entire Appalachian Trail. Clingmans Dome is one of the most visited sites in the National Park, with millions of visitors trekking the half-mile paved trail up to the observation tower on the summit.
The observation tower is sometimes referred to as “the flying saucer” due to its unique shape. The saucer sits on tall pylons out over the park, making it a favorite postcard feature. This half-mile walk is directly from a parking lot, making it ideal for visitors and those who aren’t prepared for a hike.
For hikers, there are several hikes to the peak. One is a 7.7-mile stretch of the AT from Newfound Gap. During winter when the road to Clingmans Dome is closed, visitors enjoy skiing to see the breathtaking views.
Topping out at 6,643 feet, the summit offers views that span over 100 miles on a clear day. Even when the mountainous landscape is covered in its namesake smoky clouds, the view is still breathtaking. Temperatures may be 20-degrees below the rest of the park, so bring a light jacket if you plan on visiting (yes, even in summer!).
2. Mount Guyot
The second-tallest peak in the Smokies isn’t as well known or visited due to the dense forest that covers the steep peak. Reaching 6,621-feet tall, Mount Guyot is an undisturbed peak with no known settlements throughout history.
Many would consider Mount Guyot uninviting due to the old-growth forest, thorny bushes, and vines. Mount Guyot is truly wilderness, unlike the majority of the park which has seen settlements and no shortage of visitors. Those who appreciate the undisturbed wilderness will enjoy several streams and creeks, with moss-covered stones dotting the landscape.
This magnificent peak has several name twins in New Hampshire, Colorado, and California, with all Mount Guyots being named after Swiss geographer Arnold Guyot. This Mount Guyot is the third-highest peak in the eastern U.S. and the highest peak in the eastern U.S. without a maintained trail.
3. Mount LeConte
At 6,593 feet, Mount LeConte is the highest mountain that lies solely in Tennessee. Unlike Mount Guyot, LeConte is accessible by trail and offers some of the most rewarding views of the Smoky Mountains. Mount LeConte has remained a favorite for hikers throughout its history, and for good reason.
High up the peak at 6,400 feet lies LeConte Lodge, the only permanent structure dedicated for overnight guests. Trails to the lodge range from 5 to 9.1 miles, making it an adventure for dedicated and experienced hikers.
The four major trails come in from each cardinal direction. The lodge features hand-built log cabins with propane heat and kerosene lanterns. Guests enjoy hearty southern meals in the dining room.
The mountain reaches nearly a vertical mile from its western base near Gatlinburg and is about 2 miles north of the main ridgeline of the Smoky Mountains.
4. Mount Buckley
Like several peaks on this list, Appalachian Trail hikers will pass over this mountain on their journey. Mount Buckley’s close proximity to Clingmans Dome makes it popular with hikers doing the AT. Because it is densely forested, most of the people who get to experience Mount Buckley are hikers along the AT.
Although many of the views are obstructed, Mount Buckley does offer several vistas for visitors. Samual Botsford Buckley first estimated the mountain’s elevation, and this 6,580-foot peak was named after him.
Two major routes lead to Mount Buckley, including the Dome Bypass Trail and turning west on the AT from the Clingmans Dome Trail. Unlike some of the other peaks on this list, Mount Buckley’s peak isn’t as densely forested and offers different scenery because of it.
5. Mount Love
Also located near Clingmans Dome, Mount Love reaches 6,420 feet. The AT stretches over Mount Love, as well, and is yet another summit dedicated hikers enjoy along their journey. Several trails lead to Mount Love.
Going northeast on the AT from the Clingmans Dome Trail takes you to the summit of Mount Love, which is fairly flat. Although it is still filled with old-growth forests, Mount Love is more inviting than Mount Buckley. Like Mount Buckley and Guyot, Mount Love may be an afterthought for AT hikers, although beautiful and magnificent in its own right.