4 of the Best Waterfall Hikes in the Smoky Mountains
One of the best sights to see in the Smoky Mountains is a gorgeous waterfall. Luckily, there are plenty of waterfall hikes to enjoy on your visit for all skill levels! Whether you want something relatively easy that the whole family can do or don’t mind something a little more challenging, there is a perfect waterfall hike for you. To help you decide, we’ve made a list of 4 of the best waterfall hikes in the Smoky Mountains.
1. Laurel Falls
Laurel Falls is a two-tiered, 80-foot waterfall in the Smoky Mountains. The upper and lower section is divided by a walkway that crosses the stream at the base of the upper falls. This is actually one of the most popular hikes for people of all skill levels! The trail is considered moderate in difficulty and one that families love to hike together. The roundtrip distance to the waterfall is 2.6 miles, and it takes about 2-3 hours to complete. On your way to the waterfall, you’ll be able to see mountain laurel, which blooms along the trail and near the falls in May.
2. Grotto Falls
Grotto Falls is a unique waterfall in the fact that it’s the only waterfall in the park that you can walk behind. To get to the 25-foot waterfall, you’ll hike the Trillium Gap Trail. The trail runs through an old-growth hemlock forest. It’s 2.6 miles roundtrip and considered moderate in difficulty. Like Laurel Falls, it takes about 2-3 hours to hike to the waterfall and back. This is a popular hike to do in the summer because of the cool, moist environment near the waterfall. It’s also a popular spot for salamanders!
3. Abrams Falls
Abrams Falls is located in Cades Cove and is one of the waterfall hikes in the Smoky Mountains that can’t be beat. Although this waterfall is only 20 feet high, what it lacks in height it makes up for in volume. The volume of water rushing over the falls is gorgeous, and it collects in a picturesque pool at the base of the falls. The hike is 5 miles roundtrip and takes about 3-4 hours to complete. The trail itself runs along a pine-oak forest on the ridges and a hemlock and rhododendron forest along the creek. When you’re in the area hiking to Abrams Falls, be sure to spend some time exploring the rest of Cades Cove.
4. Rainbow Falls
If you’re up for a bit more of a challenge, hike to Rainbow Falls! This 80-foot waterfall is beautiful. On sunny afternoons, a rainbow produced by the mist from the falls can be seen. It even makes a great winter hike because an impressive ice formation can build around the falls. It’s 5.4 miles to the waterfall and back, and the trail gains about 1,500 feet in elevation. Once you get to the falls, you can choose to turn around, or you can continue on the trail for 4 more miles to get to the summit of Mount LeConte.
More Hikes in the Smoky Mountains
These are some of our favorite waterfall hikes in the Smoky Mountains for all skill levels, but there are plenty of other hiking options in the park! If you’re looking for something a little easier that the whole family can do, take a look at these top 6 easy hikes in the Smoky Mountains.