If you’re visiting the Smoky Mountains, we are sure that you’ve heard about the abundance of nature hikes that the national park has to offer, and that is why it’s one of the most visited National Parks out there. Alongside it’s many hikes to some of the most incredible summits, there are several spots to appreciate waterfall experiences. Nothing truly makes one in awe of nature like the sound of steady water plummeting off a rocky ledge into a pool beneath it, and the Great Smoky Mountains has definitely got you covered.
Whether it’s smaller, trickling cascades of water, or larger and taller views of water rushing down into the stream -- you will not be disappointed with these top 7 waterfall hikes.
Number One: Rainbow Falls
The trailhead to this hike is located just past the Noah “Bud” Ogle site with a clear wooden sign marking where it begins. Gaining roughly 1600 feet in elevation, this hike is known to be a little rugged and moderately difficult. This trail is approximately 5.4 miles round trip, taking a few hours (if not more) to complete, so make sure you block off some time to hike and enjoy the waterfall view.
Rainbow Falls is actually named after a rainbow that often appears on misty, sunny days and it is known to be the highest single-drop waterfall in this area. It is also noted that the rocks surrounding the waterfall can get a little slippery, so it is advised not to climb on any rocks nearby as one can get severely injured.
Number Two: Laurel Falls
This popular beauty is a quick roundtrip of 2.3 miles with an elevation gain of roughly 314 feet. Although this is one of the easier hikes, it is still recommended to use caution because of its steep drop-offs. This waterfall has an upper and lower section, making a sum total of 80 magnificent feet.
Laurel Falls gets its name from the Mountain Laurel that blooms around this area in May. If you have a chance to come around then, this plant will be greeting you as you make your way to the water. Make sure you snap some pictures, this waterfall is known to be one of the most beautiful and picturesque waterfalls of the area--leaving you truly breathless.
Number Three: Grotto Falls
Another easy hike with 585 feet worth of elevation gain, begin your hike at Trillium Gap Trailhead. The Grotto Falls hike is roughly 2.6 miles in roundtrip length, taking about two hours or so to complete. This waterfall is unique in the fact that it is the only waterfall that you can actually walk behind. A top destination in the summer, those that try going in the winter should note that the trail to get to it remains closed during that time -- but Rainbow Falls Trailhead can also reach this popular location as well.
Number Four: Ramsey Cascades
On the more difficult side, Ramsey Cascades is an 8-mile round trip hike that takes approximately 7 hours to hike. Definitely, one that you will want to block off the day for, this trail has an elevation gain of 2,190 feet. Walk along the gravel, enter into old forest territory, walk the rugged terrain, and reach the 100-foot tiered waterfall! It is noted that salamanders are often found in the pools that the water plunges into as well, for those amphibian lovers.
Number Five: Abrams Falls
This 20-foot waterfall got its name after a Cherokee Indian chief whose village used to be nearby. The most voluminous waterfall in the park, this hike is 5.2-miles roundtrip. Caution needs to be taken when hiking Abrams Falls, because although it is only moderately difficult, there have been several water-related accidents. With an elevation gain of 675-feet, this waterfall tends to be one of the more popular ones in the park as well.
Number Six: Fern Branch Falls at Porters Creek Trail
Moderately difficult, this mossy trailway of Porters Creek Trail is 4-miles roundtrip -- leaving it to be moderately difficult. You’ll pass old stone walls, farm views, and a cemetery as you make your way to the 60-foot Fern Branch Falls. With an elevation gain of 699-feet, this lesser traveled trail will remind you how beautiful nature can truly be.
Number Seven: Deep Creek Loop
Start off at the Deep Creek Trailhead, welcoming mountain bikers and pedestrians alike to enjoy the 4.6-mile roundtrip trail. This moderately difficult hike reaches an elevation gain of 579 feet with several loops leading to the waterfall. Bask in the wildflowers like azalea, and watch the different waterfalls meet the streams. A great place to picnic, fish, or casually stroll (although to fish, there are regulations and licenses needed.)
We have certainly fallen in love with these top 7 waterfall-filled trails and we hope you are getting excited to try them out for yourselves. So, pack the bags, bring the correct footwear, and grab some water! These hikes are sure to create a day of amazing views, exercise, and fun.
While planning your visit, be sure to visit our accommodations page for a variety of lodging options in the Great Smoky Mountains area.