The twin-peaked, rugged profile of Chimney Tops gained infamy with its appearance on the cover of Horace Kephart’s classic, Our Southern Highlanders. The summit of this 4,724-foot peak has weathered away over the centuries leaving behind a backbone of folded metamorphic rock which has turned into a playground for the adventurous. The trail to the Chimneys was badly damaged several years ago by torrential downpours and flooding. Thanks to the Great Smokies’ Trails Forever Program, a newly renovated trail takes hikers from the trailhead to the airy summit by way of a steep, intricately constructed, two mile trail.
What Makes It Great
The trail to the Chimneys quickly becomes beautiful as it passes over Walker Camp Prong – thanks to the newly constructed and environmentally friendly bridge system– right out of the gate. Get ready to climb after crossing the creek: Chimney Tops’ trail gains 1,700 feet in elevation as it introduces your quads to hiking in the highlands! The trail’s forever crew has created a network of 360 rock steps and nearly 300 log steps which lead to the top of this “stairway to heaven.”
After finally gaining the ridgeline, your legs may be wary Give them a rest to refresh for the fun to come! A short traverse on an airy ridgeline leads to the highlight of the trail: a short, but very exposed, scramble to the crown of the Chimneys. Although technical gear is not needed to ascend this last section, you will see many tourists humbly end their day at the base of this scramble. Take your time, maintain at least three points of contact with the rock at all times, and carefully make your way up the rocky backbone leading to the summit and 360 degree views.
Who is Going to Love It
Thrill seekers will find just what they are looking for atop the Chimneys. An unsanctioned, yet unbelievably fun climb past the first Chimney, across a rocky ridge, and onto the second Chimney will get your blood flowing and guarantee solidarity atop this popular destination. However, this shot at solitude is not for the faint of heart. The route begins with a mandatory down-climb and technical maneuvers are required across some highly exposed sections to reach the second Chimney.
The view westward (across the rolling expanse of Eastern Tennessee) is uninterrupted and affords spectacular sunset views for those willing to descend under the glow of a headlamp.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Chimney Tops Trailhead can be found off route 441, on the Tennessee side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Drive from Asheville takes 1 hour and 45 minutes. Experiencing the Chimneys is worth every second of it! Hiking does not require any fees or permits.
Due to terrain and National Park regulations, dogs are not allowed on Chimney Tops Trail.