At the entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park lies the little town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. This quaint settlement offers a healthy measure of merriment, comfort food and cheerful small town charm.
For the nature loving fan Gatlinburg also holds another treasure. The town is blessed with some truly excellent hiking opportunities nearby.
Even better, there are a plethora of waterfalls near Gatlinburg. So, if you’re like us and you love yourself a good hike that includes water falling off of rocks, you’re in luck.
The best hikes are detailed below, ranging from the easygoing to the unforgiving! The trails discussed below are pretty much cascading with them (waterfall pun!). Read on for our list of the most beautiful, and wet, waterfall routes in Tennessee.
Best Waterfall Hikes in Gatlinburg – Easy Hikes
Let’s start with some of the easiest hikes you will find. These are ideal for those of you looking for a hour or two of easy walking.
A ten minute walk from the town’s center, Cataract Falls is an idyllic ramble and ideal for families taking a walk with little ones. The waterfall itself is 25 feet high and sure to impress. Tip: it looks especially awesome after a burst of rain!
Hike Length: 0.75 miles
The Place of a Thousand Drips
The Place of a Thousand Drips is interestingly named so as it is classified as a ‘series’ of waterfalls near Gatlinburg.
Instead of one gushing torrent, many tumbling paths of water intertwine to compose this pretty view. They can be viewed from the car as you drive past, or it’s a short walk from the carpark.
A simple path, and a definite must see.
Hike Length: 0.3 miles
If you fancy a laid back stroll along the Little Pigeon River take the Gatlinburg Trail. Enjoy the pleasantly flowing water beside you and stop to dip your toes in on a hot day. Manageable for most adults and children this trail makes for a delightful family walk.
Hike Length: 3.8 miles
Twin Creeks Trail
A little longer but considered very manageable is the Twin Creeks Trail. A dense forest path with creek crossings, and it’s here you’ll find the House of the Fairies! This route can be popular so head out early to avoid the crowds.
Hike Length: 4.5 miles
Best Waterfall Hikes in Gatlinburg – Moderate Hikes
So those trails were pretty mellow! Let’s up the pace for those wanting a more strenuous track when hiking near Gatlinburg.
Rainbow Falls is prettily named from the colors seen through the water’s mist on sunny afternoons. At 80ft fall, it’s an impressive sight and the Rainbow Falls Trail itself is through forest grounds. Tranquil and peaceful.
Hike Length: 5.4 miles
Grotto Falls is an amicable route that takes you right behind the waterfall itself!
It’s a short path but considered moderate due to the uphill stretch to reach the falls. When taken slowly, it’s accessible for almost everyone.
Hike Length: 2.6 miles
When checking out the falls in the Great Smokies, Laurel Falls will come up time and time again. Lined with a paved walkway means it’s an easy route in any weather, and there is a bridge right opposite to take the perfect picture – even during busier periods you’ll get a good snap.
Hike Length: 2.6 miles
For an impressive 90ft high waterfall in Gatlinburg, head to Hen Wallow. This trail through lush forest is filled with rhododendrons, and ends with a beautiful fall which fans out at it’s base, it’s quite something. Noted for being just as striking in winter, where the water clings to the rock to create a shimmering icy display.
Hike Length: 4.4 miles
Baskin Creek Falls
In order to reach Baskin Creek Falls, follow the Baskins Creek Trail and anticipate an uphill journey. Also be prepared to scramble over a few rocks! Secluded and quieter than most paths. This expedition is worth it to have the falls all to yourself.
Hike Length: 3.2
Abrams Falls is no doubt gorgeous, but swimming in the pool at its base is prohibited. This short waterfall at 20 feet is actually the most powerful, with gallons crashing into the pool each second making swimming very dangerous and therefore banned. What a sight though!
Hike Length: 5 miles
Best Waterfall Hikes in Gatlinburg – Challenging Hikes
The easygoing footpaths have been walked, the moderate explored, so time for a more challenging hike in Gatlinburg.
