17 Best Waterfalls at Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Did you know that there are over 100 Great Smoky Mountains Waterfalls?! 

With so many waterfalls to chase, it's no wonder the Smokies are so popular!

With such a vast number, deciding which falls to visit can be overwhelming.

That's why I've broken down some of the most popular Smoky Mountain Waterfalls into three sections based on how easy they are to access – Easy, Moderate, and Hard.

Whether you're a first-time visitor or a returning nature enthusiast, this guide will lead you to some of the most stunning waterfalls in the park.

You will need a few days to explore these waterfall suggestions. Consider adding a few other things in the Gatlinburg area of the park.

Travel Tip: Parking tags are now required when parking at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Easy Waterfall Hikes

If you like immersing yourself in nature without needing strenuous trekking, the park offers a collection of easy waterfall hikes, each leading to breathtaking cascades.

These trails are perfect for families, casual hikers, or anyone looking to enjoy a leisurely walk amidst picturesque surroundings.

In this section, we'll explore some of the most enchanting waterfalls that require minimal effort to reach but offer maximum rewards in scenic beauty.

From the gentle flow of Meigs Falls, visible from the comfort of your car, to the iconic cascades of Laurel Falls, easily accessible via a paved path, these hikes prove that the wonders of nature are indeed within everyone's reach.

Whether you're a seasoned explorer or a first-time visitor to the park, these easy hikes will leave you eager for more.

These are accessible and generally suitable for all fitness levels, often with paved or well-maintained trails.

1. Laurel Falls

Located near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Laurel Falls is a splendid sight that's easily accessible via a 2.6-mile roundtrip hike on the Laurel Falls Trail, which is a paved trail.

The trailhead, just a short drive from the Sugarlands Visitor Center off Little River Road, leads to one of the park's most popular waterfalls. 

The family-friendly trail offers gentle inclines. This makes for a pleasant walk through forests adorned with mountain laurel, especially beautiful when blooming in May.

About 80 feet tall, the waterfall has an upper and lower section. A walkway crossing occurs at the stream at the base of the upper falls.

This setup allows for an up-close experience with the cascading water, making it a great spot to snap photos!

Laurel Falls is particularly striking after rainfall when the water flow is robust.

The rushing waters of Laurel Falls cascade over layered rocks, surrounded by the lush foliage of the forest, creating a serene natural setting.

2. Cataract Falls

Cataract Falls is a hidden gem just a short walk from the Sugarlands Visitor Center in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

This easy, family-friendly hiking trail covers only about a 1-mile roundtrip distance, weaving through a picturesque forest setting.

Though only about 25 feet in height, the waterfall offers a charming and peaceful spot, perfect for a leisurely visit. The accessibility of Cataract Falls makes it an ideal choice for those with limited hiking time or families with young children.

Cataract Falls: A small, tranquil waterfall cascades over dark rocks surrounded by lush greenery in a forest setting.

3. Meigs Falls

Meigs Falls, a charming and often overlooked waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is unique in its accessibility. 

Located near Townsend, the waterfall can be viewed directly from the Little River Road, making it a perfect spot for those who prefer not to hike.

Though smaller than others in the park at around 18 feet tall, Meigs Falls' ease of access and picturesque roadside setting make it a pleasant and convenient stop for park visitors

4. Place of a Thousand Drips 

The Place of a Thousand Drips, an intriguingly named waterfall, is located in the Roaring Fork area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Gatlinburg.

This waterfall uniquely offers its best views after heavy rainfall. The hike to the waterfall is easy and short, with the falls visible from the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.

Though not very tall, the waterfall offers a distinctive ‘dripping' experience. The water trickles over a rocky cliff face, creating many small streams and falls.

5. Tom Branch Falls

Toms Branch Falls is another picturesque waterfall in the Deep Creek area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This area is a few miles north of downtown Bryson City on the North Carolina side of the park.

The trail to Tom Branch Falls is an easy, short hike of about 0.6 miles roundtrip, making it highly accessible and ideal for families or those looking for a quick nature escape.

The waterfall, about 60 feet tall, cascades gracefully into Deep Creek. The falls create a peaceful and scenic backdrop for visitors to relax and enjoy the serene environment.

Moderate Waterfall Hikes

If you want a slightly more adventurous path, these moderate waterfall hikes in the Great Smoky Mountain Waterfalls offer the ideal balance.

These trails provide an opportunity to engage more deeply with the park's natural beauty, leading to some of the most captivating waterfalls. 

Trails like Grotto Falls and Rainbow Falls promise richer experiences with a bit more challenge, perfect for hikers who enjoy a rewarding journey.

