17 Most Beautiful Smoky Mountain Waterfalls

abrams falls in the smokies

Abrams Falls makes for a beautiful photo-op, but it's a dangerous place to try and enter the water (don't do what this guy is doing) (photo by Monte/stock.adobe.com)

There’s a war at work in the high country along the Tennessee-North Carolina border. The war began before there was a Tennessee and before there were Carolinas.

In fact, the war was waging before European settlers set foot in the Americas.

The war began when tectonic plates met and pushed the mountains up out of the subsurface. The victory has never been in doubt. 

In the eons-old battle of water vs. rock, the ever-patient water always wears away its foe.

What is the most beautiful waterfall in the Smoky Mountains?

There are several beautiful waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains. Therefore, it can be hard to pick which one is best. Also, what makes a waterfall the most beautiful? Is it easy to access? Is it tall? Can you walk behind it?

There are several types of waterfalls with varying degrees of difficulty to access in the Smokies.

So here are some of the most beautiful Smoky Mountain waterfalls:

Thousand drips waterfall
The “Place of a Thousand Drips” waterfall can be found along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail (photo by Brad/stock.adobe.com)

17. Place of a Thousand Drips

The Place of a Thousand Drips is located on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. That means no hiking is required.

The waterfall is located at stop No. 15 on the trail. It’s not the tallest of waterfalls in the area, but it is one of the most appropriately named.

However, it’s important to note that this trail is closed in the winter.

lynn camp prong cascades in the smoky mountains
These cascades flow down Middle Prong Trail (photo by Larry Knupp/shutterstock.com)

16. Lynn Camp Prong Cascades

These cascades flow down along the Middle Prong Trail on Tremont Road in the Smokies.

The trail follows an old logging railroad, so it’s a very walkable path.

To find the area, travel down Laurel Creek Road 0.2 miles towards Cades Cove and turn left at the sign for Tremont.

Follow the road past the Great Smoky Mountains Institute and continue for 3 miles to the parking area. The trail begins across the river.

the sinks viewing area
There’s a viewing area at The Sinks (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

15. The Sinks

Another fall you can drive to, The Sinks are on Little River Road between Gatlinburg and Townsend.

The Sinks is small but has the volume of the Little Pigeon River. So, it is known for its dangerously strong currents.

It’s a nice area where you can drive straight to it, park and explore some nearby trails if you desire.

husky branch falls in the smoky mountains
Husky Branch flows into the Little River (photo by Kelly vanDellen/shutterstock.com)

14. Husky Branch Falls

Husky Branch Falls is a small cascade about 20 feet tall that flows into the Little River.

The 4.3-mile trail to access it is easy to moderate in difficulty with a modest elevation gain of 347 feet.

It takes about an hour and a half to complete, making this a great cascade to explore for less experienced hikers.

The trailhead is located off Little River Road.

bench in front of juney whank falls
Juney Whank Falls is on the North Carolina side of the Smokies (photo by Jill Lang/shutterstock.com)

13. Juney Whank Falls

Juney Whank Falls, located on the North Carolina side of the Smokies in Bryson City, is a 90-foot waterfall that is broken into an upper and lower section.

The entire falls can be seen from the footbridge which crosses Juney Whank Branch.

It’s accessed by Juney Whank Falls Trail, which is 0.8 miles roundtrip with a light 194 feet elevation gain.

toms branch falls in north carolina
Toms Branch Falls is about 60 feet tall (photo by Arlene Waller/shutterstock.com)

12. Indian Creek and Toms Branch Falls

Located nearby in the Deep Creek area, you can find Indian Creek and Toms Branch Falls.

With a short 1.6-mile hike, you can see both of the falls.

To access them, walk Deep Creek Trail 0.7 miles to Indian Creek Trail. On the way back, you will see the 60-foot-tall Tom Branch Falls.

If you turn right at the junction of Indian Creek Trail, you will find Indian Creek Falls.

Cataract Falls
Cataract Falls is close to Clingmans Dome (photo by Marie Graichen/TheSmokies.com)

11. Cataract Falls

Located near Clingmans Dome near the park’s entrance, Cataract Falls is one of the most easily accessible waterfalls in the Smokies.

It is not particularly large or powerful. However, it is a little more than a half mile from the Sugarlands Visitor Center.

