Hiking & Waterfalls

Grotto Falls

The one you can walk behind.

There's something magical about standing behind the wall of water as it cascades to the ground at Grotto. This is the only waterfall in the Smokies where you can do this, and the walk to Grotto is easy as pie. It's just minutes out of Gatlinburg, off the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, so make it a first stop on a day trip into the Park. You can stroll the Trillium Trail through old-growth forests, and if you're there in May, get ready to be wowed by the wildflowers. They are dazzling.

Laurel Falls

Paved access to a picture perfect wonder.

Take a 2.6 mile walk on the paved trail to Laurel and you'll see why so many consider it a must-see. The 80-foot cascade is one of the most-photographed spots in the Smokies for good reason. It's only a few miles from Sugarlands, right outside Gatlinburg. If you come in early morning, you'll beat the crowds and be rewarded with perfect light for photography. Bring the family: The walk to Laurel Falls is stroller, wheelchair and walker friendly.

Abrams Falls

The most water, the deepest pool. But, warning: no swimming!

The five-mile round trip along Abrams Creek is a moderate hike that's worth every step. Cross the wooden bridge and follow the path along the Cades Cove Valley floor among pine, oak, hemlock and rhododendron. When you arrive, you'll see why a waterfall that's only 20 feet high is one of the most popular places in the Smokies. The amount of rushing water is staggering, and the pool below is long and deep. The warnings about swimming are worth heeding! The currents are dangerous and have swept some to their deaths. Look, but don't jump!

Mt. LeConte

Hike to the best sunrises and sunsets in the park.

At just shy of 6,600 feet, the views from top of LeConte Lodge in the Smokies make it a trek worth taking. You can stock a backpack and head up for a stay at the rustic LeConte Lodge – But warning, there is no electricity and it is a sellout every year for good reason. Please note, there are backcountry campsites nearby. The most spectacular sunrises and sunsets occur on Myrtle Point in the east and Clifftops to the west.

Even if you don't have reservations at the Lodge or shelter, the trails to LeConte are worth the day trip and you can reserve lunch at the Lodge dining room, if you call ahead. The Alum Cave Bluffs Trail, past storm-tossed boulders, up stone stairs and under Arch Rock, is one of the best hikes in the Smokies. Try the Boulevard Trail for a longer but easier ascent, or a more challenging trek on Rainbow Falls Trail to the top.

Chimney Tops

A challenging trek to a bare rock summit with a thrilling 360° view.

It's only a couple of miles up, but there's a reason hiking enthusiasts all over the world make the rugged ascent to this bare rock summit. Climb among the rhododendrons, over wood bridges and along a rushing stream to the summit. The last mile is intimidating, and some hesitate at the base of the rocks, but if you are brave, cautious, in good shape and not a nervous nelly about heights, you'll be rewarded with a full 360° view, including Mt. LeConte to the east and Mt. Mingus to the north.

Ramsey Cascades

Tallest waterfall in the park

Ramsey Cascades is the highest waterfall accessible by trail in the park. Most of the water comes from the 6621-foot high Mt. Guyot, the second highest mountain in the Great Smoky Mountains. Water drops 100 feet over rock outcroppings and collects in a small pool where numerous salamanders can be found. The trail to the waterfall gains over 2,000' in elevation over its 4 mile course and the 8-mile roundtrip hike is considered strenuous in difficulty but well worth it. It takes about 5-7 hours to hike to the waterfall and back. The trail follows rushing rivers and streams for much of its length. The last 2 miles pass through old-growth cove hardwood forest with large tuliptrees, basswoods, silverbells, and yellow birches.

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