Indian Flats Falls
A longer loop with a wonderful view of the river, the uphill path to the Indian Flats Falls are rocky and can be slippery at times in wet weather. The trip is worthwhile however and the four waterfalls themselves are a fine reward!
Keep an eye out for the trail markings, previous visitors have noted that they can be easy to miss.
Hike Length: 8 miles
The Ramsey Cascade
The Ramsey Cascade is a 85 foot drop of flowing water reached by a steep elevation climb. The rush of the water at the top has been described as incredibly intense, and to add to the mix there are warning signs posted of bears, so keep those eyes peeled!
The scenery here is gorgeous however. Pack yourself something tasty to have at the falls, enjoy the view and recharge.
Hike Length: 8.1 miles
For the best 360 breathtaking view climb up Clingmans Dome. Short and steep (less than a mile) it’s rated as challenging due to the fact that you’ll be in the very highest point of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, over 6,400ft high in fact.
The views here are simply insane, so muster up that courage and have a go!
Gregory Ridge Trail
A proper strenuous, calf screaming slog takes us to the end.
The Gregory Ridge Trail is recommended for experienced hikers. The majority of the trail is uphill, but you’ll be rewarded with the beautiful blooming azaleas and views of the park’s wildlife at the top.
Take a lot of water for this one, the progressive elevation will make you thirsty!
Hike Length: 11.6 miles
Accommodation in Gatlinburg
Please note – Our selections contain affiliate links. These allow us to earn a small percentage every time you make a booking. Using our links enables us to keep writing more travel stuff!
First and foremost however, where to stay in a tiny town of 4,000 people? Due to its size, the homey feel is effortlessly genuine here and most places you’ll stay will reflect that. Here are some favorite hotels in Gatlinburg to help you choose:
- The Sidney James Mountain Lodge: The Sidney James Mountain Lodge is a great choice. The accommodations are in the form of rooms and lodges, they have three pools on site and also several balconies overlooking a little stream. Previous guests have even said that they’ve seen families of bears outside the window!
- Margaritaville Resort Gatlinburg: If exceptional ratings for cleanliness and comfort is important for you in a hotel, as well as having a large flip flop statue out front, then Margaritaville Resort Gatlinburg is for you. Decked out with a pool and fitness center, it’s perfect for relaxing in after a long traipse or to gently exercise aching muscles.
- Baymont by Wyndham Gatlinburg on the River: Another rated spot to stay the night is the Baymont by Wyndham Gatlinburg on the River. The rooms are also complete with a gorgeous riverside balcony, and although a little further out from the center, the main tourist attractions are still easily within walking distance.
Essentials for Hiking in Gatlinburg
- The most important part on a hike, your feet. Look after them with a solid pair of hiking boots! Ankle support is a must, and a waterproof boot doesn’t go amiss either.
- Water, water, water! Invest in a decent reusable bottle, the market is saturated with them during this plastic free age, and ensure you take enough to keep you well hydrated.
- If the sun is out, keep that face youthful from the rays with sunscreen and a hat that covers it. Future you will thank you.
- Clothing. You want to be comfortable, the right temperature and perhaps need something with a little more give if you plan to be scrambling over rocks.
- Always check the weather before you head out. Layering up with breathable material is always a safe bet.
- Also, along the lines of comfort when hiking in Nashville, take a bug repellent. Worth taking, because if you don’t have it those itchy marks will drive you bananas as a lasting, and less than treasured, memory of that wonderful hike.
- Trekking poles are recommended for some paths, it’s up to you if you think you’d be more comfortable with them. Many are foldable so don’t take up much space in your bag.
- A portable first aid kit is a good idea. You want to look after yourself and a little portable pack with the essentials ensures you are covered for any situation.
- Something to carry this all in, a neat lightweight pack. Take a look at our hiking backpack round up to help you choose the right one!
So, there you have it. The best waterfall hikes in Gatlinburg laid out and ordered from start to finish. Lace up those boots, have yourself a hearty Tennessee breakfast and let’s get going!