With more than 200,000 annual visitors, the Great Smoky mountains have many well traveled trails that lead to beautiful views of the Abrams, Grotto, Rainbow, Laurel waterfalls. While larger crowds tend to flock to the bigger waterfalls, small falls and cascades can be found close to every stream and river in the park.
Combining relatively high amounts of rainfall and heightened elevation levels, the Great Smoky Mountains are a great pace to find waterfalls. With more than 85″ of rainfall each year in the park’s high country, much of the water tends to find its way downstream to all of the gorgeous waterfalls. In fact, some “wet” years have provided the Smokies with more than 8 feet of rain. Here is a brief description of some of the park’s most popular waterfalls.
The popular Trillium Gap Trail will bring you through the older hemlock forest and into direct sight of the Grotto Falls that stand 25 feet tall. With a moist, cool surrounding environment, these falls are perfect for salamanders and summertime hikers. The hike to the Grotto Falls is a 3 mile (roundtrip) hike and is considered to be moderate to difficult.
Even though the Abrams Falls is just 20 feet high, there is a large amount of water that rapidly flows over the falls. At the bottom of the gorgeous sight is a deep pool of water that is very mesmerizing. Named after a Cherokee chief, both the creek and waterfall are located closely to the old reservation. The journey to the Abrams Falls is 5 miles roundtrip and ventures through the rhododendron and hemlock forest.
Juney Whank Falls
Separated into an upper and lower section, the Juney Whank Falls can be seen from the footbridge of the Juney Whank Branch. An enormous waterfall, there is a 90 foot drop all the way to the bottom of the incredible sight. A medium to hard trail, this hike is .08 miles roundtrip. A Great Smoky Mountains legend says that both the stream and waterfall is named after a Mr. Junaluska “Juney” Whank, who is supposedly buried some where around the trail.
Hen Wallow Falls
A nice hike through the rhododendon and hemlock forest, the trail to Hen Wallow Falls is a well signed path that brings you to the bottom of the waterfall by traveling across steep switchbacks. The Hen Wallow Creek is just two feet wide at the falls highest point and sprawls out 20 feet at the base. The waterfall itself is 90 feet high and is a great location to spot salamanders. During the winter months, the waterfall has been known to freeze into a picturesque icy column. Using the Gabes Mountain trail, hikers enjoy a 4.4 mile journey through the old-growth forest to see the falls.
Indian Creek and Toms Branch Falls
Considered to be an easy hike, the trip to the Indian Creek and Toms Branch Falls is 1.6 miles long roundtrip. The Deep Creek Trail will bring you .07 miles to the Indian Creek Trail where you will come across the incredible Tom Branch Falls. After proceeding down the Indian Creek Trail, you will encounter the 25 foot Indian Creek waterfall.
Located on the Cherokee Indian Reservation, the Mingo Falls are actually right outside of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There are no permits that are required to enter the reservation. Amazingly, the waterfall is 120 feet tall and is one of the largest in the entire southern Appalachians. Although the hike is only .04 miles long, it is still considered to be medium to hard.
An 80 foot waterfall, the gorgeous fall mist creates a beautiful rainbow on sunny days. In the winter months, the waterfall freezes into a breathtaking icy sculpture. Located 1,500 feet above the ground, the trail to Rainbow Falls is considered to be medium to difficult.
Mouse Creek Falls
The trip to the Mouse Creek Falls will bring you along the Big Creek Trail that runs in conjunction with an old lumber railroad. This trail will pass Midnight Hole after 1.4 miles and shows a scenic view of the 6 foot waterfall. After another 2,1 miles, there is a bench on the side of the trail that will give hikers perfect view of the Mouse Creek Falls.