sunrise over Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Top 5 Waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountains You Need to See

Abrams Falls in Cades Cove
March 1, 2023

The Great Smoky Mountains are known for their beauty and all of the incredible natural features you can see, from mountain views to waterfalls. Most of the waterfalls in the Smokies are accessible through hiking trails, creating a fun thing to do with your family and friends. With all of the waterfalls you can see, you might be wondering which ones you should hike to. We want to help you narrow down your search! Here are the top 5 waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountains you need to see:

1. Grotto Falls

grotto falls in smoky mountains

Grotto Falls is one of the waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountains you need to see. The trail to get to the falls is 3 miles roundtrip, and it takes about 2 to 3 hours to get to the falls and back. You’ll hike alongside the creek for a majority of the trail, possibly seeing wildlife and native plants. Once you reach the falls, you’ll get to enjoy the 25-foot-tall waterfall. Grotto Falls is unique because it’s the only waterfall in the national park you can walk behind. If you decide to walk behind the falls, be cautious since algae and mist makes this area extremely slippery.

2. Laurel Falls

Laurel Falls is the easiest waterfall to get to on this list. The trail is 2.6 miles roundtrip, and the entire path is paved, preventing people from having to climb over rocks and tree roots. There is a ton of mountain laurel along the path in the spring, and you’ll probably see quite a few people on this trail. The best time to go when there isn’t a lot of foot traffic is early in the morning. At the top of the trail, you will see the 80-foot-tall, tiered waterfall. Water gushes over the rocks, and a footbridge allows you to cross the falls and take pictures in front of it.

3. Rainbow Falls

rainbow falls in the great smoky mountains

Rainbow Falls is another popular waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountains. It is the tallest, single drop waterfall in the national park at 80 feet tall. The trail is 5.4 miles roundtrip. It takes about 4 to 5 hours to hike up and back down the trail. Once you see the waterfall, you’ll see why so many people love to hike to it. In the early afternoon, the light hits the water just right, creating a rainbow in the water, which is why it is named Rainbow Falls.

4. Abrams Falls

If you’re planning on being in Cades Cove during your trip, you should hike to Abrams Falls. The trailhead is off of the main Loop. This moderate hike is 5 miles roundtrip. You’ll walk through old forest growth and then alongside the creek until you reach the falls. Abrams Falls is only 20 feet tall, but the amount of water that rushes over the side makes it a sight you don’t want to miss!

5. Ramsey Cascades

ramsey cascades

Ramsey Cascades is one of the most popular waterfalls in the Smokies because of its height. It is the hardest hike on this list at 8 miles roundtrip, but the beauty of the falls is worth every minute. Most of the trail follows along streams and rivers, then it passes through old forest growth. Once you get to the waterfall, you will see over 100 feet of multiple tiers of water and rocks flowing into a pool at the bottom.

These waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountains are just some of the things you will want to see and experience while you’re in town. Want to know what else you should do when you stay with us? Check out these attractions in Gatlinburg for some ideas!