ULTIMATE Smoky Mountain Guide to The Sinks Gatlinburg
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is famous for its cascading waterfalls. Throughout this massive park, visitors are always traversing along rugged trails that vary in intensity, hoping to experience the luscious waterfalls for themselves.
The Sinks Gatlinburg is just one set of waterfalls in the Smokies — and one of the few that can be seen from the road and comfortably viewed from a vehicle, making it a popular option for families who are just passing through or those who are looking for a more accessible experience.
Knowing where The Sinks is located and the safest way to view this waterfall is critical to enjoying a fun and memorable experience. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about The Sinks near Gatlinburg in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
About The Sinks Waterfall Near Gatlinburg TN
The Sinks is one of the most well-known waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, largely because it is one of the easiest sets of waterfalls to find and also because it offers one of the most stunning vistas in the entire park.
Many people who are planning a trip to Gatlinburg or the Smokies put The Sinks at the top of their to-do lists.
How Were The Sinks Formed?
What many people do not realize is that, unlike most of the rushing waterfalls and flowing streams that wind throughout the park, The Sinks is not a natural formation. In fact, its existence was an accident.
In the latter years of the 19th century, the Smokies were home to a burgeoning logging industry. The Little Falls were used to transport logs down the river and toward the sawmill.
On an average day, this was a foolproof plan. The logs floated easily down the river and were picked up at the sawmill. On one fateful day, though, a flood occurred and created a log jam, which could only be fixed with dynamite.
The dynamite blast did exactly what it was intended to do — it broke up the log jam. But it also created an unintended crater in the river, which resulted in rushing rapids and a brand-new, man-made waterfall.
Where Are The Sinks?
Today, you can find the most beautiful accidental waterfall in the Smokies off Little River Road between Gatlinburg and Townsend. It is located inside the boundaries of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park — just 11.5 miles west of the Sugarlands Visitor Center.
It is one of the most convenient stops in the park because The Sinks parking area for vehicles is just above the overlook. At this overlook, you can glance down and see this turbulent waterfall and the chasm that formed it in all its glory.
There’s also a small walking path that leads to another scenic overlook, where you can safely get a different perspective of the falls.
Things to Do at The Sinks Gatlinburg
View The Sinks & Take Some Photos
The Sinks Gatlinburg is less of an adventurous destination and more of a great photo opportunity.
It’s not the kind of point of interest in the park where you are going to need to park, walk, and traverse a trail to see the falls below. Rather, it’s a roadside stop where you can appreciate those pristine Smoky Mountain views without a lot of effort on your end.
If you are only planning to do a quick visit, you can plan on spending about 30 minutes at The Sinks viewing overlook. Take in the beauty of this accidental waterfall, and snap a few pictures before you leave.
Hike the Meigs Creek Trail
If you are visiting The Sinks during the summer months when water levels are lower, you may be able to hike the Meigs Creek Trail to Upper Meigs Falls. The Meigs Creek trailhead is located just past the parking lot at The Sinks, making it an easy hike to enjoy while you visit this waterfall.
The Meigs Creek Trail is a 3.5-mile-long path that is great for those who are searching for a bit of adventure. The first mile of the trail is an easy path that anyone of any skill level could traverse.
But, the last 2 miles are a more difficult hike that involves a lot of water crossings — so only those who are prepared to jump rocks to ford across the waterways should continue on.
Things NOT to Do at The Sinks Gatlinburg
Avoid Jumping Into or Swimming in The Sinks
The Sinks is one of the most beautiful spots in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but it’s also one of the most dangerous places.
Many consider The Sinks to be one of the best places to cool off on a warm summer day — and there is an access point and swimming hole there. However, it’s more dangerous than most people realize.
The water is very deep in this part of the river, and the flow of the river can create a suction-like effect that swimmers are not expecting. Even the most experienced swimmers could find themselves unable to overcome the natural pull of the river.
Since the 1930s, there have been more than 60 drownings in or near the deep gorge formed by The Sinks, so we strongly advise against swimming or jumping into the waters near The Sinks.
More Things to Do Near The Sinks
Throughout the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there are many points of interest to discover. Some of the most popular points near The Sinks include:
- Cades Cove
- Clingman’s Dome
- Roaring Forks Motor Trail
In addition, you might be interested in adding these other Gatlinburg attractions to your itinerary:
- Oberlin Gatlinburg
- Skylift Park
Best Restaurants Near The Sinks in the Smoky Mountains
The Sinks is located between Townsend and Gatlinburg, which means that you can easily find dining after your excursion is complete. Here are some of the best places to eat near The Sinks.
This down-home, mountainside cafe is one of the closest restaurants to The Sinks, located just more than 2 miles away in Wears Valley. Serving breakfast, brunch, and lunch, it’s a great place to stop before you drive on to see The Sinks and hike the Meigs Creek Trail.
Elvira’s Cafe is an award-winning dining locale that has been considered one of the best places to eat in the entire country.
Paw Paw’s Catfish Kitchen
About 5 miles from The Sinks in Sevierville, you will find Paw Paw’s Catfish Kitchen. This small and homelike restaurant is the best place to go for a taste of Cajun cuisine in the heart of the Smokies, and it would be the perfect stop after a day of exploring the area around The Sinks.
Burger Master Drive-In
Considering The Sinks is one of the few drive-up waterfalls in the Smokies, it only makes sense to head to a convenient drive-in restaurant after your visit. The Burger Master Drive-In is located in Townsend, just about 3 miles away from The Sinks parking area.
Since 1967, this classic roadside restaurant has been serving up sizzling burgers, crunchy French fries, and a variety of sweet treats, making it an appealing place to visit after a day of exploring.
Top Local Lodging Near The Sinks
There are many lodging options to consider near The Sinks. Here are some of our top picks.
The Greystone Lodge on the River
The Greystone Lodge on the River is a locally-owned hotel in the heart of downtown Gatlinburg. Its convenient location makes it a great lodging option for those who want to explore the city and all of its attractions while also being able to easily access the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Cabin Rentals in Gatlinburg
Gatlinburg is famous for its cabin rentals. There are cabins of all shapes, sizes, and styles located throughout the city. Some of these cabins offer uninterrupted views of the Smokies below, while others are located closer to the center of town.
Whether you are looking for a cozy cabin for two or you need a luxurious cabin that will fit a large party, you will be able to find a vacation rental that suits your style and budget in Gatlinburg easily.
Campgrounds in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Camping is the most immersive way to experience the Smokies, and it is probably the most convenient lodging option when you want to have quick access to The Sinks. Some of the more popular campgrounds within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park include:
- Cades Cove Group Campground
- Big Creek Group Campground
- Abrams Creek Campground
Most campgrounds in the park are open between mid-April and late October. Reservations are required in advance.
In addition to the group and frontcountry campgrounds, there also are primitive campgrounds and horse camps within the park, ensuring that all types of campers can find a place to experience the Smokies in a way that they love.
Add The Sinks Gatlinburg to Your Smoky Mountains Itinerary
The Sinks is a must-visit attraction within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and the perfect destination to add to your Gatlinburg itinerary. However, it’s important that you are aware of the risks of swimming in The Sinks and playing in the waters beneath the cascading falls.
As long as you arrive informed and prepared, you are sure to enjoy a memorable outing at The Sinks Gatlinburg.