Feel mist rising from a plunging waterfall, hear the rush of mountain waters, and splash in the crystal creeks when you discover the best waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains. Whether you’re traveling to Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge, there are plenty of scenic Smoky Mountain hikes you can take to marvel at the natural beauty of a waterfall.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a temperate rainforest, receiving 55 to 85 inches of rainfall each year, meaning you’ll find a wealth of water pouring over ancient mountains and ridgelines. If you want to visit at the height of summer or see the Great Smoky Mountains in the fall, Waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains offer surprises and spectacular beauty for all those who visit year-round.
In this article, we’ll discuss the very best waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains and how to get there.
Abrams Falls is one of the most voluminous waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountains. Visitors can access it via the Cades Cove Loop Road just past stop #10. Abrams Falls is a five-mile round trip hike and one of the best waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains to hike with an elevation gain of only 340 feet.
Enjoy traversing pine-oak forests on the ridge and then hemlock and rhododendron forests following the creek until you reach the falls. After 2.5 miles, you will be rewarded with the rushing waters of this waterfall plunging into a sparkling 100-foot pool at its base, making it picture-perfect and worth every step.
How to get there:Take US-321 N/E Lamar Alexander Parkway. Turn right onto Old State Highway 73. Take another right onto Cades Cove Loop Road. Turn right onto Abrams Falls Road to find the trailhead.
Great for: People who want to feel the rush of a waterfall in the middle of a hike.
One of the best waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains is Rainbow Falls. You have a great chance of seeing wildlife, and the trailhead to these waterfalls is also close to those who have cabin rentals in Gatlinburg. Rainbow Falls is the largest single-drop waterfall in the park, with a height of 80 feet.
Waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains derive their names in many ways. Rainbow Falls gets its name because, on a sunny day, the falls’ mist often produces a dazzling display of color. So, if you’re wondering when the best time to visit the Smoky Mountains is, check out Rainbow Falls for a sunny summer trip!
How to get there: From Gatlinburg, take Cherokee Orchard Road south and park in the Rainbow Falls Trailhead parking lot.
Great for: Visitors looking for a stunning waterfall easily accessed from Gatlinburg!
Ramsey Cascades is the tallest waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountains. Located in the Greenbrier section of the national park, the Ramsey Cascades trail winds up to the falls and has 2,300 feet of elevation gain. Though rugged and steep in parts, the reward at its destination is the breathtaking cascades that drop from over 100 feet. Hikers rambling up to these falls will see some of the oldest and largest trees in the park, such as tulip trees, eastern hemlock, basswoods, silver bells, and yellow birches.
How to get there: From Gatlinburg, drive east on Highway 321. Turn right on Greenbrier Road. Turn left onto Ramsey Prong Road to find the trailhead parking lot.
Great for: Those who want a blood-pumping challenge with an unforgettable waterfall reward as the destination!
Laurel Falls is one of the most famous waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains — and for a good reason! The short hike leading up to the trail is paved, offers easy access to all ages, and culminates at a majestic 80-foot waterfall, divided into an upper and lower section. These splendid falls get their name from the lovely Mountain Laurel that blooms along the trail in the springtime.
How to get there: From Gatlinburg, take US-441 S. Turn right onto Fighting Creek Gap Road and follow until you reach the trailhead.
One of the only waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains you can walk behind, Grotto Falls is a fun hike accessed just off the Roaring Fork Motor Trail. On your way to the falls, you will meander through an old growth hemlock forest.
Once you arrive at Grotto Falls, you can experience the wonder of walking behind the shimmering water sheets of this 25-foot cascade. Like many waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains, the base of the falls is a great place to hunt for salamanders who love the cool, moist environment around logs and rocks!
How to get there: From Gatlinburg, take Cherokee Orchard Road south. Turn right onto Roaring Fork Road until you reach the Trillium Gap Trail trailhead.
Great for: Those who want an easy hike with a unique experience!
For those seeking a different kind of waterfall in the Smoky Mountains, consider an alternative hike to Lynn Camp Prong Cascades. This waterfall hike is simple and hikers may find peace while descending the beautiful mountainside by Middle Prong Trail. Just 1.3 miles round-trip, this waterfall hike begins by crossing a high footbridge and then follows the river.
How to get there:From Gatlinburg, drive south on US-441 S. Turn right onto Fighting Creek Gap Road. Turn left onto Tremont Road until you reach Middle Prong Trail trailhead.
Great for: A peaceful hike packed with lots of wonderful cascades tumbling down the mountainside!
Families and groups seeking an incredible waterfall in the Smoky Mountains and swimming holes along the way will adore Big Creek/Mouse Creek Falls. Accessed from the Big Creek parking area part of the park, hikers will enjoy following this rushing creek as they climb toward the waterfall. After 1.5 miles, hikers will be dazzled by a beautiful turquoise pool known as Midnight Hole, a popular swimming hole complete with a six-food cascading waterfall.
After visiting Midnight Hole, hikers can take a half-mile hike to Mouse Creek Falls. This is the final destination for the hike. Hikers will delight in the picturesque 45-foot waterfall that pours over ancient mossy rocks.
How to get there:Drive south on I-40 E. Take exit 451. Turn right onto Waterville Road. Drive onto Big Creek Entrance Road until you reach the Big Creek trailhead
Great for: Those who want a waterfall hike with a swimming hole to boot!
Waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains inspire guests with their beauty and awe and can be a lifelong memory to add to a Smoky Mountain vacation. Include a waterfall hike on your next trip to soak in the extraordinary power and renewal of nature and its remarkable wonder!
The only thing better than a waterfall hike is your Great Smoky Mountain vacation rental. Check out Gatlinburg cabin rentals so you can enjoy your vacation in luxury.
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