Explore the Great Smoky Mountain National Park Waterfalls
The Great Smoky Mountain National Park and its waterfalls attract millions of visitors annually. Most waterfalls in the park are located off hiking trails, however some are visible from a vehicle as well. From beginner to experienced, the park features a variety of trails – ranging in skill level and time – so plan ahead to pick your must-sees. This round-up will help you decide which waterfalls to visit and what to expect:
Easy Hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains
See two waterfalls – Tom Branch Falls and Indian Creek Falls – in the Deer Creek area. This easy hiking trail is less than 2 miles round trip. The Deer Creek and Indian Creek trails take hikers to the 60-foot Tom Branch and 25-foot high Indian Creek falls.
Moderate Hikes (less than 1 mile to 5 miles)
Mingo Falls ranks as one of the tallest in the southern Appalachians at an impressive 120 feet. The falls is only a 0.4 mile hike out, however it is considered a moderate one. Mingo sits on the Cherokee Indian Reservation, and guests are welcome – no special permit required.
Juney Whank falls 90 feet and is located at the end of a moderately difficult 0.8-mile hike. The trail leaves from downtown Bryson City and passes Deep Creek campground, making for a quick hike option. Juney Whank Falls is divided into two sections.
One of the most popular and visited waterfalls is Laurel, which measures 80 feet, divided by a walkway. The paved Laurel Falls Trail is considered a moderate hike, and a round trip is 2.6 miles. Due to the trail’s unevenness, slipperiness and drop offs, this spot is not suitable for strollers or wheelchairs.
Along the Trillium Gap Trail, you’ll sneak behind Grotto Falls. This 25-foot waterfall sits in an old-growth hemlock forest. The hike rates moderate-to-difficult and is a 3-mile round trip. Standing behind Grotto Falls provides couples a romantic place to relax after the hike.
From the top, Hen Wallow Falls looks small at only 2 feet wide. However looking down, hikers will see it falls 90 feet and has a 20-foot base. In the winter, this waterfall freezes to create a picture-perfect winter spot. This 4.4-mile hike up Hen Wallow Creek travels through hemlock and rhododendron forests up steep switchbacks.
More Challenging Hiking Trails (4 to 8 miles)
Take a 4-mile round-trip hike to Mouse Creek Falls, which measures 45 feet. The Big Creek Trail will also take you to Midnight Hole, a deep pool below 6-foot falls. Once you reach Mouse Creek, sit a spell on the benches and just enjoy the waterfall views.
Abrams Falls stands 20 feet high, and the hike to the base measures 5 miles round trip. The path offers moderate difficulty through pine-oak and hemlock and rhododendron forests. Take note, due to strong currents and undertows, swimming is dangerous and unsafe. It’s best to just take great pictures and enjoy the natural surroundings.
Rainbow Falls – standing at 80 feet – provides colorful rainbows on sunny days. This more difficult trip is among the favorite Great Smoky Mountain National Park waterfalls, measuring 5.4 miles round trip. Prepare for a higher elevation, as this trail reaches a 1,500 feet. After the falls, follow the trail for another 4 miles to summit Mount Le Conte.
The tallest waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is Ramsey Cascades at 100 feet. This 8-mile trek (round trip) rates as difficult and reaches a 2,000-foot elevation. As you make your way to the falls, you’ll also see rivers, streams and old-growth hardwood forests. This trail is perfect for spending a full day outdoors.
Drive along Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail to find Place of a Thousand Drips, a small waterfall that cascades down nearly 30 feet. Located on Little River Rd., Meigs Falls is viewable from your vehicle as well. This waterfall is a top spot for those visiting Cades Cove.