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4 Smoky Mountain Waterfalls That You Absolutely Need to See

November 25, 2015 March 15th, 2020
Rainbow Falls, one of the best Smoky Mountain waterfalls.

People from all over the world come to the Smoky Mountains to see spectacular mountain views, but what people don’t realize is that there are also many other types of amazing land formations that will take your breath away. One type of land formation in particular that you will want to check out during your visit are the many amazing Great Smoky Mountains waterfalls. Smoky Mountain waterfalls are tucked away in the nooks and crannies of these beautiful mountain ranges. Don’t worry, many of these breathtaking waterfalls can be reached by hiking trails. Here are some Smoky Mountain waterfalls that you need to see during your visit to the area.

1. Mouse Creek Falls

If you love Smoky Mountain history and beautiful scenery, this is the waterfall trail that you want to hike. To get to Mouse Creek Falls, you will take Big Creek Trail, which follows an old railroad grade used to haul lumber out of the mountains during the logging boom in the early 20th century. As this trail climbs steadily up the mountain, you will follow Big Creek closer and closer to Mouse Creek Falls. At 1.4 miles the trail passes Midnight Hole, a deep, clear pool that displays colors of green and blue, which is under 6-foot tall waterfalls. At 2.1 miles, you will reach the picturesque Mouse Creek Falls. There is a short side trail on the left that leads to a bench where you can rest and view the falls. The falls are 45 feet in height and the falls look like they just emerge from the deep depths of the forest. This trail is considered of moderate difficulty and takes about 2-3 hours to hike to the waterfall and back.

To get to this trail, take I-40 exit #451 (Waterville Road). Then turn left after crossing the Pigeon River and proceed 2.3 miles to an intersection. At the intersection continue straight, past the ranger station, to a large parking area at the end of the road.

2. Grotto FallsGrotto Falls, one of the top Smoky Mountain waterfalls.

Smoky Mountain waterfalls have some of the most spectacular sights in the entire region, and Grotto Falls is definitely one for the books. The Trillium Gap Trail, which leads to Grotto Falls, meanders through an old-growth hemlock forest and actually runs behind the 25-foot high waterfall. The cool, moist environment near the falls is ideal for viewing salamanders, so it is great for kids who love learning more about wildlife. The hike is 3 miles roundtrip and is considered moderate in difficulty.

From the parkway in Gatlinburg, turn at traffic light #8 and follow the Historic Nature Trail into the National Park. Then take Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail to stop #5, where there is a large parking area for this amazing trail.

3. Rainbow Falls

Who doesn’t like seeing a rainbow? They provide you with a beautiful view of colors that is not like anything else you have seen in nature. One of the Smoky Mountain waterfalls actually creates rainbows during sunny days. A rainbow produced by mist from the 80-foot high Rainbow Falls is visible on sunny afternoons throughout the year. Also, during extended winter cold spells, an impressive ice formation builds around the fall for a one of a kind view. Between the trailhead and the falls, Rainbow Falls Trails gains about 1,500 feet in elevation. The 5.4-mile roundtrip trail is considered moderate in difficulty. If you are feeling extra adventurous, the Rainbow Falls Trail continues for approximately 4 miles beyond the falls to the summit of Mount LeConte, where you can view breathtaking mountain views throughout the year.

To get to this trail, turn at traffic light #8 in Gatlinburg and follow the Historic Nature Trail into the National Park. Continue past the Noah “Bud” Ogle homesite to the Rainbow Falls parking area, signs will point you in the right direction.  

4. Abrams Falls

Abrams Falls in the Smoky Mountains.Maybe you are looking for more dramatic Smoky Mountain waterfalls, well Abrams Falls has exactly what you are looking for. Although Abrams Falls is only 20 feet high, the large volume of water rushing over the falls makes up for its lack of height. Then at the bottom of the waterfall, is a long, deep pool of water that makes this scene even more breathtaking. It’s no secret that Abrams Falls is one of the best Great Smoky Mountains waterfalls. To get to the falls, you will hike 5 miles through a pine-oak forest. The trail is considered moderate in difficulty.

The turnoff for the trailhead is located past stop #10 on the Cades Cove Loop Road, just follow the signs to the trail.

More Great Smoky Mountain Waterfalls

These are just some of the many awesome Smoky Mountain waterfalls you can visit during your trip to the mountains. Other popular waterfalls include Ramsey Cascades, Fern Branch Falls, and Laurel Falls. Whether you’re looking for a challenging hike or something that the whole family can do, you’ll have no trouble finding a perfect waterfall hike in the Smoky Mountains.

So you love hiking to Smoky Mountain waterfalls, but you are also looking for another water activity in the Smoky Mountains. Well, white water rafting may be exactly what you are looking for. Check out our Smoky Mountain white water rafting trips to learn more about rafting on the Pigeon River.