The short hike means it’s a great piece of a multi-part itinerary.

hen wallows falls
Hen Wallows Falls is a 90-foot-tall waterfall (photo by L.A. Nature Graphics/shutterstock.com)

10. Hen Wallow Falls

Located off the Gabes Mountain Trail, this moderately difficult hike is 4.4 miles round trip. It features a relaxing walk through a forest to get to the falls.

The base of the 90-foot high falls is populated with salamanders. To access the falls, park in the hiker parking area at Cosby Picnic Area and then find Gabes Mountain Trail.

mouse creek falls in the smoky mountains
Mouse Creek Falls is 45 feet tall (photo by cameronbailey8912/shutterstock.com)

9. Mouse Creek Falls

The 4-mile roundtrip hike to this waterfall is moderate in difficulty and takes about 2-3 hours to hike.

The trail also passes Midnight Hole, a pool below another 6-ft-tall waterfall.

Accessible by Big Creek Trail, it follows an old railroad grade that was used to haul lumber during the logging boom.

Mouse Creek Falls is 45 feet tall.

baskins falls
Baskins Creek Falls is accessible via a moderately easy 3-mile roundtrip hike (photo by Kelly vanDellen/shutterstock.com)

8. Baskins Creek Falls

Baskins Creek Falls is located on the Baskins Creek Trail. The relatively easy hike features a short climb and a long descent over the three-mile trip.

The falls themselves are 40 feet tall and have two tiers.

spruce flats
The hike to Spruce Flats is only 1.8 miles. However, this one should probably be reserved for more experienced hikers (photo by Malachi Jacobs/shutterstock.com)

7. Spruce Flats Falls

The hike to Spruce Flats Falls is just about 1.8 miles round trip. It takes about an hour to complete.

The overall change in elevation is relatively mild, but there are some steep and rocky sections along the trail, so hikers should be well-prepared for the terrain.

rainbow falls in the smoky mounatins
The trail to Rainbow Falls is moderate in difficulty (photo by Francisco Blanco/shutterstock.com)

6. Rainbow Falls

The trailhead for Rainbow Falls is just past the historic Bug Ogle homestead in the Roaring Fork area, accessible by Rainbow Falls Trail.

The 80-foot-tall waterfall is named after the rainbow which appears in the mist at the falls.

The hike is difficult due to the gain in elevation and rocky terrain. It’s 5.4 miles roundtrip.

Grotto Falls
Grotto Falls is the only waterfall in the Smokies you can hike behind (photo by Andrew S/shutterstock.com)

5. Grotto Falls

Located in an old-growth hemlock forest, Grotto Falls is 25 feet tall and is accessible on the Trillium Gap Trail – which actually runs behind the falls.

It offers a cool respite for summer hikers and the perfect place to just stop, rest and enjoy the relaxation of the forest.

And look, it’s a grotto. Grottos are like parfaits, everybody likes grottos. However, the three-mile roundtrip hike is considered moderate in difficulty and takes two to three hours.

The trailhead is located at stop No. 5 on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, which again, is closed in the winter.

Mingo Falls
Mingo Falls is located just outside of the national park (photo by Jack R Perry Photography/shutterstock.com)

4. Mingo Falls

Located on the Cherokee Indian Reservation, just outside of the park, Mingo Falls is 120 feet of wonder.

The flow of the water covers the rocky mountainside and creates dozens of tiny waterfalls that combine to form a shimmering curtain.

At 0.4 miles in length, the hike to the falls is one of the shortest in the Smokies, but it is still considered moderate in difficulty.

The Pigeon Creek Trailhead is located at the Mingo Falls Campground near Pigeon Creek Trail, not far from the Oconaluftee Visitor Center.

Ramsey Cascades
Ramsey Cascades is another waterfall that should probably be reserved for serious hikers only (photo by Edwin Verin/shutterstock.com)

3. Ramsey Cascades

One of the most spectacular views in the park, Ramsey Cascades drops 100 feet over rock outcroppings into a small pool. Surrounded by hardwood forest and yellow birches and basswoods, the cascades look like something out of a medieval European fairy tale.

Still, the hike to the cascades is a difficult one but you get the reward of seeing the tallest waterfall in the national park.

It gains over 2,000 feet in elevation over its four miles. The 8-mile roundtrip hike is strenuous and takes 5-7 hours to complete.

Therefore, be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to complete the hike in daylight.

