Top 11 Smoky Mountain Hiking Trails with Waterfalls
Are you a nature lover who’s looking for your next big adventure? Do you enjoy taking hikes in fascinating places that include beautiful waterfalls? Do you want to explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then you’ve come to the right place.
When it comes to taking a hike anywhere in the Great Smoky Mountains, you already know you’re in for some fun. After all, the Great Smoky Mountains are one of the most impressive mountain ranges in the United States. It’s one of the most popular destinations every year, especially for hikers.
How many waterfalls are in the Smoky Mountains National Park?
There are over 2,000 miles of streams and rivers within the 522,427 acres of the park. It stretches across Tennessee and North Carolina, so there are several memorable waterfalls in both states.
While you can expect their incredibly green foliage and mountain views to satisfy you, there’s something quite intriguing when it comes to waterfalls. They’re serene and peaceful.
So if you’re hoping to track down popular waterfalls while you’re on a hike. In that case, all you have to do is try out these mountain hiking trails with waterfalls at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
1) Grotto Falls
The hiking trail to Grotto Falls is one of the most popular hikes around Gatlingburg. It has a 25-foot high waterfall that runs wild just ahead of the Trillium Gap Trail. The Trillium Gap Trail is accessible from the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. It is a moderate hike, but you will also see families with small children making the trek to the falls, so it’s not unachievable.
The hike to the waterfall only takes you about 2 or 3 hours, depending on how frequent your stops are. It’s also the perfect hike to take if you tend to get tired quickly.
However, carrying water and wearing sturdy hiking shoes is recommended because the rocks can make it slightly trickier to walk in some places. There are also tree stumps in the way.
Be prepared to get there early because the parking area is not much of a parking lot at all. Cars tend to pull over on the side of the road. We got there around 8:30 in the morning after a light rain earlier that morning, and we quite literally snagged one of the last open spots along the road.
Side note, you can also reach the summit of Mount LeConte from this same trail, but it will be an all-day hike.
2) Rainbow Falls
The Rainbow Falls trail is among the most famous waterfall hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The trail follows 4-5 miles and is moderately challenging to hike.
The Rainbow Falls are 80 feet high and named because they emit different colors when the sun hits the water on sunny days. The average hiking time is around 3-4 hours, extending because the trail features sharp rocky terrains and an elevated path.
3) Cataract Falls
Cataract Falls are only a mile’s trail in the forest, lying just beyond the Sugarlands Visitor Center on the Cove Mountain Trailhead. The average hiking time is 30 minutes tops, but if you have little kiddos with you, it might take only a few minutes longer.
That being said, the trail is relatively easy and accessible, which makes it even safe for little kids and toddlers, but make sure to keep an eye on them when you reach base. There’s also a great picnic area in the Cove Mountain Trailhead, so pack some sandwiches!
4) Abram Falls
A camping hiking area in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Abram Falls is among the most popular waterfalls in the region. Although Abram Falls is only 20m in height, the show’s true star is its voluminous span across a deep pool, making it an ideal camping spot.
The hike is moderate in difficulty since it presents tricky terrains and length. It takes 3-4 hours to hike, but if you’re planning on camping, make sure to check in with the Great Smoky National Park!
5) Baskins Creek Falls
The Baskin Creek Falls are relatively new to the public solely because of their remote location. Tucked behind a cave-type stony hedge on a steep mountain, the Baskin Creek Falls is a strenuous hike to achieve.
You can access the popular waterfalls from the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and Graveyard Ridge Trailhead. Remember to be prepared because barely half a mile into this 5-6 mile trail, there’s a sudden and rapid descent.
The hike is recommended for experts only and if you’re a beginner, make sure to take someone who really knows how to hike.
6) Porters Creek Trail Trailhead
The Porters Creek Trail is arguably the most visited trailhead in Tennessee, so you’re not exactly going to find it remote or deserted like the others. However, this impressive 7 miles hike is accessible for camping, hiking, backpacking, and horse riding, so you don’t have to worry about its length.
The hike duration is around 5-6 hours, depending on breaks, but don’t worry because it’s so easy to hike; even kids do it. Just make sure you’re going a little early as it tends to get crowded midday.
7) Laurel Falls
Among the many Bryson city waterfalls, Laurel Falls and their trail are amazingly great for hiking. It tends to get rather busy on the weekends, so expect crowds after a few turns. The Laurel Falls trail is also one of the few rarer trails to be paved, so you’ll find it relatively faster to cross.
Hiker’s discretion advised; Laurel Falls has been visited by black bears, so supervise children at all times. The trail is barely 3 miles and takes 2 hours to reach; perfect for a brisk morning hike.
8) Tom Branch Falls
Bryson City has its fair share of popular waterfalls, so you’ll be glad to know you won’t be running short on them anytime soon. The 80-foot-tall Tom Branch Falls is one of them, and the hike to the deep creek is only 0.6 miles in length. It also takes a maximum of 30 minutes to get there, which makes it extremely easy, so don’t worry if you’re coming with kids.
The falls are accessible through the Deep Creek Trail and give way into the other two Bryson City waterfalls; Indian Creek Falls and Juney Whank Falls.
9) Indian Creek Falls
Just a few minutes from the Tom Branch Falls, the Indian Creek Falls are 45 feet high and span across a beautiful side of Bryson City. The Indian Creek Falls are accessible from the Deep Creek Trail and only take an hour tops.
The difficulty level of the hiking trail isn’t exactly high either; it’s considered a children-friendly trail that leads to another waterfall, the Juney Whank.
10) Juney Whank Falls
The Juney Whank Falls are only a little ahead of the Indian Creek Falls, so you already know the trail will be easily accessible. However, the hike to Juney Whank Falls is relatively rigid compared to Tom Branch Falls and Indian Creek Falls.
They are located at a more significant elevation and have rocky terrain. However, kids who have been hiking for a while can head up there with adult supervision, of course.
Luckily, the Deep Creek Trail is very bike-friendly from where the Juney Whank Falls is accessible. You can make an entire roundabout trip from the popular waterfalls of Tom Branch Falls to the Juney Whank Falls.
11) Spruce Flats Falls
While this one is a shorter trip at 1.8 miles roundtrip, it does have an elevation gain of 413 feet. There are some rocks and spots with tree roots so wear comfortable and protective shoes. Some sections of the trail can be very steep. And be on the lookout for black bears!