We have put together a list of the seven best waterfalls to see in Gatlinburg . Our waterfall guide includes all the information about most popular waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
These spectacular jewels are scattered throughout the park and are always highlights of any day in the backcountry. There are several beautiful waterfalls to add to your list, but the Abrams Falls, Laurel Falls, Grotto Falls, Rainbow Falls, Cataract Falls, Ramsey Cascades, and Hen Wallow Falls are the most popular waterfalls in the park.
The trails of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park are filled with unique and unforgettable features, but some of the most special to many visitors are the waterfalls. Hikers and backpackers come back from their treks with wonderful stories about their favorite waterfalls.
1. Abrams Falls
One of the most visited waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is Abrams Falls. The hike to the falls is just over 5 miles round trip, but the deep pool and 20 foot high waterfall is well worth the trip.
The large volume of water coming from Abrams Creek, makes this one of the most powerful waterfalls in the Smokies. You can access the entrance to the trail from Cades Cove. The trailhead is just past stop number 10 on the Cades Cove Loop Road.
2. Laurel Falls
On sunny afternoons in peak season, you will find many eager waterfall watchers heading to the spectacular 80 foot high Laurel Falls. Named for an evergreen green shrub called the mountain laurel, this popular waterfall made up of both an upper and lower section is crossed by a hand-railed walkway that is the perfect spot for beautiful photography.
The trail to the Laurel Falls is 2.6 miles roundtrip, and is often busy on holiday weekends. Access to the trail can be found from leaving Sugarlands Visitor Center, heading towards Cades Cove on Little River Road and a short drive of 3 1/2 miles to the trailhead.
3. Grotto Falls
If you have always wanted to walk behind a raging waterfall, then Grotto Falls may be your favorite waterfall on the list. The opportunity to easily get under the pouring water is especially unique and thrilling for children of all ages.
An easy hike down the Trillium Gap Trail off the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail leads to the 25 foot high Grotto Falls. The trail has plenty of shade along the way, and the overall hike is about 3 miles there and back.
You can access the trailhead to the trail from Cades Cove. To get to the trailhead, take Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail to stop number 5 and you will find a large parking area.
4. Rainbow Falls
Another popular waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is the Rainbow Falls. This unique, high waterfall plummets over 80 feet, and when the sunlight is just right, it makes a beautiful rainbow. Several large rocks at the base of the falls are the perfect places to get a close-up, first hand view and feel the mist from the falling water.
The moderate hike is 5.4 miles roundtrip, and is around a four hour hike on average there and back to the trailhead. In recent years, there have been considerable trail rehabilitation efforts to improve the safety and durability of the trail leading to Rainbow Falls.
To get to the trailhead, turn at traffic light #8 from the Gatlinburg Parkway on Historic Nature Trail. A parking area for the Rainbow Falls trail is located past the Bud Ogle homesite.
5. Cataract Falls
Cataract Falls is another delightful waterfall that is an easier hike and not far from Gatlinburg in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. This multi-level, 25 foot waterfall is the perfect trip for families with small children and those looking for a short hike. It only takes 15-20 minutes to get to the falls and is a good warmup for a day of hiking several different trails.
The majority of the trail is paved with very little elevation gain. After heavy rains, this waterfall is at its most stunning, but be aware that during dry times, the falls may be very minimal.
The best months to visit Cataract Falls are April through November. The trailhead to Cataract Falls is on the Fighting Creek Nature Trail at the Suglarlands Visitor Center.
6. Ramsey Cascades
The tallest waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park at 100 feet high is Ramsey Cascades. The small pool at the base is known for being home to salamanders. Along the trail, there are tons of rhododendron, and you may hear the constant sound of flowing water from the Little Pigeon River.
The hike to the falls is strenuous, and it gains significantly in elevation along the 8-mile round trip. It takes an average of 6 hours to make the trek to Ramsey Cascades and back, and is considered overall a more difficult hike.
The Ramsey Cascade trail is found in the Greenbriar area on Highway 321 around six miles east of Gatlinburg. From the Greenbriar entrance, signs lead to the trailhead.
7. Hen Wallow Falls
Near the entrance of the Cosby Picnic Area and off the Gabes Mountain Trail is a side trail leading to the 90-foot high Hen Wallow Falls. Even though the water volume of this waterfall is less than some others in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, following heavy rains, the difference in size will be noticeable, and the sound of crashing water can be heard well before reaching the destination.
The moderately difficult hike will take about 4 hours roundtrip. The trail crosses a stream along a log footbridge that can be slippery at times. The often narrow trail winds through a dense old-growth forest that can be challenging at times especially during warm weather.
Black bears are often spotted along this trail slowly creeping through the woods or snacking on tasty roots.
Best Waterfalls in Gatlinburg
Any trip to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is not complete without seeing the power and majesty of its waterfalls.
There is no more fulfilling reward after a good hike than the natural beauty of the sparkling mist and the roaring of the water as it crashes down on the well worn rocks.
There are very few places on earth with so many splendid waterfalls that are so incredibly accessible and so worth the trek every, single time.
Great Smoky Mountains National park
Want all the insider tips to visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National park? Check out our comprehensive visitors’ guide that lists all the best things to do in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It also includes when are the best time to plan your visit to the park.
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