By Darryl Payne
Posted on May 10, 2016
The Great Smoky Mountains have the two ingredients necessary for waterfalls: plenty of rain, from 85 inches to over 8 feet some years, and elevation gradient. Water trickles down the mountains and builds rushing rivers that drop up to a mile off the mountain face. Hiking the Smokies to see stunning waterfalls is one of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park's most breathtaking activities. Here are some of the most popular waterfalls you'll find.
Abrams Falls: Small But Mighty
You'll hike five miles round trip before arriving at this little wonder, which features a deep, picturesque pool at its base. As you travel along, you'll pass scenic ridges as well as a creek, pine-oak, hemlock, and rhododendron forests. The trailhead is located on Cades Cove Loop Road and takes most hikers from three to four hours to complete.
Grotto Falls: Movie Set Scenery
You'll feel you're in a movie as you wind your way down Trillium Gap Trail, through old-growth forest and behind a 25-foot-high waterfall. The trailhead is off of the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail in Gatlinburg. This is a moderate three-mile hike that takes two to three hours to complete.
Laurel Falls: Short But Sweet
This spectacular waterfall gets its name from the surrounding evergreen mountain laurels. There are two parts to this 80-foot-high waterfall, and you can cross through the middle via a cool, misty walkway. Pick up the trail from Little River Road near the Sugarlands Visitor Center. At only 2.6 miles, it takes about two hours to complete. Because it's a short hike and is cool in the heat of summer, it's a popular trail on weekends and holidays.
Mingo Falls: Awesome Heights
Mingo Falls lies just outside the boundaries of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the Cherokee Indian Reservation. This stunning 120-foot-high waterfall is a sight you won't soon forget. Access Mingo Falls from Pigeon Creek Trail on the Cherokee Indian Reservation. The hike is short - just under a half a mile - but is still moderate in difficulty.
Mouse Creek Falls: Off the Beaten Path
Mouse Creek Falls plummets 45 feet into Midnight Hole; a deep, photo-worthy pool. The waterfall is located off of Big Creek Trail, an old lumber pass. This is a moderate four-mile round-trip hike that takes two to three hours. Mouse Creek Falls doesn't get the foot traffic of other falls, so it's a nice choice on weekends or in high season.
Indian Creek and Toms Branch Falls: Easy Double Dip
If you're looking for an easy waterfall hike, Indian Creek and Toms Branch Falls are a short 1.6-mile round-trip hike off of the Walk Deep Creek and Indian Creek trails. Tom Branch Falls is a respectable 60-foot-high waterfall just 200 feet from the 25-foot-high Indian Creek Falls. This is a lovely area replete with wildflowers, birds, and wildlife. Pick up the trail off of Deep Creek Road past Deep Creek Campground.
Lynn Camp Prong Cascades: Sit a Spell
Lynn Camp Prong is another easy hike that features benches where you can relax and appreciate the sound of the rushing water. You'll follow Middle Prong Trail, the route of an old logging railroad, on a level path beside several gently cascading waterfalls. This is a 1.3-mile hike that only takes about an hour. Pick up the trail off of Laurel Creek Road outside of Tremont.
Take plenty of water, start your hike early so you're not returning in the dark, and wear sturdy hiking shoes. Also note that rocks around waterfalls are slippery and the picturesque pools at their bases may contain strong currents, so resist the urge to swim. Black bears are also attracted to waterfalls as a source of fresh water, so keep an eye out at all times.
Smoky Mountain Ziplines
If you're ready to retire your walking shoes for the day, but you'd like to take in the dramatic scenery of the Great Smoky Mountains from another angle, visit Smoky Mountain Ziplines. You'll start off "low and slow" through the canopy, then build speed and altitude until you're zooming through the treetops at up to 40 miles per hour. Smoky Mountain Ziplines has the largest course in Pigeon Forge and two professionals are always with you to guide and direct your ride. Kids ages five through seven can take part in the fun as they tandem zipline with one of the staff.
Spring has arrived in the Great Smoky Mountains, bringing picture-perfect weather to enjoy the majestic waterfalls that abound in the park. Whether you're in the mood for an easy walk, a moderate hike, or a heart-pounding zipline tour through the treetops, the Great Smoky Mountains has an adventure waiting for you.
About Darryl Payne
Darryl Payne is a native of East Tennessee in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. He is a web developer with a passion for building great websites. As a local, he can offer a unique perspective on where to stay and things to do while on vacation in the Smokies. To read his latest recommendations, please click the Google+ follow button.