Traversing these paths treats you to enchanting forest sceneries and the delightful sound of rushing water, culminating in spectacular views of the park's most stunning waterfalls.

These hikes testify that a little effort leads to unforgettable natural splendors.

6. Grotto Falls

Grotto Falls, set in the picturesque Roaring Fork Motor Trail area of the Great Smoky Mountains near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, offers a unique hiking experience.

The trailhead on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail marks the beginning of the 2.6-mile roundtrip journey on the Trillium Gap Trail

This moderate hike weaves through an old-growth forest, leading to the 25-foot-high Grotto Falls.

One of the distinct features of Grotto Falls is the ability for visitors to walk behind the waterfall. This makes it an especially memorable spot for a cool, refreshing experience during hot summer days.

Grotto Falls is the only waterfall you can walk behind in the park. The waterfall's gentle cascade and the lush surroundings make it a serene destination for nature lovers and photographers.

My husband I and standing behind Grotto Falls as water falls in front of us. Surrounded by rocky walls with lush greenery above.

7. Hen Wallow Falls

Hen Wallow Falls is accessible from the Gabes Mountain Trail near Cosby. The roundtrip hike to the falls is about 4.4 miles and is considered moderate in difficulty.

Traversing the path treats you to a diverse forest ecosystem. The waterfall, roughly 90 feet high, narrows down from a width of about two feet at the top to a broader base. This narrowing creates a striking and beautiful cascade.

The best time to visit is after heavy rains. This area is known for black bears and other wildlife, so be on the lookout!

Hen Wallow Falls, a picturesque waterfall gently cascading over mossy rocks and green vegetation, tucked away in the lush forest setting.

8. Mouse Creek Falls

Mouse Creek Falls is a serene and somewhat hidden gem in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park along the Big Creek Trail. This trail, which is a 4-mile round trip, offers a moderate hike through a forest environment.

The falls are about 45 feet high and are most impressive during the spring when the water flow is at its peak. 

Are you looking for some solitude? If so, Mouse Creek Falls is a great place to go – we enjoy this park area because it is much less busy than others.

Mouse Creek Falls cascading through a dense, leafy forest, with water flowing over moss-covered rocks in a peaceful natural setting.

9. Indian Creek Falls

Indian Creek Falls, located within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is a delightful destination accessible via the Deep Creek Trail near Bryson City.

The Indian Creek Trail to the falls is relatively easy, covering a roundtrip distance of about 1.9 miles.

This trail stands out for its scenic beauty and gentle terrain. Indian Creek Falls, about 25 feet in height, cascades gracefully, offering a picturesque spot for visitors to enjoy the tranquil sounds of nature.

Its accessibility and the beauty of the surrounding area make it a popular choice for families and casual hikers.

10. Juney Whank Falls

Juney Whank Falls, a lesser-known yet charming waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is accessible from the Deep Creek area near Bryson City.

The hike to the falls is a short but steep 0.8-mile roundtrip journey, offering a moderately challenging experience.

The falls, spanning about 80 feet in height, are divided into an upper and lower section, with a footbridge crossing the stream at the upper falls' base.

This arrangement provides a unique opportunity for visitors to experience the falls up close, making Juney Whank Falls an excellent choice for those seeking a quick but rewarding hike.

11. Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls is a stunning and popular hiking destination near Gatlinburg in the Roaring Fork area. The 5.4-mile roundtrip Rainbow Falls Trail to the falls is considered moderate to difficult.

The falls, standing at 80 feet, are aptly named Rainbow Falls due to the frequent appearance of rainbows in the mist on sunny afternoons.

This natural spectacle, combined with the lush surroundings, makes the hike to Rainbow Falls a rewarding experience for those seeking a beautiful waterfall.

Rainbow Falls dramatically plunges over a cliff surrounded by the vibrant greenery of the forest, with a hiker standing at the base to give scale to the majestic scene.

12. Baskins Creek Falls

The Baskins Creek Falls trailhead can be found off the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.

The roundtrip hike to Baskins Creek Falls is about 3 miles and involves a mix of easy walking and some steeper sections, particularly on the return journey.

The trail winds through a beautiful forest, leading to the 40-foot-high Baskins Creek Falls. This two-tiered waterfall offers a serene and picturesque setting, making it an ideal spot for a moderately strenuous hike with a rewarding view.

Hard Waterfall Hikes

Trails like the rugged path to Abrams Falls and the strenuous trek to Ramsey Cascades cater to those seeking a physical challenge and a deeper wilderness connection.

