Smoky Mountains Waterfalls: Explore the National Park’s Attractions
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 vehicles 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 visitors decide which Smoky Mountains waterfalls to see and what to expect.
Smoky Mountains Waterfalls: Plan a Sightseeing Adventure in Tennessee
Easy Hikes in 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)
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, 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 option. Juney Whank Falls is divided into two sections.
Intermediate Hikes (2 to 5 miles)
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, with a round trip of 2.6 miles. Due to the trail’s unevenness, slipperiness, and drop offs, this spot is not suitable for strollers or wheelchairs.
Along Trillium Gap Trail, 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. For a romantic place to relax with someone special, stand behind Grotto Falls.
From the top, Hen Wallow Falls looks small at only 2 feet wide. However looking down, hikers may notice 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 also takes guests to Midnight Hole, a deep pool below 6-foot falls. Once at Mouse Creek, sit a spell on benches and enjoy 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 pictures and admire the natural surroundings.
Rainbow Falls – standing at 80 feet – provides colorful rainbows on sunny days. This more difficult trip is among the favorite Smoky Mountains 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 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. While traveling to the falls, 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 nearly 30 feet. Located on Little River Road, Meigs Falls is viewable from vehicles as well. This waterfall is a top spot for those visiting Cades Cove.
Don’t stop at these top Smoky Mountains waterfalls. Learn more about the Smoky Mountains and Tennessee!