Laurel Falls
Laurel Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls in the Smokies (photo by JMichael Photography/stock.adobe.com)

2. Laurel Falls

The 80-foot-high Laurel Falls, one of the most popular waterfalls in the area, is located 1.3 miles down the trail, which is rated moderately difficult.

The trail is paved at the trailhead, but the pavement is uneven and rough. It also does not extend the full length of the trail.

Strollers and wheelchairs are not suitable for the trail and bicycles and pets are prohibited.

Above all, those who make the trek to the falls are treated to lovely two-tiered falls, a perfect spot for pictures, romantic outings and even the occasional wedding proposal.

Editor’s Note: Be fairly certain you’re going to get a yes if you want to pop the question at the falls. The walk back to the car is about an hour, and things might get awkward.

The trailhead is located on Little River Road on the way up to Cades Cove and is four miles from the Sugarlands Visitor Center.

Abrams falls
Abrams Falls, near Cades Cove, is especially beautiful in the autumn (photo by Donovan Colegrove/stock.adobe.com)

1. Abrams Falls 

What Abrams Falls lacks in height, it more than makes up for in volume. The mass of white water and the deep pool at its base makes for a perfect picture spot.

But that same combination makes it a dangerous place to try and enter the water. I’ve seen swimmers in the pool below the falls but the National Park Service warns against it due to the strong currents and undertow. It is also a bad idea to try and climb the rocks around or above the waterfall.

Again, the strength of the rushing water cannot be overestimated. People who are not careful drown above and below the falls.

That being said, the falls are beautiful and a nice place to stop and rest halfway through the 5-mile, round-trip hike. The hike is rated as moderate through the pine-oak forest.

The Abrams Fall trailhead is accessible from the Cades Cove Loop Road.

Bonus: Cumberland Falls

Cumberland Falls is not located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park but offers a unique experience worth exploring.

Located in the Cumberland Falls State Resort Park in Corbin, Ky., the falls are a 125-foot wide wall of water, dropping 60 feet into a boulder-strewn gorge.

Under the right conditions, the resulting mist will catch the shimmering light of the moon and create one of the few moonbows in North America. It’s also the only regular moonbow in the Western Hemisphere.

The Moonbow Trail Hike is long and strenuous, but there are several other view options including the half-mile Cumberland Falls Trail that ends at the observation deck.

The total descent for that trail is 200 feet. The trail is paved and wheelchair accessible with assistance. It’s one of my favorite waterfalls outside of the park.

What is the most popular waterfall in the Smoky Mountains?

Laurel Falls is likely the most popular waterfall. The falls are beautiful and picturesque, and it only takes 1.3 miles to get there.

But the trail is also known for its congestion.

Grotto Falls in the Smoky Mountains
The view from behind Grotto Falls, a 25-foot waterfall (photo by Billy McDonald/stock.adobe.com)

Tips for chasing waterfalls 

Before you decide to hike to any Smokies waterfall, be sure to have plenty of drinking water. Many of the hiking trails have steep drop-offs. Be sure to closely monitor children on the hike and also at the falls.

Also, waterfalls can be dangerous. As a result, people have drowned or been injured at nearly all of the Smokies waterfalls. Don’t climb the rocks near the waterfalls or attempt to reach the top of the waterfall for any reason.

Wear proper hiking boots for the terrain. Certainly, do not attempt to tackle these trails in sandals or flip-flops – or for God’s sake – Crocs.

Finally, black bears can be encountered on the trails, especially at Laurel and Abrams Falls. Be sure to know what to do if you encounter a wild animal in the park and always keep a safe distance. 

Read Also: What To Do if You See a Black Bear, 8 Important Safety Tips

How many waterfalls are in the Great Smoky Mountains?

There are an estimated 100 waterfalls and cascades in the Smokies.

There are two essential ingredients for waterfalls, lots of rain and a drop in elevation. The Smokies high country averages 85 inches of rain each year and, in rainy seasons, Clingmans Dome and Mt. Le Conte can receive over 8 feet of rain.

All this water trickles down to streams, creeks and rivers, creating a wide array of cascading water, some bigger than others.

What is the biggest waterfall in Smokey Mountains?

The tallest waterfall is Ramsey Cascades, which is about 100 feet tall. However, Mingo Falls, located just outside the park, is 120 feet tall.

Can you drive to any waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains?

Sure. As mentioned above, you can drive to Meigs Falls, The Sinks and the Place of a Thousand Drips.

What is your favorite waterfall in the Smoky Mountains? Let us know in the comments below.

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