11 Best Waterfall Hikes In The Smoky Mountain Range

waterfall hikes in smoky mountains
Swadeep Singh
Swadeep Singh
Updated

The Smokies or the Great Smoky Mountains are the subranges of the old Appalachian Mountains, which runs through the state of Tennessee and North Carolina. Being situated at that location, the smoky mountain naturally happens to be the first preference for the East Coast population. The forest, valleys, and the ridges of this international biosphere reserve are comparable to the Rockies or some Canadian mountain ranges. This reputation allures about 11 million visitors per year into this geography, and if you’re also a nature enthusiast, you will definitely remember the holidays spent here for a long time. Today, we are going to show you an index of the best waterfall hikes in the Smoky Mountain Range. Take a look at our proposals by scrolling down on this page, and check out which hike is suitable for you.

Travel Advisory

Trip101 recommends assessing the risks before hitting the hiking and trekking trails. Please be especially aware of the difficulty levels, the locations’ ground conditions, as well as the seasonal risks.

1. Grotto Falls

Grotto-falls
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Brian Stansberry used under CC BY 3.0

Grotto Falls is an easy hiking path through the old growth forest thus kids can also go along. The standard route starts from the outer Cherokee Orchard Road, Gatlinburg, which will take you to the Grotto Falls within an hour. After hiking the elevation for about 600 feet (182 meters), you will be greeted with its shallow pool and cascading waterfall. Please note that the trail will be closed between December to March, so if you still want to go to Grotto between these months, you have to take another route which will add an extra hour to the hike.

Grotto Falls

Access: Roaring Fork Rd Gatlinburg, TN 37738

Waterfall height: 25 feet (over 7 meters)

Difficulty of hike: 1.3 miles (2 kilometers), Easy

Time taken: 40 minutes one way

2. Spruce Flats Falls

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

You won’t get Spruce Flats Falls on the official park map, thus pay attention to this heading. The trail to this fall is closer to the Tremont Institute, and the location of the waterfall is beside the point where Spruce Flat meets the Honey Cove Branch. Although the hike is short, the difficulty level is moderate this time. The round trip will take less than two miles (three kilometers), but as you get closer to the falls, the slope will become steep, so be careful at this section. At the falls, you will get a four-tier cascading fall and a plunge pool. Since it’s not mentioned on the map, expect less traffic, which is even fun.

Spruce Flats Falls

Access: Spruce Flats Branch Townsend, TN 37882

Waterfall height: 30 feet (9 meters)

Difficulty of hike: 0.7 miles (1.1 kilometers), Moderate

Time taken: 45 minutes one way

3. Laurel Falls

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Only a few miles to the southwest of Gatlinburg’s Sugarlands Visitor Center, and southeast of the Wears Valley on the Fighting Creek Gap Road, this is amongst the most popular rapids path in the Smokies. Laurel is an 80-foot (24-meter) high waterfall. The trail is light and short, and because it is so popular, you will usually face traffic and parking difficulty. Thus, whenever you plan this hike, start at sunrise. Lastly, if it is possible, avoid weekends and peak season.

Laurel Falls

Access: Little River Rd Gatlinburg, TN 37738

Waterfall height: 80 feet (24 meters)

Difficulty of hike: 1.1 miles (1.7 kilometers), Easy

Time taken: 30 minutes one way

4. Indian Creek Falls

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

To the extreme south of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this waterfall is situated closer to Bryson City, North Carolina. So, it’s better to combine at least one or two trails with this hike. It has a low difficulty, one hour round trip, and you will get to see an extra waterfall on Indian Creek Fall’s path. The 80-foot (24-meter) high Tom Branch Falls comes at the halfway, which is quite narrow. The core waterfall is shorter than that, but its plunge pool and the opportunity to slide down with the rapid makes it more fun than the former.

Indian Creek Falls

Access: Indian Creek Trail, Bryson City, NC 28713

Waterfall height: 25 feet (over 7 meters)

Difficulty of hike: 0.9 mile (1.4 kilometers), Easy

Time taken: 30 minutes one way

5. Abrams Falls

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Would you dare to go on a waterfall hike that is listed among the top-10 most dangerous hikes in America (Backpacker Mag: October 2008)? If the answer is yes, then Abrams Falls is open all season. But before you make up your mind, it’s our duty to share the fact that 29 accidental deaths have been recorded on this hike/fall since 1970. Over five miles (eight kilometers) of roundtrip already turn this to a laborious trip, plus there will be three tiers of slopes. When you’ll finally reach the falls, you get a 20-foot (6 meters) high waterfall. But don’t judge so quickly, the extreme amount of water discharge from this little height makes its pool hazardous. It has strong currents and undertows. If you aren’t an experienced swimmer, we recommend staying out of the waters.

