The Great Smoky Mountains may be known for their enchanting mist and spectacular views, but these rounded peaks have another claim to fame: they are home to waterfalls of all shapes and sizes. There’s nothing quite like kicking off your shoes and cooling down next to a beautiful waterfall in the heat of a Southeastern summer, and with more than 20 waterfalls in the park, the Smoky Mountains are the perfect place to do just that.
Whether you’re looking for a flowing cascade or an impressive chute, a drive-by photo opp or a strenuous all-day hike, the Smokies have something for you. We narrowed the full list down to eight of the best waterfall hikes in the Smokies to try out the next time you visit the Southeast.
1.Indian Creek and Tom Branch Falls
Distance: 1.6 miles **Difficulty: Easy
This easy hike on Deep Creek Trail is a two for one: the 1.6-mile round trip gives you views of both Tom Branch Falls and Indian Creek Falls. After just one-third of a mile, you’ll come across the splendid 60-foot Tom Branch Falls, a perfect spot to stop for photos or rest on one of the many benches provided by the National Park Service. Just a bit farther down the path, hikers will catch a glimpse the 25-foot Indian Creek Falls, which cascades water slide-style into Deep Creek.
2. Mouse Creek Falls
Distance: 4.2 miles** Difficulty: Easy**
Perfect for novice hikers, the trail to the lesser-known Mouse Creek Falls is wide and smooth, climbing gently over the first two miles. The 45-foot falls can be accessed from Big Creek Trail, which follows along an old logging railroad. After about a mile, the trail meets Big Creek, and a little farther, you’ll get a view of the emerald green waters of Midnight Hole and it’s six-foot waterfall. If you are visiting in the warmer months, expect to see plenty of wildflowers bursting into color as well. With a modest elevation gain of 600 feet and a round-trip distance of just over four miles, Mouse Creek Falls is the perfect destination for beginner hikers or those looking for a beautiful waterfall without too much hassle.
3. Baskins Creek Falls
Distance: 3 miles** Difficulty: Easy overall, but with a couple fun challenges**
While the round trip to Baskins Creek Falls is only three miles, you’ll face your share of exciting obstacles in reaching this 40-foot waterfall. You may get your feet wet on the walk, especially after a heavy rain, as the trail crosses Falls Branch with no footbridge. The final stretch leading to the waterfall is a fairly steep descent that will become a fun, rugged scramble on the return trip. Whatever your experience level, the hike the beautiful two-tiered falls is well worth the challenges of getting there.
4. Hen Wallow Falls
Distance: 4.4 miles** Difficulty: Moderate**
At a towering 90 feet, this waterfall will have you craning your neck to see its sky-high origins. Only two feet wide at the top, the waterfall broadens to nearly 20 feet on its lengthy descent. The 4.4-mile round-trip hike can be accessed from Gabes Mountain Trail. On a steady climb, the rugged trail winds through a lush forest before descending steeply to the falls. If you brave the hike in cold winter weather, you could be rewarded with a view of Hen Wallow Falls frozen into an impressive icy column.
5. Abrams Falls
Distance: 5.2 miles** Difficulty: Moderate**
The trail to Abrams Falls is well-traveled, and for good reason. At roughly five miles out-and-back, this hike is the perfect place to stop and stretch your legs on a scenic drive through Cades Cove. The immense volume of water rushing over Abrams Falls will make you forget that it’s only 20 feet tall. The trail is considered moderately difficult and runs parallel to Abrams Creek. The base of the falls offers plenty of room for a riverside picnic or a shady rest before the return hike.
6. Rainbow Falls
Distance: 5.4 miles** Difficulty: Moderate**
Visit this waterfall on a sunny afternoon to catch glimpses of the misty rainbows for which the falls is named. Best viewed after heavy rain, the 80-foot falls has the longest single drop waterfall in the Smokies and is great for a day hike. The trail gains 1,500 feet in elevation en route to the falls, while offering plenty of rest spots along the way. If you’re looking for a heftier challenge, you can tack on another four miles by going all the way to the summit of Mt. LeConte.
7. The Sinks and Meigs Creek Cascades
Distance: 7 miles** Difficulty: Moderate**
For a fantastic view of the Sinks, a short but powerful waterfall, you need not walk more than twenty steps from your car. Named for the swirling motion of the water as it pools at the base of the 15-foot falls, the Sinks is a popular roadside attraction in the Smokies.
But if you want to go beyond the parking lot, jump on the Meigs Creek Trail, which you can follow to a variety of destinations. The trail is aptly named: it follows the creek all the way to its headwaters at Meigs Mountain. On your way up, you’ll get to practice your rock hopping skills as you cross Meigs Creek multiple times (with no footbridges). There are several small waterfalls on the trail, including the 18-foot Meigs Creek Cascades. This trail is best hiked in the summer and fall months, as there can be dangerously high water at other times of the year.
8. Ramsey Cascades
Distance: 8 miles** Difficulty: Strenuous**
If you want to take a gander at the tallest waterfall in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you’ll have to work for it. At 100 feet tall, Ramsey Cascades is a picturesque and popular destination for day hikers. Gaining 2,200 feet over four miles, this trail is considered strenuous and has some pretty rugged terrain just before reaching the falls. With a round-trip distance of eight miles, Ramsey Cascades Trail meanders through the largest old growth forest in the Smokies while offering views of countless mini-waterfalls in the Little Pigeon River.
Note: The trail to Ramsey Cascades is temporarily closed due to storm damage.
Originally written by RootsRated for Outdoor Sports Marketing.
Featured image provided by Cody Myers Photography