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5 Best Waterfall Hikes in Gatlinburg, TN

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Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are known for having some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the South.

Don't miss out on seeing the top waterfalls in this incredible part of the country. Start planning a great day of seeing gorgeous waterfalls in Gatlinburg and the Smokies!

1. The Sinks

The Sinks is one of the only waterfalls in Gatlinburg that you can drive to. Since this sight is easy to access, the falls can often be crowded, so it's best to visit the Sinks early to get the best views of the waterfall.

The Sinks is one of the most unusual waterfalls in the park. When the Smoky Mountains were logged before the formation of the national park, the riverbed below the sinks was dynamited to break up a log jam.

Not only did this alter the course of the river and create a uniquely shaped waterfall, but it also created a deep pool that's ideal for swimming. If you plan on swimming at the Sinks, be very cautious as this area has strong currents that have drowned swimmers that strayed too close to the falls.

There's no hiking to enjoy this waterfall, though the Meigs Creek Trail does begin at the Sinks if you'd like a peaceful walk in the woods. This pleasant hike takes visitors to the 18 Ft tall Meigs Creek Cascades, another lovely waterfall in the park.

Directions: From Gatlinburg, drive the Little River Gorge Road towards Cades Cove for 13.5 miles. The parking area for the waterfall will be on the left.

2. Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls in the Smoky Mountains

The aptly named Rainbow Falls is known for the beautiful colors created by the light passing through this waterfall's mist. This 80 Ft waterfall tumbles down a steep rock-face and is even more spectacular after periods of rain.

Of all the Gatlinburg falls, this one is particularly lovely and is located on the picturesque slopes of Mt. LeConte.

Directions: To reach the falls, drive to the parking area at Cherokee Orchard, one of the first stops on the Roaring Fork Motor Trail. The hike to Rainbow Falls is 2.6 miles on the Rainbow Falls Trail. If you have more time and energy, you can continue another 4.2 miles to reach the summit of Mt. LeConte.

3. Grotto Falls

This famous sight offers visitors the chance to walk underneath a waterfall. The trail to the falls goes through a small grotto that's been carved out by years or erosion and rock falls.

In the warm summer months, Grotto Falls is a nice place to cool off, since the mist from the falls creates a natural air-conditioning effect. The hiking trail to this Gatlinburg waterfall is the Trillium Gap Trail.

Directions: Drive 6 miles on Historic Nature Trail into the national park. The Trillium Gap Trailhead begins at Cherokee Orchard, but motorists can turn right onto the Roaring Fork Motor Trail and drive further to shorten their hike. From here, Grotto Falls is only a 1.3 mile walk through a beautiful section of forest filled with old-growth Hemlocks.

4. Laurel Falls

View of Laurel Falls in the Smoky Mountains

This accessible waterfall hike near Gatlinburg is easily one of the most popular waterfalls in the national park.

And for good reason: this lovely waterfall hike features beautiful areas of hardwood forest, stunning mountain views, and a multi-tiered waterfall. This waterfall hike in Gatlinburg gets its name for the abundance of mountain laurel that grows by the trailside. These mountain shrubs bloom in the late spring creating a beautiful setting.

Because the hike to Laurel Falls was so popular, the park service decided to pave this trail to limit damaging erosion. However, the path is rather steep and uneven in places, so it is not suitable for persons in wheelchairs.

This hiking trail is well-traveled, so be prepared to deal with large crowds when visiting in the afternoon or during busy times of year such as fall, summer, and the winter holidays. To enjoy some solitude on this hike, its best to arrive early in the day to beat the crowds.

Directions: From Gatlinburg, drive 6 miles on the Little River Gorge Road towards Cades Cove. The parking area for the Laurel Falls Trail is on the right. The Hike to Laurel Falls is short (1.3 miles one-way) and is relatively easy compared to other hikes in the Smokies.

5. Ramsey Cascades

At 100 Ft tall, Ramsey Cascades is the tallest waterfall in the park and perhaps one of the most stunning.

This remote hike requires an 8 mile round-trip to reach the falls and is quite strenuous. Ramsey Cascades is located in the Greenbrier area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a great place for seeing large, old-growth Hemlocks and Poplars.

Directions: From Gatlinburg, drive 8 miles on Gatlinburg's East Parkway, then turn right into the Greenbrier Park Entrance on Greenbrier Rd. Follow signs to the Ramsey Cascades Trail.

The hike to Ramsey Cascades is rocky and climbs some 2,500 feet up the drainage of Mt. Goyot, so be prepared for a long, challenging hike if you'd like to see this waterfall. However, rest assured that the work is well worth the reward of seeing the tallest waterfall in the Smokies.

Bonus Waterfall: Abrams Falls

Abrams Falls Smoky Mountains

Abrams Falls is located in the popular Cades Cove region of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Located along Abrams Creek, this waterfall is the largest volume waterfall in the Smokies. Although there is a large pool at the base of the falls and lots of rocks to climb around on, this area is notoriously dangerous.

The large volume of water at this waterfall creates strong currents which are dangerous for swimmers and the rocks are slippery with moss and water from the falls.

This beautiful waterfall is best enjoyed from the safety of the designated hiking trail. To reach this waterfall, drive on the Cades Cove Loop Road. Near the half-way point, you'll see a sign for the Abrams Falls Trail. The hike to the falls is just under a 5-mile round-trip.

Directions: From Gatlinburg, drive 33 miles along the Little River Road in the national park to the 11-mile Cades Cove Loop Road. Near the half-way point on the one-way loop road, you'll see a sign for the Abrams Falls Trail. The hike to the falls is just under a 5-mile round-trip.

Map of the Best Waterfalls in Gatlinburg

Closing Thoughts

Cades Cove and Tremont are some other places to find beautiful waterfall hikes.

Tremont is home to the Middle Prong Trail, a hike that passes by several waterfalls. Spruce Flats Falls, located just behind the Institute at Tremont, delivers a spectacular reward for being such a short hike.

Abrams Falls in Cades Cove is another popular waterfall in the park. This is known as the highest volume waterfall in the park, so it's always spectacular to visit.

We also recommend trying some easy hikes close to Gatlinburg that are perfect for beginners or families with children.

Planning a multi-day vacation in the Great Smoky Mountains and Gatlinburg? Why not book a log cabin that's close to the national park?

Cabins USA Gatlinburg is offering its cabins with a special 15% discount to make your stay even more affordable! Simply find the right cabin for your trip and see how much you can save!

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