Meigs Falls: One of the best waterfalls you can drive to in the Smokies

Meigs Falls in the Smoky Mountains in the summer

Meigs Falls is one of the most underrated falls in the national park (photo by Carolyn Franks/shutterstock.com)

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There are at least two pop songs that warn of the perils of waterfalls. 

The first, a Wings-era Paul McCartney dirge, may have at least somewhat inspired the second, an R&B groove by 90s girl group icons TLC. McCartney says don’t go jumping waterfalls and in the second verse helpfully admonishes against chasing polar bears. Good advice, that. 

TLC says chasing waterfalls is bad.  

Both TLC and McCartney advise sticking to lakes. 

In truth, I never really got the metaphor. The internet tells me both are warnings for avoiding self-destructive behavior.

But in a literal sense, you should chase waterfalls. They’re beautiful, built over eons in the mountains. Yeah, don’t jump off them. But certainly, chase them. 

At least one waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park doesn’t require much chasing. 

Meigs Falls is located on Little River Road, just about 13 miles from The Sinks area of the Smoky Mountain National Park. Meigs Falls – along with The Sinks – is one of a handful of waterfalls in the mountains that are accessible by car.

The others require significantly more chasing. 

Located on the Blount County side of Little River Gorge Road, the parking lot to view the falls is 13 miles from the Sugarlands Visitor Center or 7 miles from Townsend. If you’re coming from the Blount County side, turn left at the Townsend Wye. 

Be alert, however, the falls are tucked away back from the road and can be missed easily while driving. Therefore, if you are coming from the Townsend side on Little River Road and you reach The Sinks, you’ve gone too far. 

meigs creek
Want to see a waterfall without the hike? Just drive to Meigs Falls. It is especially beautiful after heavy rain (photo by Kenneth Keifer/shutterstock.com)

What is Meigs Falls? 

It’s one of the significant, but underappreciated, waterfalls in the Smokies. The falls are especially impressive after a heavy rain or if there have been several extremely cold days in winter, freezing the falls. 

The beautiful waterfall is fed by Meigs Creek, named after Return Jonathan Meigs who was a Colonel in the Continental Army.

Meigs later served the federal government as a “U.S. Indian Agent” to the Cherokee Nation. Additionally, Meigs County, Tennessee and Meigs Mountain were named in his honor.

How do I see Meigs Falls? 

There are two viewing areas. One is from the small parking area at the pull-off on Little River Road and the other is accessible from The Sinks parking area.

Sinks parking has more parking sports and is home to the Meigs Creek Trailhead.

The trail leads to the viewing area. If you proceed further, you eventually arrive at the Upper Meigs Falls – aka the Meigs Creek Cascades. 

Read Also: 5 best things to do and see in the Smokies without leaving your car

Meigs Mountain Trail Sign in Fall
Meigs Creek Trail is a moderate out and back hiking trail that is accessible from The Sinks area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee (photo by William Silver/shutterstock.com)

What is the Meigs Creek Cascades? 

Another waterfall on Meigs Creek is about 1.7 miles from the trailhead.

Located just below the confluence of the Curry Prong and Bloody Branch, the Upper Falls is one of the least visited falls in the park, essentially because you have to hike past two easily viewable waterfalls to get there.

Can you walk to Meigs Falls?

Yes. However, there is no trail to the lower falls. You can hike to the upper falls.

Can you swim in Meigs Falls?

Should you? No. There is a reason there’s no trail to the falls. The National Park Service does not want you swimming there. Honestly, the park service doesn’t want you swimming near any of the falls in the park, particularly this one.

There are issues of undertow and currents and rocks and brush under the water. More than a handful of people have drowned there in my lifetime.

If you want to swim, my suggestion is to hit the pool or check out the swimming hole at the Townsend Wye. Of course, I know people who have grown up around The Sinks and Meigs Falls who think it’s perfectly fine to swim there. I’d avoid it.

If you absolutely have to swim near a waterfall, I’d suggest going to Abrams or another of the park’s large pools where you can get in the water and stay a good distance away from the falls. Swimming in a comparatively small pool is just asking for trouble.

the sinks waterfall
You can also drive to The Sinks (photo by ehrlif/shutterstock.com)

What are The Sinks?

The Sinks are a series of waterfalls created in the days before the park when loggers sending their products downstream decided to clear a massive logjam with dynamite. They got a little overzealous, blowing a massive hole into the riverbed and rerouting the course of the river.

Honestly, in the decades before the national park, the loggers were really running a little recklessly with the deforestation and train wrecks and living fast and loose with the decision-making. They dynamited the national treasure so hard that changing its face forever was just in a good day’s work for them.

Today, The Sinks are a series of waterfalls and pools that are viewable from the road. Some like to swim, jump and tube through that part of the river, but it’s too dangerous for me.

Every time I write that, somebody comes on and says they’ve been going there since they were a kid and they’re perfectly safe. To each their own, but I can’t tell you that it’s safe in my opinion. 

Read Also: The Sinks in Gatlinburg Tennessee: How were they created? Are they safe?

Abrams Falls
Abrams Falls is the biggest waterfall in the Smoky Mountains by volume (photo by Ethan Quin/shutterstock.com)

What is the biggest waterfall in the Smoky Mountains?

By height, it’s Ramsey Cascades in the Greenbrier where water – well cascades – pour down over 100 feet of rock outcroppings to a small pool that’s home to a variety of salamanders.

By volume, it’s Abrams Falls, located a 2.5 mile hike from the trailhead in Cades Cove. 

Is the Meigs Creek Trail worth the hike?

Well, you certainly get a lot of waterfall bang for your buck. Starting at The Sinks parking area, the entire trail is 7 miles round trip through pine oak forest, featuring white pine, various oak and thick rhododendron. Along the way, you’ll have views of Lumber Ridge. The trail is considered a moderately difficult hike.

However, keep in mind those ratings are done by people who frequently hike. If you’re not an experienced hiker, you might find it a little more challenging. Be prepared to get your feet wet. There is not a single water crossing that has a bridge. 

The trail ends in Buckhorn Gap, where Meigs Mountain Trail meets the Lumber Ridge Trail. Backcountry Campsite No. 19 is a mile and a half up the Meigs Mountain Trail.

If you have someone to pick you up, there are options to hike back out on another trail, exploring more of the park instead of doubling back. The Lumber Ridge Trail will take you to the Great Smoky Mountains Institute while the Curry Mountain Trail will take you to Metcalf Bottoms, up above The Sinks. The Meigs Mountain Trail goes to Elkmont. 

Have you visited Meigs Falls? Let us know what you think in the comments!

Disclaimer: While we do our best to bring you the most up-to-date information, attractions or prices mentioned in this article may vary by season and are subject to change. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any mentioned business, and have not been reviewed or endorsed these entities. Contact us at [email protected] for questions or comments.

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1 thought on “Meigs Falls: One of the best waterfalls you can drive to in the Smokies”

  1. There is a sweeping branch blocking the view of the falls from the roadside viewpoint. I emailed the park authority asking them to cut that branch off and they replied that they would look into it. I’m hoping a few more people can launch the same complaint so the park can trim that branch and justify the viewpoint.

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