Smoky Mountain Waterfall Hikes
One of the best parts of vacationing in Pigeon Forge is The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With so many outdoor activities that you can do, including horseback riding and tubing, hiking is one of the best ways to see as much of the rolling, smoky misted hills as possible. If you are going to go hiking, why not hike to a waterfall? Especially in the heat of summer, this is a fantastic way to have fun, make memories and cool off. Here are our favorite Smoky Mountain waterfall hikes.
The large volume of this 20 foot high waterfall is what continues to bring visitors back again and again. The water rushes over a sandstone cliff and is the most voluminous waterfall in the park, which easily makes it one of the most scenic and sought out waterfalls within the Smoky Mountains. The waterfall and creek are named after a Cherokee chief whose village once stood several miles downstream.
The hike is roughly 5.2 miles round-trip and is considerate moderate in difficulty due to the length and terrain. You can catch the trailhead from within the Cades Cove Loop. The turnoff for the trailhead is located past stop #10 on the Loop and there is a sign. It usually takes most visitors about 4 hours to hike to and back from Abrams Falls.
Mouse Creek Falls
This is a fantastic hike to those new to hiking. It is a gradual climb and smooth for the most part. It climbs about 605 feet and is about 2 miles until you reach Mouse Creek Falls. This waterfall is 45 feet high and is on the Big Creek Trail. The Big Creek Trail was used in the early 1900’s by the Crestmont logging company to haul lumber out of the mountains before the CCC converted it to a hiking trail in the 1930’s.
The easiest way to access the Big Creek Trail is by taking Exit I-40 at Waterville Road (#451). You will turn left after crossing the Pigeon River and go a little over 2 miles to an intersection. Go straight, past the ranger station, and a parking area will be at the end of the road. This hike is 4 miles round-trip and is considered moderate in difficulty. It will take about 3 hours to hike to and back from Mouse Creek Falls.
Located off the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, this is one of my favorite hikes. It is the only waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park where you can actually walk behind it. It is a fantastic way to cool off on those hot, humid days! This 25 foot high waterfall is very popular as it is a favorite among the summer vacationers.
You will take the Trillium Gap Trail, located along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. This hike is 2.6 miles round-trip and is considered moderate in difficulty. It will take 2-3 hours.
This is also a very popular waterfall hike. The Laurel Falls trail is a paved path which makes it a fairly easy hike for those with strollers or those that need to walk on a smooth path. This waterfall is fairly close to Gatlinburg as well, which also makes it a popular day hike for vacationers. Standing 80 feet high, this waterfall is definitely a favorite and I would suggest you get to the parking area as early as possible to ensure you do not have an issue finding a spot.
From Sugarlands Visitor Center, you will turn like you are going to Cades Cove on Little River Road. Drive about 3.5 miles and you will see the parking area for Laurel Falls. This 2.6 mile round-trip hike should take about 2 hours.
Indian Creek Falls & Toms Branch Falls
You will start out on the Deep Creek Trail to reach this 45 foot high waterfall. An interesting fact about the Deep Creek Trail is that is was one of the first trails constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the early 1930’s. Indian Creek Falls is located just north of Bryson City, North Carolina and is a 45 foot waterfall. As you make your way to Indian Creek Falls, you will actually pass another great waterfall. Toms Branch Falls is an 80 foot waterfall that is a fantastic hike for those visiting in the spring or early summer as there are wildflowers everywhere!
All in all, this is an easy 1.6 mile roundtrip hike that allows you to see two amazingly beautiful waterfalls at the same time. The trailhead for Deep Creek Trail is located past the Deep Creek Campground. It will only take you about an hour to enjoy this hike so you can easily add this to your list of “musts” when vacationing in the area.
Juney Whank Falls
Also located in the Bryson City area, Juney Whank Falls is a very short hike. In fact, it is only a quarter of a mile from the parking area. However, it is a pretty steep climb. You have to climb up for a bit until you reach the footbridge that allows for an incredible, up close and personal view! It is well worth it and again, a short hike so you can easily add it to your plans for the day.
You will find the trailhead for Juney Whank Falls at the end of Deep Creek Road, near the Campground as well. This hike will take you less than an hour.
This picturesque waterfall is actually located on the Cherokee Indian Reservation, just outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. However, you need to see it! No special permit is required or anything. This waterfall is 120 feet tall and is one of the tallest and most amazing waterfalls in the southern Appalachian mountains.
The Pigeon Creek Trail will take you to this incredible sight. From the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, you will take the second left on Big Cove Road. At the first stop sign, turn left and drive a little less than 5 miles to the Mingo Falls Campground. Although this hike is only 0.4 miles in length, it is considered moderate in difficulty due to the steep climb.
The tallest waterfall in the National Park, Ramsey Cascades is a must do hike for those that love to hike and/or love waterfalls. Water drops 100 feet and collects in a pool area where you can find a lot of salamanders as well.
You catch the Ramsey Cascades Trail from the Greenbrier area, located off Highway 321 in Gatlinburg. This 8 mile round-trip hike is considered strenuous in difficulty. This hike will take roughly 6-7 hours.
If hiking is not your thing, you can still enjoy the beauty of the Smoky Mountains from your car! Auto touring the Smokies is another fabulous way of seeing the beauty of the National Park without setting foot on a hiking trail. Summer is still going strong here in the Smokies and there is no better time than now to book that Pigeon Forge and Great Smoky Mountain Vacation!