Smoky Mountain Waterfall Hikes

The Smoky Mountains have some of the best waterfalls in Tennessee. Great for summertime, these waterfall hikes in the Smoky Mountains are great destinations to cool off. While not all of them are great as swimming holes, these waterfalls are still awesome to stand next to and take in the mist.

Abrams Falls

One of the more popular waterfall hikes, this hike is rated easy. The waterfall is about 2.3 miles into the trail. The trailhead is located off of the 11-mile loop in Cades Cove. One of the most popular trails in the park, the waterfall hike follows Abrams Creek and passes by Abrams Falls. It takes about 3-4 hours to hike to the waterfall and back.

Abrams Falls

The trail to the Abrams Falls traverses pine-oak forest on the ridges and hemlock and rhododendron forest along the creek. Hikers also have the option to combine this trail with a couple adjacent ones for a nice loop hike.

Ramsey Cascades

Ramsey Cascades is the tallest waterfall in the national park with water falling at 100 feet. The 4 mile trail to the falls gains more than 2000 feet in elevation at a fairly continuous incline. The hike is considered strenuous by most, but very enjoyable with a mountain stream that follows most of the hike as well as many different kinds of wildflowers.

Ramsey Cascades

Mouse Creek Falls

Mouse Creek Falls is a 20 foot waterfall about 2 miles into Big Creek Trail on the east side of the national park. From I40 get off on the Waterville exit (451) to reach the Big Creek Campground. One of the most leisurely strolls in the park, Big Creek Trail also features the beautiful Midnight Hole around mile 1.4. This is a great summer hike especially for children.

Big Creek Trail
Spruce Falls Flats by coloneljohnbritt / CC BY 2.0 (Cropped)

Spruce Flat Falls

This practically unknown trail is actually called Buckeye Trail. Only 2 miles roundtrip, the beautiful waterfall and quiet pool at the end are a peaceful getaway from noise and crowds. This hike begins at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, which is located near the Townsend entrance to the park. Drive toward Cades Cove and look for Tremont on the left.

Spruce Flats Falls

After traveling 2.2 miles down Tremont’s road, turn left toward the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont and bear left to park in the visitor area. Walk up the paved road into the Tremont complex. The trail begins at the simple “Falls” sign about 0.2 miles up this road. Follow the few steps up into the woods and begin your adventure!

Hen Wallow Falls

The hike to Hen Wallow Falls is 2.1 miles and covers beautiful forest with a few stream crossings. While there are a couple of moderately steep parts, the trail is well maintained. Hen Wallow Falls is on Gabes Mountain Trail. The trailhead can be accessed by taking US-321 east from Gatlinburg or by taking the Foothills Parkway west from I-40.

Hen Wallow Falls

A right turn 1.2 miles south of Cosby takes you into Cosby Cove. About 2 miles after making the turn, you’ll reach the Cosby picnic area with parking for day hiking. This trail passes by Hen Wallow Falls and through mature forest; it is the first leg of one of the favorite backpacking loops in the park and home to campsite #34. Elevation gain is 1,300 feet.

Deep Creek

The cozy area of Deep Creek, North Carolina is located in the southeastern part of the national park and includes 3 waterfalls: Juney Whank Falls, Tom Branch Falls, and Indian Creek Falls. You can see all 3 of them on the two mile loop hike starting at the Deep Creek Campground.

Deep Creek

Laurel Falls Trail

This trail is 2.6 miles round trip (to the falls) and is the easiest falls hike on the Tennessee side of the park. The trailhead access is located off of Little River Road at the Fighting Creek Gap parking area, less than 4 miles past Sugarlands Visitor Center. After passing Laurel Falls on this trail, an ascent through virgin forest to the fire tower on Cove Mountain can lengthen this hike.

Laurel Falls

Laurel Falls is a popular destination and designated nature trail. At only 1.3 miles up a paved trail, the 75-foot waterfall is especially interesting because it is a two-step waterfall, with the trail crossing a ledge between the upper and the lower falls. Beyond the falls, the trail is no longer paved and along this stretch you will find more solitude.

This trail will take you by a clearing that was the homesite of Lem Ownby, the last life-time lease holder in the park. “Uncle Lem”, as he was called, lived in a log cabin on the trail until his death at age 100 in 1989.

Rainbow Falls Trail

This trail is 5.2 miles round trip and rated moderate. The trailhead begins 2.4 miles up Cherokee Orchard Road. This is accessible from Historic Nature Trail/Airport Road (light #8) in Gatlinburg. Rainbow falls is at 4,000 feet in elevation and if your timing is right, mist from Roaring Fork Creek’s spill over the 80 foot ledge creates a rainbow in the early afternoon.

Rainbow Falls

The Rainbow Falls hike is very popular by itself, but for the more adventurous, passing the beautiful falls and continuing on to the summit of Mt. LeConte is also a possibility.

Trillium Gap/Grotto Falls Trail

Trillium Gap Trail is an 8.9 mile trail to Mount LeConte, but you can take a shortcut past the true trailhead for a quick 1.4 mile hike to Grotto Falls. From Cherokee Orchard Road drive past the the Rainbow Falls trail parking sign and onto Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. From there look for a sign labeled Grotto Falls Parking.

Grotto Falls

Trillium Gap Trail is the only horse trail to the summit of Mt. LeConte and is the trail used to transport supplies to LeConte Lodge. You may get to see llamas on the trail because lodge managers use these sure footed animals, instead of horses, to carry their supplies. LeConte Lodge is open from mid March to mid November. For more information or to make reservations at LeConte Lodge, call 865-429-5704.

Only 1.4 miles up the Trillium Gap Trail is the only waterfall in the park that visitors can walk behind. A trip to Grotto Falls makes a wonderful family hike and the falls, along with multitudes of wildflowers visible in the spring, provide wonderful photo opportunities!

Baskins Creek Falls

Just across the road from Trillium Gap Trail is the lesser-traveled Baskins Creek Trail, winding a total of 2.7 miles through the center of the Roaring Fork loop. The spur trail to reach the waterfall is about 1.5 miles in. Warning: the spur trail is not maintained by the national park, and the decent to the waterfall is extremely treacherous, rocky, and slippery.

Baskins Creek Trail

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