The rewards are unparalleled: breathtaking waterfalls that are less frequented, offering a sense of solitude and awe. 

13. Abrams Falls

The Abrams Falls Trail, situated in the scenic Cades Cove area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, offers a more challenging adventure.

The trailhead at the end of Cades Cove Loop Road begins a 5-mile roundtrip hike considered moderate to difficult, mainly due to the rugged terrain.

Although the waterfall is only about 20 feet high, Abrams Falls is impressive because of its large volume of water that plunges into a deep pool below.

This combination of a challenging hike and a powerful waterfall makes it a favorite among more experienced hikers.

14. Ramsey Cascades

Ramsey Cascades, the tallest waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, offers a stunning display of natural beauty.

Located in the Greenbrier area, this majestic waterfall requires a strenuous 8-mile roundtrip hike along the Ramsey Cascades Trail, which is difficult due to the rugged terrain.

The trail takes hikers through a lush, old-growth forest and past smaller cascades before reaching the spectacular Ramsey Cascades about 100 feet tall.

The waterfall dramatically cascades over rock outcroppings, creating a breathtaking and memorable sight for those who make the challenging trek.

15. Lynn Camp Prong Cascades

Lynn Camp Prong Cascades, situated within the Tremont area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, offers a unique hiking experience. The journey to the cascades is a moderate 1.3-mile round trip on the Middle Prong Trail. 

This trail is notable for its scenic beauty, featuring multiple small waterfalls and cascades along Lynn Camp Prong. The cascades are a series of small, picturesque waterfalls, providing a tranquil and photogenic setting.

16. Mingo Falls

Mingo Falls, located just outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee, is breathtaking. Visitors embark on a short but steep climb to the falls, with a 0.4-mile roundtrip hike with stairs.

The hike can be pretty strenuous despite its brief distance, but the reward is substantial. Mingo Falls stands at an impressive 120 feet, making it one of the tallest waterfalls in the southern Appalachians.

The falls cascade over numerous rock steps, creating a stunning, particularly striking visual display after rainfall.

Mingo Falls, a tall and slender waterfall, gracefully descends through a lush forest, sparkling in the sunlight amidst the dense greenery of the trees.

17. Spruce Flats Falls

Spruce Flat Falls, a hidden gem in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, offers an adventure for those seeking a less crowded, more rugged hiking experience.

The trail to these falls begins at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, near Townsend. This approximately 2-mile roundtrip hike is moderate to strenuous due to its rough and sometimes steep terrain.

Despite its challenging nature, the trail rewards hikers with stunning views of the surrounding forest and the beautiful Spruce Flats Falls. The waterfall, cascading over several tiers, creates a breathtaking and tranquil atmosphere.

This hike is perfect for those who enjoy a bit of a challenge and seek to discover one of the park's more secluded natural beauties.

FAQs: Great Smoky Mountains Waterfalls

What is the best time of year to visit the waterfalls?

Visiting waterfalls is ideal in spring and early summer when higher water flow from rain and melting snow enhances their beauty. Fall is also popular for its stunning foliage.

Do I need a permit to hike to the waterfalls?

You will need to get a parking permit to park in the Great Smokies. You will also need a backcountry permit if you plan to camp overnight.

Are there any accessible waterfalls for those with mobility issues?

Some waterfalls, like Laurel Falls and Cataract Falls, are accessible via paved or well-maintained trails, making them suitable for those with mobility challenges.

Is swimming allowed at the waterfalls?

Most Great Smoky Mountain waterfalls have strong currents and hidden underwater hazards, so we do not recommend swimming. Always observe safety signs and warnings.

Are pets allowed on the waterfall trails?

Most waterfall trails prohibit pets to protect wildlife and ensure the safety of both pets and visitors

Are the waterfall trails crowded?

Crowds often gather on popular trails like Laurel Falls, especially during peak seasons and weekends. Arriving early or visiting on a weekday can help avoid crowds.

Final Thoughts: Great Smoky Mountains Waterfalls

As our exploration of the Great Smoky Mountains waterfalls concludes, we're left with unforgettable experiences.

Each cascade, from the majestic heights of Ramsey Cascades to the peaceful charm of Meigs Falls, paints a unique stroke in the vast mural of the park's beauty.

These waterfalls are not just a spectacle for the eyes; they're an invitation to immerse in the rhythms of nature – to listen to the harmonious sounds of flowing water and to witness the dance of light and shadow in the forest.

As we bid farewell to these cascading beauties, we carry with us the serene whispers of the Smokies, echoing long after our visit.

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