My wife and I spent our 25th anniversary(12/19/06)on the Smokemont Loop. Started with beautiful rushing Bradley Fork, took a left over a cool log bridge and up a strenuous 2 miles to a saddle in Richland Mountain with spectacular views. The trail crosses the ridge so there were great views of Clingman's Dome,Thomas Ridge and the mountains that separate NC and Tennessee along parts of the trail, and the vista that includes Hughes Ridge and the valleys and mountains to the SE on other parts of the trail.
I am told that this is a heavily used trail in season, but being December we saw nary a soul, and the lack of foliage (except for luxuriant copses of rhododendron)was a definite plus. On parts of the trail, however, you can hear the traffic going up and down the blue ridge pway.
We had originally planned on hiking Heintooga Bald, but the road was closed. We then drove to the border in order to hike the AT to the ice shelter, but not only was the trail socked in, it was covered with screaming teens. Back down the mountain to Smokemont, and it turned out to be everything that we were looking for. What a blessing to see God's creation spreading out before us during part of the hike, and sitting on a boulder and watching it rush by during another.