This hike begins from the Abrams Falls parking area, which is at the end of a short gravel side road off of the Cades Cove Loop Road 5 miles from the beginning. It is very popular, and the parking area may be full. Since five miles must be driven on the loop road to get there, it is advisable to start this very early in the morning, or in the winter or early spring. The trail leads through the forest, going up and down several times, staying close to Abrams Creek most of the way until it reaches the waterfall.
Great Smoky Mountains Hiking Trails
The park has over 800 miles of trails and it would take years of constant hiking to cover it all. There are routes for all levels of abilities, from short paved trails to steep, backcountry routes of several days. Cascading streams, waterfalls, old growth forest, and mountain vistas can all be seen from the trails. Hiking distances given below are total, roundtrip distances unless otherwise stated. Difficulties are only a general guideline, for an adult in good condition, and do not take into account trail length.
(click map to open very large locator map of the hikes below)
This hike begins from the large parking area located along Newfound Gap Road, 10.2 miles from the Gatlinburg Entrance. It is popular in the extreme, and the parking area is likely to be full at almost any time except winter. This is a very scenic trail all the way to the bluffs themselves, with one noteable stop on the way being Arch Rock, shown above. There are great views of various streams all along the trail right from the start.
This very short trail leads to a small waterfall in the woods. It is relatively unknown, and there is some chance for solitude even in the busy season. To find it, take the paved road behind Park Headquarters to just before the road crosses a bridge. There is a row of public parking spaces on the right. Cross the bridge on foot and turn to the right onto a short trail, signed for Cataract Falls. The trail leads along Fighting Creek behind government quarters to the falls.
This hike begins from the large parking area located along Newfound Gap Road, 8.5 miles from the Gatlinburg Entrance. Despite this hike's difficulty, it is one of the most popular in the park, and the parking lots are jammed all through the summer and in October. The trail leads steeply up to the area called the Chimney Tops, where some of the best views in the park can be had on a clear day.
The Cosby Nature Trail is located in the Cosby section of the park, reached via a narrow gravel road off of TN-32. The trail begins from a small parking area located just before the road enters the Cosby Campground. It is a nice loop hike through the woods and along Cosby Creek.
This hike begins from the Chimneys Picnic Area, located on the Newfound Gap Road 6.1 miles from the Gatlinburg Entrance. A small parking area is on the right just aftering entering the picnic area. As nature trails go, this may be the best one in the park. It loops through a beautiful forest strewn with moss-covered boulders. In the spring the area is radiant with the bright greens of the new growth. The entire area around the Chimneys Picnic Area, including this trail, is a great area for spring wildflowers as well.
Deep Creek to Indian Creek Falls
#6 - Deep Creek parking area
This hike begins from the end of the short road into the Deep Creek area, at the waterfalls parking area. In the summer, this area can be overrun on any day of the week, and on the weekend you may not be able to get in at all. Floating Deep Creek on inner tubes is an insanely popular summer activity here. At other times of the year, it is usually a pleasant, relatively uncrowded hike. The hike leads along the Deep Creek Trail (actually a gravel road closed to motor vehicles) until a right turn on the Indian Creek Trail just before the falls. A sharp, steep side trail to the left leads near the base.
Flat Creek Trail
2.6 miles one-way
#7 - Balsam Mountain Picnic Area
The Flat Creek Trail leads from the Balsam Mountain Picnic Area at the end of the Heintooga Ridge Road (off the Blue Ridge Parkway) to a small parking area along Heintooga Ridge Road. The trail is 2.6 miles one-way. It can be reversed for a 5.2 mile hike, or you can walk along the road for 3.6 miles back to the parking area. A short side path along the way leads to Flat Creek Falls, but there is no way to see it well.
This hike begins from its parking area along the one-way Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, almost 2 miles from its beginning. The lot is small, and this hike is extremely popular, so parking can be quite difficult. Those who manage to park will find a hike that is uphill for most of its distance, although it is never especially steep. The trail is in good shape. The falls itself is in a beautiful setting, as Roaring Fork falls over a small cliff with an area, or grotto, behind it. The trail in fact goes behind the falls and continues on, eventually reaching the summit of Mount LeConte.
This hike begins from the end of the short road into the Deep Creek area, at the waterfalls parking area. In the summer, this area can be overrun on any day of the week, and on the weekend you may not be able to get in at all. Floating Deep Creek on inner tubes is an insanely popular summer activity here. However, the trail to Juneywhank Falls will mostly likely be deserted even in these times, as everyone is headed down Deep Creek Trail. The trail to the falls climbs up to reach a footbridge over the middle portion of the falls.
The hike to Laurel Falls begins from a large parking area along the Little River Road 3.7 miles from the junction with Newfound Gap Road. This is probably the most popular hike in the most visited national park in the world. To call it crowded at any time of the year other than winter is an understatement. Due to its popularity, the entire route to the falls is paved. The trail is uphill almost the entire way, but the incline is never overly steep, just steady. Use extreme caution at the falls area, the rock around the steep dropoff is very slippery.
Spruce Flats Falls
#12 - Great Smoky Mountains Institute parking area
This hike begins from the parking area of the Great Smoky Mountains Institute. It is located 2 miles down the Tremont Road, which is off of Laurel Creek Road just 0.2 miles west of the Townsend Wye. The route heads up a short gravel road before going left of a building and climbing briefly. The Spruce Flats Falls Trail shortly heads off to the right. This hike may be only a mile, but it is very steep in places, and is very rocky. This trail is much less maintained than most in the park, and can lead to injury for the careless. Young children do not belong on this hike. Those who do make it to the falls will be rewarded with perhaps the most beautiful falls in the park.
Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail
#10 - Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail parking area
This short hike begins from its parking area along the Newfound Gap Road 1.9 miles from the Gatlinburg Entrance. The entire loop trail is handicapped accessible. It is a nice, short walk through the woods, and is a good, if short escape from the roads.