When you think of some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world and the best places to see them, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park may be one of the first to comes to mind!
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is known as a treasure trove for visitors from all over the country and beyond who want to experience this stunning and mystic landscape of pale blue foggy mountains!
There are more than 100 waterfalls inside this national park which makes it easy for anyone to find their favorite type of waterfall-whether you’re looking for a short hike from the parking lot or something more challenging.
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Here are our favorite waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains for nature lovers, adventurers, and outdoor enthusiasts.
Best Smoky mountain waterfalls for kids and families
Several waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are right by the park roads or can be accessed via a short hiking trail.
Here are some of the best waterfall hikes for all ages.
Laurel Falls Trail is one of the most popular waterfall hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The 80 foot tall Laurel Falls waterfall is pretty close from Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
This is a large and powerful waterfall with multiple levels.
The Laurel Falls Trail is a moderate, 2.6 miles round trip hike that takes you to this beautiful waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
To reach the trailhead, take the Fighting Creek Gap Road from Sugarlands Visitor Center.
There is a parking lot near the trailhead but it gets frequently full during peak season.
The Laurel Falls trail is a paved trail in the beginning up to the waterfall but not maintained in good condition.
The trail’s highlights is at Laurel Falls where Laurel Creek spills over the rocks into a narrow gorge below.
Reaching the roaring waterfall and cooling in its mist after the hike is an amazing experience!
On reaching the waterfall, you realize why this is one of the best waterfall hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Hikers on the Laurel Falls trail can cross the waterfall using a small wooden bridge.
Summer hikers love the hiking trail because it is shady and the large waterfall at the end is a soothing sight.
Most visitors stop here however, the trail continues beyond the famous Laurel Falls.
Those who continue on the Laurel Falls trail past the waterfall will be rewarded with views from the summit of Cove Mountain.
Along the way, you will be walking through dense old growth hemlock forest as well as deciduous trees that look stunning in the fall.
A historic lookout tower is also present at the end of the trail.
The round trip hike to the end of Laurel falls trail is strenuous and almost 7.7 miles.
The trail up to the Laurel Falls waterfall is easy enough for families and one of the most popular in the park.
Next up are the two drive-up waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Meigs Falls and Place of a Thousand Drips!
Meigs Fall is the only waterfall in Cades Cove and Little River region that is located right by the road.
It is located just before Laurel falls on Little River Road and can be easily missed if you are not looking for it.
Visitors can admire the beauty of the falls from the comfort of their car. Or use the small pullout and walk out of your car to capture a photo.
The Smoky Mountain National Park has a number of waterfalls, but one of the best waterfalls for toddlers and little kids is the Sinks.
Located just outside Gatlinburg on the Little River Road scenic drive, this waterfall is easily accessible by car and requires no hiking to enjoy.
The falls can be seen from three different viewing areas: lower pool overlook (accessible only with stairs), middle pool overlook (also accessible via stairs) or upper pool overlook (accessible via a paved path).
The Meigs Fall trail also starts here.
Place of a Thousand Drips
One of the best waterfall hikes for kids!
It is so named because of the thousands of little waterfalls that flow down the mountainside.
This pretty waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is located right along the roadside and even has a small pull-out.
To reach the Place of a Thousand Drips, follow the scenic Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail to the very end.
This is an excellent opportunity for photographers looking for shots of fall foliage and cascading waterfalls.
Midnight Hole and Mouse Creek Falls
Next up is the Big Creek area of the Smoky Mountains.
Locate in the northern most area of the park in North Carolina side of the Smokies, Big Creek is a wide full creek with several waterfalls.
The most popular ones to reach are Midnight Hole and Mouse Creek falls.
Midnight Hole waterfall is a small 6 feet tall waterfall that is perfect for kids and families.
There is a deep natural swimming hole at the bottom which s perfect for a swim in the summer.
You can jump off from the rocks into the pool below, making this one of the best waterfall hikes in the Smoky Mountains.
To reach Midnight Hole, visitors need to hike along the Big Creek Trail for 1.4 miles.
The Big Creek trail has a parking lot but it frequently gets full in the summer.
If you continue past Midnight Hole for 0.5 miles, the Big Creek trail will lead you to Mouse Creek Falls.
This beautiful 45 feet long waterfall cascades directly into Big Creek and is very pretty.
Kids can easily hike to Mouse Creek Falls with some help.
Deep Creek Area waterfalls
The Deep Creek area of the Smoky Mountains is located in North Carolina and is home to three beautiful waterfalls – Indian Creek Falls, Tom Branch Falls, and Juney Whank Falls!
All the three waterfalls can be accessed via the Deep Creek Trail.
This loop trail is 4.6 miles long and located near Bryson City in North Carolina.
Once on the trail, you have to make a difficult choice: enjoy river tubing in Deep Creek or hike up to the three waterfalls!
Or make a full day out of it and enjoy all the attractions in Deep area including waterfall hikes, river tubing, and fly fishing!
Once you begin the hike, you will first come across the Tom Branch Falls. This gorgeous waterfall is 80 foot tall and is easy to reach via 0.3 mile one way hike.
Half a mile from the Deep Creek trailhead, past the Tom Branch Falls, is the river tubing area. You can easily launch tubes from here and float all the way down to Tom Branch Falls.
Around 1 mile from the trailhead, you will reach the intersection for the 45 foot tall Indian Creek Falls.
Tubing past Indian Creek Falls is not recommended because the creek bed gets very rocky.
See the falls and come back to Big Creek Trail to reach the Juney Whank Falls.
The total loop is 4.6 miles.
