You’ll feel the mist on your face on one of these top trips to the park’s impressive cascades. Enjoy the falls but never try to climb on the rocks near falls in the park. The rocks are extremely slippery and climbing on them can lead to serious injury and, sadly, sometimes fatalities.
The Trillium Gap Trail to this Roaring Fork-area destination gives you the chance to duck behind the waterfall—the ultimate refreshment on hot summer days. Pick up the easy trail off Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and stroll 2.6 miles (round-trip) to see the 25-foot cascade, making sure to explore the cool grotto behind the curtain of water.
This popular waterfall is 2.6 miles round-trip. While it was initially paved in 1963 and a bridge was constructed in 1995, the trail is not suitable for strollers or wheelchairs because of wear from overuse. The trailhead is 3.8 miles west from the Sugarlands Visitor Center on your way to Cades Cove. This is the most visited area of the park, so parking lots may be full on weekends and everyday during the summer. Want to avoid the hassle of parking? Take the Gatlinburg Trolley to the trailhead. Read more about Laurel Falls.
2021 NOTE: To minimize the number of people on the trail, protect the park’s natural resources and reduce traffic congestion, officials are launching a pilot reservation system that includes a pay-to-park component. From Sept. 7 through Oct. 3, 2021, visitors will need to have a reservation that is for a limited, two-hour block of time and costs $14. Parking is prohibited in undesignated areas along Little River Road. Make your parking reservations online at www.recreation.gov starting Aug. 24, 2021.
Deep Creek’s Three Waterfalls
Head to the Deep Creek area to explore three stunning waterfalls, all of which are a short hike from the Deep Creek trailhead. Black bears are sometimes seen in this area, so be aware of your surroundings and know what to do if you see a bear.
You can see Indian Creek Falls and Tom Branch Falls on the same 1.6-mile roundtrip loop. It’s rated easy by the National Park Service. From the Deep Creek trailhead walk .7 miles down the trail to where Indian Creek trail and Deep Creek trail intersect. Along the way, you’ll see Tom Branch Falls. There’s a bench next to the creek, and you can sit on it and take in the 60-plus-foot falls that cascade down into the creek.
Take a right on Indian Creek trail and walk about 200 feet to Indian Creek Falls. The falls plunge 25 feet down, and you can follow a small foot trail to the bottom of the falls.
Read more: 5 Ways to Get Wet at Great Smoky
The third fall, Juney Whank Falls, is .8 miles roundtrip and is rated “moderate” in difficulty by the National Park Service. Start at the Deep Creek trailhead. Backtrack on foot 0.1 mile along the road to the trail about a quarter of a mile until you reach a sign for the Juney Whank Falls Trail.The Juney Whank Falls are divided into an upper section and a lower section, which combined form a 90-foot-plus cascading waterfall. Walk along the log footbridge, which has handrails, to get a better view of both sections of the falls.
View Deep Creek Waterfall Map at www.greatsmokies.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/DeepCreekTrails.pdf
The trailhead to this picturesque falls is accessed off of the Cades Cove 11-mile loop road. Open from sunrise to sunset everyday, you’ll want to check the dates that only bicycles are allowed on the road. After you get to the trailhead, it’s a 5-mile round trip. Even though this waterfall is short in stature (20 feet), an incredible volume of water rushes through, making it an exciting sight. The thrilling cascade of water also makes this area very dangerous. Do not climb on the rocks or wade in the water. Instead watch safely from the banks.
It’s no wonder Ramsey Cascades is one of the park’s most popular destinations: At 100 feet in height, it’s the Smokies’ tallest waterfall, and the hike to it passes through a remarkable old-growth forest. To reach it, follow the Ramsey Cascades Trail (near Greenbrier) 4 miles, gaining 2,000 feet in elevation and passing through stands of towering tuliptrees, yellow birches, and basswoods, to see the falls flowing over a line of rocky ledges.
Head out on the Pigeon Creek Trail off of Big Cove Road to see Mingo Falls. Although this waterfall is not technically inside the park (it’s on the Cherokee Indian Reservation), it sits pretty darn near the park’s border. Mingo Falls is one of the tallest and most spectacular in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Climb the stairs from the trailhead to the bridge at the bottom of the falls. There’s a bench midway and plenty of shade.
Hen Wallow Falls
Hike through a grand forest of hemlock, rhododendron, and old-growth hardwoods to this lacy, 90-foot waterfall in the Cosby area. Take the Gabes Mountain Trail and a short spur 2.2 miles (one-way) to the base of the cascade, where you might find salamanders living under rocks near the creek. Hen Wallow Falls is a worthy destination in winter, too, when it freezes into a wall of cascading icicles.
Lynn Camp Prong Cascades
Looking for a quick and easy waterfall fix? The trail to Lynn Camp Prong, a tumbling series of falls along the Middle Prong Trail near the Tremont area, is a mellow 1.3-mile (round-trip) hike. You’ll get your first views of the cascades at mile .4, but continue a bit upstream of the main waterfall to find another cascade.
Mouse Creek Falls
Head to the Big Creek area to enjoy a classic Smokies waterfall without the crowds. A moderate, 4-mile (round-trip) hike on the Big Creek Trail leads to this 45-foot cascade, passing another, smaller waterfall at Midnight Hole along the way. The trail, used to transport logs out of the forest in the early 1900s, was converted to a hiking path by the CCC in the ‘30s.
This 80-foot waterfall gets its name from the constant mist enveloping it, which forms rainbows on sunny days. Take the 5.4-mile (round-trip) Rainbow Falls Trail from the trailhead near Roaring Fork to reach the cascade, a delicate sheet of water pouring off a rocky cliff. Again, check with the National Park Service (www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/conditions.htm) – The Roaring Fork Motor Trail received damage during the 2016 Gatlinburg Fire.
See the entire Little River pour over a boulder-filled drop off at this drive-up waterfall. To reach it, take Little River Road 12 miles west of Sugarlands and park in the lot; the falls are a short walk away.
Need a map of Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Buy the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map for Great Smoky at REI.com. The map includes trails, trailheads, points of interest, campgrounds, geologic history and much more printed on waterproof, tear-resistant material.