Abrams Falls

Access: Cades Cove Loop Rd & Laurel Creek Rd Townsend, TN 37882

Waterfall height: 20 feet (6 meters)

Difficulty of hike: 2.6 miles (4 kilometers), Moderate

Time taken: 60 minutes one way

6. Hen Wallow Falls

Hen-wallow-falls-gsmnp1
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Brian Stansberry used under CC BY 3.0

Situated on the northeastern section of the Great Smokies, Hen Wallow is another spectacular waterfall trail. But be advised as its nearly vertical climb on some sections makes it difficult; the total elevation gain is 900 feet (275 meters) and the roundtrip takes about three hours. The final result is worthy of all the struggle; it is a 90-foot (27-meter) high narrow waterfall surrounded by lush forest and ridges. Hen Wallow is forever beautiful but it discharges a lesser volume of water, so it’s a good idea to plan this hike after recent rainfall. Your parking ground will be Cosby Picnic Area.

Hen Wallow Falls

Access: Hen Wallow Falls Trail, Cosby, Tennessee 37722

Waterfall height: 90 feet (27 meters)

Difficulty of hike: 2.2 miles (3.2 kilometers)

Time taken: 90 minutes one way

7. Big Creek / Mouse Creek Falls

Mouse creek falls bigcreek
Source: Photo by user Wncoutdoors used under CC BY-SA 3.0

A little east from the Cosby Picnic Area, you will find a passage to this trail from the point where Mt Sterling Road and Waterville Road meet. Big Creek Entrance Road will take you to the Big Creek Trailhead, which is the starting point of this hike. The hike to the fall is lengthy but fairly smooth. This path doesn’t give a problem to any age group. The fall is short, but you will have many smaller pools with the creek. It’s one of the few easy reach hikes of the Smokies.

Big Creek / Mouse Creek Falls

Access: Mouse Creek Falls Trail, Cataloochee, NC 28785

Waterfall height: 19 feet (6 meters)

Difficulty of hike: 2.1 miles (3.3 kilometers), Easy

Time taken: 60 minutes one way

8. Juney Whank Falls

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Hopefully, you haven’t skipped the brief about the Indian Creek Fall. We have said over there that one should cover at least one more hike with this trail since it takes a long ride from the central Smokies. Juney Whank can be that other waterfall hike, as both treks share the same parking lot. Juney is one of the easiest treks of the Great Smokies. It’s situated only a quarter mile (400 meters) from the parking lot so your roundtrip will take less than an hour. The fall is 80-foot (24 meters) high and a wooden footbridge is built close to the bottom of it. It’s among the most picturesque falls.

Juney Whank Falls

Access: 2465 W Deep Creek Rd Bryson City, NC 28713

Waterfall height: 80 feet (24 meters)

Difficulty of hike: 0.4 mile (0.6 kilometer), Easy

Time taken: 20 minutes one way

9. Middle Prong Trail

Middle-prong-trail-tennessee
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Brian Stansberry used under CC BY 3.0

Let’s set aside this trail for only the experienced hikers, not because it is extremely tricky but due to the fact that the roundtrip is over eight miles (13.3 kilometers) long on a rough gravel track. Arrive in the winters, and you would need to hike an extra three miles (five kilometers) as the final sections of the Tremont Road will be closed for cars. But there is no doubt that Middle Prong is the most photogenic trail of the Great Smokies. Along with the lush greenery, hikers will come across the rustic remains of the old Little River Lumber Company. Perhaps you would find those historic artifacts photogenic. If not, there is a multi-tiered waterfall before the half and a 60-foot (18-meter) high three-tiered waterfall at the end.

Middle Prong Trail

Access: Middle Prong Trail Townsend, TN 37882

Waterfall height: 60 feet (18 meters)

Difficulty of hike: 4.2 miles (6.7 kilometers), Difficult

Time taken: 120 minutes one way

10. Baskins Creek Falls

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Not very far from the Grotto Falls, Baskins Creek Falls is another good option for hikers. Despite the steep slope in the final section of this trail, the overall track is fairly easy. The round trip should take less than two hours. By the way, you should watch your feet if you’re moving after a recent rain as the terrain will turn all muddy and will get remarkably slippery. But the rain can also enhance the fall experience, so ignore the muddy shoes, you will definitely like this waterfall. It is 40-foot (12-meter) high waterfall separated on two tiers.

Baskins Creek Falls

Access: Roaring Fork Rd Gatlinburg, TN 37738

Waterfall height: 40 feet (12 meters)

Difficulty of hike: 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers), Easy

Time taken: 40 minutes one way

Enjoy a memorable experience

Gatlinburg-TN-overlook1
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Mountain Vacation... used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Consider yourself lucky that you’re spending time in the Smokies, but do not take everything for granted, value the experience too. That is why we are offering you some simple tips to have a memorable holiday. The first thing is that you should disconnect most of your electronic devices and social networks. Clicking some pictures is okay for the memory, but you shouldn’t observe every attraction behind the eyepiece. Also, camp out for at least one night; there is no light pollution in the forest, sleep spent underneath the stars will be the most wonderful experience of your life.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Nicknamed Bobby, Swadeep Singh is a businessman since 2013, but he has forever been a writer. Traveling places never makes him exhausted, that is why he never say no to any travel plan. If he’s not...Read more

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