The natural beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains is tremendous: the forested hills, the mist that gives the Great Smokies their name, the wildflowers. One of the most popular tourist attractions in the National Park is the number of stunning waterfalls to be found along the mountains' many hiking trails and roadways. With the level of difficulty ranging from easy to difficult, part of the draw for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park waterfalls is that anyone can be a witness to them. So hop into the car or put on your hiking boots and make sure to include seeing some (or all!) of these gorgeous waterfalls a priority during your trip to the National Park. You'll be glad you did!
Located on the Little River, this 28 foot waterfall is visible from the road- no hiking required! There is a pull-off available for viewing, but keep your eyes open or you may drive right past this waterfall tucked 500 feet away from the road.
Place of a Thousand Drips
During spring, summer and fall, this waterfall is also visible from the comfort of your vehicle. Though this 20-30 foot waterway normally contains a small amount of water, after a heavy rain it becomes quite strong, and the rushing water flowing rapidly over numerous rocks and crevices has earned the falls their colorful name.
Indian Creek and Toms Branch Falls
Though you'll have to exit your vehicle and do some walking, this hike is still easy and well worth the effort. In just over 1.5 miles, the two waterfalls of Indian Creek and Toms Branch will be visible from the same trail. Can't beat a two for one! Along the way, you will be able to enjoy lovely views of wildflowers and forest. This is a great way to spend a couple of hours in the National Park.
Laurel Falls is named after the mountain laurel evergreen shrub, which is plentiful in the area. Arguably the most visited of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park waterfalls, it is a popular destination for both for tourists and photographers. Laurel Falls is an 80 foot waterfall accessible by a 2.6 mile paved path. Despite the paved surface, this hike is still considered a moderate one due to several rough and steep sections of trail. If you are looking for beautiful pictures of this waterfall, try to arrive early in the morning when the natural lighting is ideal.
Grotto Falls is situated on the 3 mile Trillium Trail that winds its way through old-growth forests and plentiful wildflowers in the spring. Take advantage of the natural refreshment as you walk behind 25 foot Grotto Falls, the only place in the National Park you are able to do so. Don't miss this one!
Hen Wallow Falls
Starting as a narrow creek and eventually becoming 20 feet wide at its bottom, Hen Wallow Falls is a 90 foot cascading waterfall. Salamanders can be found here by hikers with sharp eyes. The winter months are also a great time to visit Hen Wallow Falls, as the delicate streams of water will freeze during long cold spells into a natural work of art.
This small but mighty waterfall gets its name from a Cherokee chief whose village at one time was not far downstream. Even though these falls are only 20 feet high, the large amount of water tumbling over them makes this an impressive sight. A deep, beautiful pool is formed at the bottom of the falls, and looks like the perfect place to take a swim. But looks can be deceiving- dangerous undertows have caused fatalities in the past. Swimming is strictly prohibited, so enjoy the view from a safe distance. At 5 miles roundtrip, this hike is listed by the National Park Service as moderate, but some people feel it belongs in the difficult category. Whatever the ranking, Abrams Falls is a great half day hike.
In strong sunlight, rainbows can be seen in the mist of this aptly named 80 foot waterfall. At 5.4 miles there and back, the hike to Rainbow Falls is listed as moderate, but many feel it is difficult. Plan to spend between 3-5 hours hiking, and be attentive for the black bears that are sometimes seen in this area.
At 100 feet, Ramsey Falls is the tallest waterfall in the National Park, and considered by many to be the most magnificent. After the dramatic drop, the water converges in a quiet pool where salamanders are frequently seen. Seeing this breathtaking sight will not come easily, though. During the full day's hike of 8 miles roundtrip you will gain 2000 feet in elevation, walk through an old-growth forest and be afforded trailside views of fast-moving rivers and streams. Not to be taken lightly, appropriate footwear and thorough preparation are a must to safely make this 5-7 hour hike.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park waterfalls are some of the most beautiful features of the Park, and are worthy rewards for the those willing to invest the time and energy hiking (or driving!) to see them. A visit to the National Park isn't complete without seeing some of these wonders of nature, so don't forget your camera and book a room today. Oh, and be sure to pack your hiking boots!