grotto falls in the great smoky mountains
February 26, 2024

Hiking is one of the best ways to experience the gorgeous scenery of the old-growth forests, peaceful streams, mountain peaks, and rushing waterfalls! Create your bucket list of places to go from our top 10 rankings of Great Smoky Mountains National Park waterfalls, from easiest to hardest.

1. Meigs Falls

meigs falls in great smoky mountains national park

Meigs Falls is a 28-foot waterfall visible from Little River Road between Sugarlands Visitor Center and the Townsend “Y”- no hiking required! A pull-off is available for viewing, but look carefully; otherwise, you may drive right past this waterfall 500 feet from the road.

2. Place of a Thousand Drips

You can easily see the Place of a Thousand Drips from the comfort of your vehicle along the Roaring Fork Motor Trail . The rushing water flowing rapidly over numerous rocks and crevices has earned the falls their colorful name. We recommend heading to this 20 to 30-foot waterway after a heavy rain for the best experience!

3. Cataract Falls

Cataract Falls is one of the best family-friendly hikes in the Smokies . It’s just over a mile to get to the 25-foot tall falls, and the trail is mostly paved before turning into gravel. You’ll find the trailhead by the outdoor restroom area at Sugarlands Visitor Center.

4. Spruce Flats Falls

spruce flats falls in the smoky mountains

Less than 2 miles roundtrip, the hike to Spruce Flats Falls is another family favorite! The large pools at the bottom flow into the Middle Prong of the Little Pigeon River, so you’ll have plenty of chances to see salamanders and other wildlife.

5. Laurel Falls

Arguably the most visited of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park waterfalls, Laurel Falls is named after the mountain laurel evergreen shrub, which is plentiful in the area. This 80-foot waterfall is accessible by a 2.6-mile paved path. Despite the paved surface, this hike is still considered moderate due to several rough and steep sections of the trail.

6. Grotto Falls

Grotto Falls is on the 3-mile Trillium Gap Trail that winds through a beautiful forest with plentiful wildflowers in the spring. Take advantage of the opportunity to walk behind the 25-foot falls– it’s the only place in the national park you can do so. You won’t want to miss this one!

7. Hen Wallow Falls

Another one of our favorite Great Smoky Mountains National Park waterfalls is Hen Wallow Falls. It starts as a narrow creek and eventually becomes 20 feet wide at the bottom, resulting in a 90-foot cascading waterfall. The winter months are a great time to visit, as the delicate streams of water will freeze during cold spells into a natural work of art.

8. Abrams Falls

Abrams Falls in Cades Cove

This small but mighty waterfall is found within Cades Cove and got 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 volume of tumbling water makes them quite impressive. A deep, beautiful pool at the bottom of the falls looks like the perfect place to swim, but swimming is prohibited due to the dangerous undertows. The moderate trek to Abrams Falls is a great half-day hike, coming in at about 5 miles roundtrip.

9. Rainbow Falls

In strong sunlight, you can catch glimpses of stunning rainbows in the mists of this aptly named 80-foot waterfall. The 5.4 miles there and back hike to Rainbow Falls is moderate to difficult, depending on your level of hiking experience. Plan to spend between 3 to 5 hours hiking!

10. Ramsey Cascades

At 100 feet, Ramsey Falls is the tallest waterfall in the Smokies and easily the most magnificent. After the dramatic drop, the water converges in a quiet pool where you can frequently see salamanders. To access this breathtaking sight, you’ll have to complete a 5 to 7-hour hike, about 8 miles round trip. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park waterfalls are worthy rewards for those willing to invest the time and energy hiking (or driving!) to see them. Learn more about must-visit places in the Smoky Mountains and start planning your next family vacation!

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