Old-growth forests give these mountains a sense of wonder worthy of Tolkien’s stories. Footpaths wind through the lush green folds where waterfalls and creeks rush by bus-size rhododendrons. These are our nation’s oldest mountains, and they continue to provide fresh experiences with each visit.
Insider’s Tip: Take a car hike. Our favorite drives include the loop road around Cades Cove, the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail out of Gatlinburg, and Balsam Mountain Road off the Blue Ridge Parkway.