Over 200,000 people visit the well-worn trails to view the best waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee every year. These hiking trails with waterfalls are very popular and add a little something extra to the normal hiking experience in the Smokies. There are even a few great waterfalls you can drive to too!
Laurel Branch and the 80-foot high Laurel Falls are named for mountain laurel, an evergreen shrub which blooms along the trail and near the falls in May. The waterfall consists of an upper and a lower section, divided by a walkway which crosses the stream at the base of the upper falls. Laurel Falls is one of the most popular destinations in the park, and with limited parking, makes it especially busy on weekends and during the summer months.
Lynn Camp Prong Cascades
Lynn Camp Prong rushes and tumbles over numerous cascades as it flows down the mountain beside the Middle Prong Trail. The trail follows the route of an old logging railroad, so the 1.3-mile route offers easy walking on a wide, relatively level path. Wildflowers bloom along the trail from spring through summer, making this hike that much more desirable to accomplish.
Juney Whank Falls
Juney Whank Falls is divided into an upper and lower section. Both can be viewed from the footbridge which crosses Juney Whank Branch at the falls, and together, they drop 90 feet from top to bottom. The trail to the waterfall is just under a mile roundtrip and is considered moderate in difficulty. The stream and falls are said to be named after a Mr. Junaluska "Juney" Whank, who is thought to be buried in the area.
The Ramsey Cascades is the tallest waterfall in the park and one of the most spectacular. Water drops 100 feet over rock outcroppings and collects in a small pool where numerous well-camouflaged salamanders can be found. The trail to the waterfall gains over 2,000 feet in elevation over its 4-mile course and the 8-mile roundtrip hike is considered strenuous in difficulty. It follows rushing rivers and streams for much of its length. The last 2 miles pass through old-growth cove hardwood forest with large tuliptrees, basswoods, silverbells, and yellow birches. Though this is a more difficult hike, if you’re an avid hiker, this isn’t one to be missed.
Hen Wallow Falls
The trip to the 90-foot-tall Hen Wallow Falls is a pleasant walk through hemlock and rhododendron forest. Hen Wallow Creek, only two feet wide at the top of the falls, fans out to 20 feet at the base! In the winter, the waterfall will even freeze into a beautiful icy column. A signed side trail leads to the base of the falls by way of steep switchbacks, making this a moderately difficult hike about 4.5 miles long.
Mouse Creek Falls
Looking for a less crowded trail? The 4-mile roundtrip Big Creek Trail follows an old railroad grade used to haul lumber out of the mountains during the logging boom at the start of the 20th century. At 1.4-mile mark, the trail passes Midnight Hole, a deep, picturesque pool below a 6' falls. At 2.1 miles, a short side trail on the left leads to a bench where hikers can rest and view the 45-foot Mouse Creek Falls which is on the far side of Big Creek.
Mingo Falls is on the Cherokee Indian Reservation (Qualla Boundary), just outside the official part of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. At 120 feet tall, the waterfall is one of the tallest and most spectacular in the southern Appalachians. The hike to the waterfall is only 0.4 miles in length, but is considered moderate in difficulty.
Indian Creek and Toms Branch Falls
This easy hike is a two-for-one special! The 1.5-mile trip will bring you to the 60-foot high Tom Branch Falls on the far side of Deep Creek and the 25-foot Indian Creek Falls which is just a couple hundred feet further down the trail. The Deep Creek trail is also known for its beautiful wildflowers, which you can view along your hike.
A rainbow produced by mist from the 80-foot high, aptly named Rainbow Falls is visible on sunny afternoons. Between trailhead and falls, Rainbow Falls Trail gains about 1,500' in elevation, and the 5.4-mile roundtrip hike is considered moderate in difficulty. For more experienced hikers, the Rainbow Falls Trail continues for approximately four more miles beyond the falls to the summit of Mount Le Conte, which is a great overlook.
Along the Trillium Gap Trail in the Smoky Mountains, you’ll find Grotto Falls! This three-mile roundtrip hike is considered moderately difficult, but runs behind the 25-foot high waterfall and is great for a summer hike to discover watery wildlife like salamanders.
If hiking just isn’t in the cards for you, you can also drive to the Meigs Falls, The Sinks and Place of a Thousands Drops. Check out more information on the National Park Service’s website.