Abrams Falls
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13 Amazing Smoky Mountain Waterfalls You Must See

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park — straddling the border between North Carolina and Tennessee — is renowned for its lush landscapes, diverse ecosystems, and, notably, its stunning waterfalls.

These natural wonders range from towering cascades to gentle flows tucked away in the verdant forest. Here’s a guide to must-see Smoky Mountain waterfalls that promise awe-inspiring beauty and memorable adventures.

Laurel Falls - Sevierville, Tennessee
Laurel Falls | photo via @debiase_adventures

1. Laurel Falls

One of the most accessible and popular waterfalls in the park, Laurel Falls is a must-see for its convenience and beauty. The waterfall is reached via a 2.6-mile round-trip paved trail, making it suitable for families and casual hikers. The falls are named for the mountain laurel, an evergreen shrub that blooms along the trail and around the falls in May.

Abrams Falls - Tennessee
Abrams Falls | photo via @the_bluegrass_hiker

2. Abrams Falls

Located in the Cades Cove area, Abrams Falls is known for its large volume of water, which rushes over a relatively short drop of 20 feet into a deep pool below. The hike to Abrams Falls is a moderate 5-mile round-trip, offering a rewarding experience with scenic views and a powerful display of nature’s force.

Rainbow Falls Trail - Gatlinburg, Tennessee - Hiking Trails
Rainbow Falls Trail | photo via @djmikeonamic

3. Rainbow Falls

As the highest single-drop waterfall in the Smokies, Rainbow Falls impresses with an 80-foot plunge. The trail to the falls is a challenging 5.4-mile round-trip, but the reward is a spectacular view of the waterfall, which creates rainbows on sunny afternoons with its mist.

Grotto Falls
Grotto Falls | photo via taylorcarroll3

4. Grotto Falls

Unique for the opportunity to walk behind the cascading water, Grotto Falls offers a magical experience. The trail to Grotto Falls is a moderate 2.6-mile round-trip through old-growth forest on part of the Trillium Gap Trail. It’s a serene spot to enjoy the cool mist and the sound of falling water.

Hen Wallow Falls
Hen Wallow Falls | photo via wemacksdiscover

5. Hen Wallow Falls

Located off the Gabes Mountain Trail, Hen Wallow Falls is a narrow, high waterfall that drops about 90 feet. The hike to the falls is a moderately challenging 4.4-mile round-trip, winding through a beautiful hardwood forest. In winter, the falls can freeze into a stunning ice formation.

6. Mouse Creek Falls

Found along the Big Creek Trail, Mouse Creek Falls is reached by a 4-mile, round-trip hike. It cascades 45 feet into Big Creek, and the trail runs parallel to the creek, offering numerous spots to rest and enjoy the water’s soothing sounds.

Ramsey Cascades Trail - Tennessee - Smoky Mountains Fall Hiking
Ramsey Cascades Trail | photo via @wandererpraneeth

7. Ramsey Cascades

The tallest waterfall accessible by trail in the park, Ramsey Cascades towers at about 100 feet. The hike to the falls is a strenuous 8-mile round-trip, taking you through old-growth forest and past smaller cascades and pools. The effort is well rewarded with the sight of water tumbling over rock outcroppings and collecting in a picturesque pool.

8. Indian Creek and Tom Branch Falls

Located in the Deep Creek area, these falls offer a less strenuous experience. A short, easy hike gives access to both Tom Branch Falls, which flows directly into Deep Creek, and Indian Creek Falls, a beautiful cascade just a short distance away. This area is perfect for a leisurely day of exploring multiple waterfalls.

Mingo Falls
Mingo Falls | photo via russ_gunter

9. Mingo Falls

Located just outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the Cherokee Indian Reservation (Qualla Boundary), Mingo Falls is a stunning 120-foot tall waterfall, making it one of the tallest and most spectacular in the Southern Appalachians. The hike to the falls is relatively short but involves climbing 160 steps after a brief walk from the parking area, making the view all the more rewarding.

10. Meigs Falls

Meigs Falls is easily overlooked because it’s visible from the road, so many visitors drive by without noticing it. Located along Little River Road, it can be seen from a pull-off that’s well-marked for visitors. The falls are set back from the road and offer a peaceful, easy-to-access viewing option without a hike.

Cataract Falls
Cataract Falls | photo via dmesser92

11. Cataract Falls

Just a short walk from the Sugarlands Visitor Center, Cataract Falls is an ideal stop for families or those looking for a quick and easy visit to a waterfall. The walk is less than 1 mile round-trip and takes you through a forested area to a charming 25-foot waterfall, perfect for a leisurely outing.

12. The Sinks

The Sinks is a powerful waterfall located on Little River Road. Unlike the high, free-falling waterfalls elsewhere in the park, The Sinks features a large volume of water rushing over a broad, rocky area, creating a dramatic cascade. The parking area is right next to the falls, making this one of the most accessible waterfalls in the Smokies.

Spruce Flats Falls
Spruce Flats Falls | photo via the.pathfinders

13. Spruce Flats Falls

A bit of a hidden gem in the Smokies, Spruce Flats Falls is located near the Tremont Institute. The hike to the falls is about 2 miles round-trip and is considered moderate in difficulty. The waterfall itself cascades over several tiers, dropping about 30 feet into a beautiful, serene pool. This spot is less crowded than other well-known waterfalls, offering a peaceful retreat.

The Sinks - Gatlinburg, Tennessee
The Sinks | photo via @trail.reflections

Tips for Visiting Smoky Mountain Waterfalls

  • Safety First: Always stay on marked trails and viewing platforms. Rocks near waterfalls can be slippery.
  • Best Time to Visit: Spring and early summer bring higher water volumes, while fall offers the added beauty of changing leaves.
  • Leave No Trace: Preserve the natural beauty for others by packing out what you bring in and staying on designated trails.
  • Early Morning Visits: Beat the crowds and enjoy the tranquility of the waterfalls by visiting early in the morning.
  • Photography: Bring a camera or smartphone to capture the beauty of the falls. Early morning or late afternoon light is best for photography.
  • Wildlife Watching: Keep an eye out for wildlife on your hikes to and from the waterfalls, especially in the quieter, less trafficked areas.
  • Wear Appropriate Footwear: Trails can be slippery, especially near waterfalls. Wear sturdy, waterproof hiking shoes for safety and comfort.
  • Check Conditions: Before heading out, check the park’s website or contact the visitor center for the latest trail conditions, especially after heavy rains or storms.

Smoky Mountain Waterfalls | See Beyond the Beauty

Exploring the waterfalls of the Great Smoky Mountains offers not just a glimpse into the park’s natural beauty but also an opportunity to connect with the outdoors and find moments of peace and exhilaration in the presence of these majestic water features. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a casual visitor, the Smokies’ waterfalls are sure to leave a lasting impression.

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