If you've spent any amount of time in the Great Smoky Mountains you've likely heard of the Chimney Tops. A prominent and eye catching feature from below as you drive US-441 between Newfound Gap and Gatlinburg, the Tops are all but irresistible to hike. There-in lay the problem, at least for me. The short but steep 2-mile path to the top of the Chimney's has the dubious distinction of being one of the busiest in the entire National Park. I tend to avoid trails with reputations like that like the plague, regardless of the scenery said trail may offer. I knew I couldn't avoid the Chimney Tops forever though. My climb of LeConte the previous October perked my wary interest in climbing them once again so when this crisp and incredibly clear winter day dawned I figured, of any day, this would be the finest to go.
Tucked amongst some of the highest peaks in the eastern United States, the humble sub-5,000 foot elevation of the Chimney Tops shouldn't draw much attention. However, thanks to their being part of the ancient and erosion-resistant Anakeesta Formation of bedrock these peaks have resisted the eons of weathering that has worn down the surrounding terrain. Their narrow and exposed rocky summits provide for a stunning grandstand view of the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains. For the hiker, there are few places in the Smokies where you are rewarded with such scenery for so little effort.
Despite the chilly temps I found that the trail was still fairly busy and I worried that it would ruin my experience at the top. No such chance...the beauty of nature from the Chimney Tops simply overwhelms the senses to the degree that other distractions fade into utter insignificance. The Chimney Tops are truly one of the Great Smoky Mountains magnificent natural wonders...wonders I am sure to return to again and again...come on along and see for yourself...
Trailhead Temp: 30'F
Hike Length: 4.5 miles Hike Duration: 2:45
Min. Elevation: 3,350' Max. Elevation: 4,800'
Total Vertical: 1,510' Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile: 755'