GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS, Tenn. (WATE) — From summer to spring, waterfalls in the Smokies are a sight to see. There are at least 18 named falls within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Nearly every waterfall requires at least a small amount of hiking. However, Meigs Falls, The Sinks, and Place of a Thousand Drips can all be reached by road.
The pull-off for Meigs Falls is along Little River Road, 13 miles west of Sugarlands Visitor Center and seven miles east of Townsend. The waterfall is on the far side of Little River and the National Park Service warns it can be easily missed while driving.
This waterfall may be short in stature, but its volume includes the entire flow of Little River. The parking area to view the falls is also along Little River Road, 12 miles west of Sugarlands Visitor Center.
Place of a Thousand Drips
During wet periods, NPS says this waterfall is dramatic as the flow of water splits into multiple small channels cascading around rocks and creating “a thousand drips.” To get to the waterfall from the parkway in Gatlinburg, turn at traffic light #8 and follow Historic Nature Trail into the park. Next, take the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, be warned this road is closed in winter. The waterfall is at stop #15.
Waterfalls you can hike to
Each year 200,000 visitors come to the park to view Grotto, Laurel, Abrams, Rainbow, and other popular waterfalls in the park. Each of these falls requires a hike to see them and most hikes are listed as moderate in difficulty. Below you can read a short description of the falls and how to see them. In addition, pets are not allowed on any of the following trails.
Access trail: Abrams Falls Trail in Cades Cove
The trail for Abrams Falls is located in Cades Cove. Its turnoff is just past stop #10 on the Cades Cove Loop Road. The NPS says the hike is generally considered moderate in difficulty but some visitors may find it more difficult. For most people, going to the falls and back will take about 3-4 hours.
Access trail: Trillium Gap Trail on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
From the parkway in Gatlinburg, turn at traffic light #8 and follow Historic Nature Trail into the national park. Then take Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail to stop #5 where there is a large parking area. Be warned this trailhead cannot be accessed in the winter. The roundtrip distance to the waterfall is 2.6 miles and it takes about 2-3 hours to hike.
Hen Wallow Falls
Access Trail: Gabes Mountain
Park in the parking area at Cosby Picnic Area near the entrance to Cosby Campground. Then go about 100 yards down the road to the start of the Gabes Mountain Trail. To get to the waterfall and back is about 4.4 miles. However, the short trail down to the waterfall is very steep, and sturdy hiking shoes are recommended.
Indian Creek and Toms Branch Falls
Access trail: Deep Creek Trail
This is an easy 1.6-mile round trip to see two waterfalls. To get to the trail follow the signs to the national park through downtown Bryson City to Deep Creek Campground. Then continue past the campground to the trailhead at the end of Deep Creek Road.
Juney Whank Falls
Access Trail: Juney Whank Falls Trail
This is one of the shorter trips, with a 0.8-mile roundtrip. The trailhead is located on Deep Creek Road past the Deep Creek Campground. On the road continue past the campground to the trailhead at the end of Deep Creek Road.
Access trail: Laurel Falls Trail
This is one of the most popular falls in the park. Because of this parking is limited, and barriers have been placed to prevent parking along the road. The trail to the waterfall is 2.6 miles roundtrip. The trailhead is on Little River Road past Cades Cove.
Lynn Camp Prong Cascades
Access trail: Middle Prong Trail on Tremont Road
To get to the trail for the waterfall from the Townsend “Wye” take Laurel Creek Road 0.2 miles towards Cades Cove and turn left at the sign for Tremont. Next, go past the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont and continue another 3 miles to the small parking area at the end of the road. The trail starts at a long, high footbridge across the river. After the bridge, take the left fork to get to the falls. The roundtrip is 1.3 miles and the hike is generally considered to be easy.
Mouse Creek Falls
Access Trail: Big Creek Trail
On I-40 take the Waterville Road (#451) Exit then turn left after crossing the Pigeon River and go 2.3 miles to an intersection. Then continue straight and go past the ranger station, to a large parking area at the road’s end. The 4-mile roundtrip hike follows an old railroad grade used to haul lumber.
Access Trail: Rainbow Falls Trail in the Roaring Fork area
From the Gatlinburg parkway, turn at traffic light #8 and follow Historic Nature Trail into the national park. Next, go past the Noah “Bud” Ogle homesite to the Rainbow Falls parking area. This is one of the longer roundtrips at 5.4 miles. The NPS says some may find the trail more difficult due to its length, elevation gain, and rocky terrain.
Access Trail: Ramsey Cascades Trail in the Greenbrier area
To get to this trail drive six miles east of Gatlinburg on Highway 321 and turn at the Greenbrier entrance to the park. The trailhead is 4.7 miles down the road. The roundtrip to this waterfall is 8 miles and it takes about 5 to 7 hours to finish. This is considered a difficult trail. The NPS also warns people not to attempt climbing to the top of the falls as several people have been killed trying to do so.
The NPS suggests picking up a trail map before hiking any of these trails.
While this is not an exhaustive list of falls within the national park, hopefully, it is a good starting place for you to be able to find a piece of the natural beauty tucked away within the Smokies.