abrams falls
March 16, 2023

People come from all over the world to experience the beautiful sights the Great Smoky Mountains hold. One of the most popular natural features is waterfalls, and it’s easy to see why when you’re standing in front of one! We’ve put together a list of the most popular Smoky Mountain waterfalls, along with details about the hiking trails to get to them!

1. Laurel Falls

Laurel Falls Trail

The most popular waterfall hike in the entire national park is Laurel Falls. The trail to get to the falls is considered easy at 2.3 miles round trip, and the entire path is paved. You won’t have to navigate around rocks or roots on this trail! In addition to the trail being easy, Laurel Falls is one of the most stunning falls in the park. It stands at 80 feet tall, and it has 2 tiers with a large amount of water rushing over the side of the falls. A footbridge allows visitors to walk over the falls and take photos in front of the top tier. If you want to see Laurel Falls, be sure to get to the trail early in the morning to avoid crowds!

2. Grotto Falls

The second most popular Smoky Mountain waterfall is probably Grotto Falls. The trailhead to this waterfall is along the Roaring Fork Motor Trail, which is closed from December to March. However, the trail itself isn’t closed, and it’s still accessible if you want to hike the beginning of Rainbow Falls Trail. This hike is considered easy to moderate based on skill level, and you’ll follow the creek for most of the trail. It is 2.6 miles round trip, and if you get to the trail early enough, you might see the llamas that take supplies to the summit of Mount LeConte! Grotto Falls stands at 25 feet, but it’s the only waterfall you can walk behind in the national park!

3. Rainbow Falls

rainbow falls smoky mountains

Rainbow Falls is another beautiful waterfall you’ll want to see in person when you visit the Smoky Mountains. The round trip length is 5.4 miles, and it is considered moderate. Hikers will cross creeks on footbridges on the way to the falls, and there’s nothing quite as beautiful as looking out into the mountain woods. When you reach Rainbow Falls, you’ll be amazed at the 80-foot-tall, single-drop waterfall. If you happen to get there in the afternoon, you might just see the rainbow effect for which the waterfall got its name in the mist!

4. Abrams Falls

If you plan on driving the Cades Cove Loop but you also want to get out and stretch your legs, then Abrams Falls should be on your list of Smoky Mountain waterfalls to see! The trailhead is about halfway through the Loop, and you can park at the restrooms. The path takes you through old forest growth, so there are huge trees along the hike to look at. You’ll also follow along Abrams Creek until you reach the falls. Abrams Falls is 25 feet tall, but what it lacks in height it makes up for in force. Water gushes over the side of the falls, and it’s a great place for photos!

5. Cataract Falls

cataract falls

If you’re unable to hike some of the longer trails in the park but still want to enjoy a beautiful Smoky Mountain waterfall, then Cataract Falls is a great choice! This is an easy trail that is paved, and the hike is simple to follow. You’ll pass creeks, unique trees, small wildlife, and beautiful blooms during the right time of year. The trail is 1 mile round trip, so it’s pretty easy for everyone, and there’s even an ADA section of the trail. Cataract Falls is 25 feet tall, and it’s beautiful, especially after a huge rainstorm!

Now you know about the most popular Smoky Mountain waterfalls you’ll want to check out while you’re in town. Exploring the national park is a great way to spend time on your vacation, but have you started planning the rest of your trip? If you still need a place to stay, check out our Smoky Mountain cabin rentals!