Alternatively, you can also reach Juney Whank Falls on an easy 0.8 mile round trip hike from the parking lot without going on the loop trail.
The many opportunities to enjoy the nature in Deep Creek make this one of the best waterfall hikes in the Smoky Mountains for families.
Best waterfall hikes in the Smoky Mountains
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park also has several waterfalls that can be seen only after hiking for long distances through the park.
Here are some of the strenuous and challenging waterfall hikes in the Smoky mountains.
The stunning Mingo Falls is located on the Cherokee Indian reservation just outside the Smoky Mountains national park boundary.
This breathtaking waterfall is 120 feet tall and just spectacular.
The hike to Mingo Falls is 0.8 miles round trip but considered moderate difficulty by the National Park Service.
To access the waterfall, you need to climb up 160 stairs; the elevation gain is 140 feet.
While most visitors reach the top out of breath, they are rewarded with a charming wooden bridge overlooking the falls.
The other most popular waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountains after Laurel Falls is the Abrams Falls.
Abrams Falls is a short 20 feet waterfall that is very powerful due to the large volume of water that gushes down Abrams Creek.
A deep pool is located at the bottom of Abrams Falls; swimming inside this hole is dangerous because of the currents.
Abrams Falls trail located in Cades Cove, which is the most visited area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The trail is 5 miles round trip and takes about 4 hours at a moderate pace.
The trailhead is on the scenic 11 mile long Cades Cove Loop Road.
To reach Cades Cove, follow the Little River Road from Sugarlands Visitor Center.
When it comes to Smoky mountain waterfalls, Grotto Falls is another popular one with visitors.
Grotto Falls is a 25 feet high scenic waterfall that is named after the ‘Grotto’ or cave behind the waterfall.
Hikers can reach the Grotto Falls via the Trillium Gap Trail.
Trillium Gap trail is a 3 mile round trip hike, takes about 2.5 to 3 hours, and is considered moderate in difficulty.
Following the trail, you can walk right inside the grotto behind the waterfall and enjoy unique views.
The trailhead to Grotto Falls is located on Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.
All nature lovers enjoy the incredible view of the water rushing down the rocks at Rainbow Falls.
The Rainbow Falls is amongst the most popular waterfalls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Rainbow Falls is a stunning 80 foot tall waterfall.
It is named because of the rainbow produced due the mist.
Visitors hiking the Rainbow Falls trail in the afternoons can easily see this rainbow.
The Rainbow Falls trailhead is located on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.
The Rainbow Falls Trail is 2.7 miles long one way.
Hikers also have the option to continue past the waterfalls for 4 miles to reach the summit of Mount Le Conte for a total 6.7 miles one way hike.
Ramsey Cascades is the tallest waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Reaching this 100 feet tall Great Smoky Mountains waterfall is no easy feet.
Ramsey Cascades is located near the less popular Greenbriar entrance to the national park.
The round trip hike is 8 miles long and takes about 6 to 7 hours.
The hike also has over 2200 feet of elevation gain and we recommend it only for experienced hikers.
However, those who attempt it are rewarded by the stunning sight of the water cascading 100 feet over rocky outcroppings.
Hen Wallow Falls
The beauty of the 90 feet high Hen Wallow Falls is a sight to behold.
The 4.4 miles round trip Gabes Mountain Trail leads visitors to the waterfall.
The trail has 900 feet of elevation gain and is moderate difficulty.
The waterfall is beautiful after heavy rains and you will have plenty of opportunities for photos.
Located in the northern Cosby area of Great Smoky Mountain National Park, it’s worth adding to your bucket list.
Fern Branch Falls
Fern Branch falls is a beautiful waterfall located near Gatlinburg.
To reach the waterfall, drive along the Foothills Parkway to the trailhead.
The scenic waterfall is about 40 ft tall and located along the Porters Creek trail.
The round trip hike is 4 miles long and has an elevation gain of over 650 ft.
Fern Branch falls is one of the hidden gems in the Smoky mountains and visited by very few people.
Indian Flats Falls
Indian Flats Falls is a beautiful waterfall in the Tremont area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
It can be easily reached from Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg.
The 8.2 mile round trip Middle Prong Trail takes visitors to the Indian Flats Falls.
The hike is long but over relatively flat ground and so good for older kids and young adults.
The hike offers stunning views and access to some of the best scenery in the Smokies.
Things to remember before going on waterfall hikes in the Smokies
The Smoky Mountains are home to some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world.
Each one is unique and offers stunning views that you can’t find anywhere else in the country.
Here is essential information to know before you go on a waterfall hike:
Bring along a trail map, especially for longer hikes.
Check out weather conditions before the hike. In case of storm or rain, do not attempt the hikes as flash flooding can occur.
Bring plenty of water with you – even when it’s not hot outside! This will prevent dehydration and keep your energy levels up while hiking.
Also pack enough snacks for your hike.
Remember to pack sunscreen, sunhat, and long sleeve clothes to stay safe from the sun.
Wear comfortable and sturdy hiking boots for hiking in the Smoky Mountains.
The Smoky Mountains waterfalls look spectacular in the fall when trees like yellow birches, maples, and oaks turn color.
Exploring the waterfalls in the Smoky mountains on sunny afternoons or on peaceful autumn mornings is a unique adventure.
Hikers can spot black bears or elk, walk through pine oak forest, and see the stunning fall colors on these waterfall hiking trails!
We hope you liked our ultimate guide to the most popular waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Did we miss any other popular smoky mountain waterfalls or hiking trails that lead to waterfalls?
Let us know in the comments.