At the core of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a haven awaits nature enthusiasts and those seeking adventure. The park, adorned with majestic peaks and meandering streams spanning over 2900 miles, sets the stage for an extraordinary waterfall hike. Shared tales of joy from families and avid explorers have inspired us to compile a selection of family-friendly waterfall trails. Let this curated list be your guide as you set out on your personal Smoky Mountain adventure.
Cataract Falls –The Most Accessible: Begin your journey at the Sugarlands Visitor Center, where the trail to Cataract Falls unfolds. This gentle 0.75-mile round trip takes you through a self-guided nature trail, allowing you to marvel at a giant sycamore tree and cross a bridge over a babbling stream. Ideal for families with kids, this hike promises a scenic and enjoyable experience.
- Abrams Falls – The Iconic Waterfall: No visit to Cades Cove is complete without the classic Abrams Falls hike. At 5.2 miles round trip, this trail leads you through a gorgeous forest, marked by signs of a 2011 tornado. The well-worn path brings you to a small beach area for a close-up view of the falls, known for their strength and beauty.
Laurel Falls – The Highly Favored: Arguably the park's most popular hike, Laurel Falls Trail leads to an 80-foot waterfall. This 1.2-mile paved trail starts your day with a breathtaking payoff. Early mornings or last-minute excursions provide the best experience, as Laurel Falls tends to get busy during late mornings and afternoons. Traverse the paved trail, keeping an eye out for drop-offs, and enjoy the unique bridge that traverses the waterfall.
Grotto Falls – The Most Distinctive: Grotto Falls offers a truly unique experience – walking behind a waterfall. Located along the Trillium Gap Trail, this 1.3-mile one-way trail immerses you in the cascading water. As part of the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, this hike introduces you to the magic of being surrounded by the natural beauty of Grotto Falls.
Baskins Creek – The Hidden Waterfall: Embark on a unique downhill hike to the hidden gem of Baskins Creek Falls. Park on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and follow the Baskins Creek Trail, witnessing the impact of the 2016 wildfire on the landscape. The 1.3-mile hike to the 40-foot waterfall descends approximately 700 feet, providing a rewarding yet challenging adventure.
Embarking on a waterfall hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an invitation to witness nature's breathtaking beauty. Each trail offers a unique experience, from walking behind waterfalls to discovering hidden gems off the beaten path. Whether you're a family with kids or an avid adventurer, the Smokies provide an enchanting backdrop for unforgettable moments. So, lace up your hiking boots, grab your water bottle, and immerse yourself in the wonders of these captivating waterfall hikes. Your Smoky Mountain adventure awaits!