Are you in the market for a waterfall hike in the Smoky Mountains?
The area near the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is rich with a variety of falls as the elevation drops – or rises depending on your point of view. The area has been carved across the eons of time by several rivers and streams that race through the mountains.
It’s a great place to explore the lush forests of the mountains. And opportunities to catch a glimpse of an amazing waterfall are plentiful.
But compared to other nearby popular waterfalls like Abrams Falls, Rainbow Falls, Laurel Falls or the Grotto Falls – Baskins Falls is less well known.
And maybe that’s understandable.
There are plenty of hikes to choose from in the Smokies with gorgeous waterfalls and gram-worthy photo opportunities.
So what makes Baskins Creek Falls a lesser popular waterfall?
Does Baskins Creek have a beautiful waterfall?
The answer is two-fold.
First, the beauty of Baskins Creek Falls largely depends on the time of year.
When the water is high – mostly in the spring and summer or after heavy rain – the creek tumbles down two tiers and creates a silvery curtain of water that makes for a stunning sight.
When the water is low, it’s more or less a trickle down the rocks.
Is the two-tiered waterfall worth seeing? Maybe.
Refreshing? Certainly, if you want to let the water run over your head on a hot day.
But when the water is low, it is something less than majestic. Some even find it disappointing.
Is the Baskins Creek Trail hike difficult? How long is the hike?
Second, it’s not an easy hike.
Most would consider Baskins Creek Trail to be a moderately difficult, long hike.
The roundtrip length of the hike is three miles with an elevation gain of 953 feet.
It features a steep descent going down into the falls, which can make the return trip a difficult climb back up.
The round trip takes about four hours depending on how long you hang out around the falls.
The scenic hike can get muddy and there’s a creek early on that can be difficult in extremely wet weather.
The creek and the trail are reportedly named for a local hunter who went by the excellent nickname of Bearskin Joe. Over the years Bearskin morphed to Baskins.
How do you find the Baskins Creek Cemetery?
Along the way, you’ll find the trail forks.
If you take the left fork of the trail, you’ll head to Baskins Creek Cemetery. The right fork takes you to the falls.
Some do both on the same hike. It’s a great way to add a little variety to your adventure.
Baskins Cemetery, also known as Preston Ogle Cemetery, is an old moss-covered graveyard with mostly old broken down and fading stones. Most of the known burials dates are from the early 1900s to the 1920s.
It’s a steep yet short hike up to the cemetery. But if you find such things fascinating as I do, it’s well worth it.
I never need a compelling reason to visit an old cemetery.
As you continue along toward the falls, the trail will split. Head left to go to falls.
What’s the best time to go?
For the entire hike, it’s best to go in the morning as the parking area is limited at the trailhead. And in the early spring or late fall, it can get dark early as the trail continues deep into the woods.
Where is Baskins Creek Falls?
The Baskins Creek Trailhead is located on the Motor Nature Trail just outside of Gatlinburg (about 30 minutes from Pigeon Forge).
After traveling nearly a mile, veer onto Cherokee Orchard Road, where you will enter the national park. Just over two miles down the road, you’ll find Cherokee Orchard Loop, a one-way offshoot. About a mile will get you onto the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. The trailhead will be on your left.
If you’re exploring the park’s waterfalls, the 40-foot two-tiered Baskins Creek Falls is one that you won’t want to miss.
Also, keep in mind the Motor Nature Trail is closed in winter. However, the trailhead is near the start of the Motor Trail so you could also just park and walk.
In late fall, winter and early spring, you will get a better view of the mountains and with glimpses of Gatlinburg but those views are chiefly blocked when the foliage is out.
Be sure to follow the Great Smoky Mountains National Park guidelines in terms of equipment, shoes and safety protocols while on the hike.
What should you do if you see a bear?
It should be noted that bears are known to frequent the area. Be sure to follow GSMNP Guidelines on how to react if you see a bear in the wild.
If you see a bear, you should not approach it nor should you allow it to approach you. If in your presence a bear changes its natural behavior – stops feeding, changes its direction of travel, or watches you – you are too close. Do not run. Slowly back away and increase the distance between yourself and the bear. The bear will likely do the same.
What’s your favorite hiking trail in the Smokies? Have you ever been to Baskins Creek Falls? What did you think? Let us know in the comments.