Many of our guests come to the Smokies to fully immerse themselves in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the complete disconnect from the world around them into unspoiled nature. The copious amount of hiking trails within reasonable driving distance from Deer Ridge creates many opportunities for them to do this and sometimes we get asked about hiking trails with waterfalls to them.
In this article, we’ll showcase a few trails that offer gorgeous waterfalls as part of the trail with information reposted from www.hikinginthesmokys.com.
“The hike to Grotto Falls begins from the Trillium Gap Trailhead. Hikers will be following the Trillium Gap Trail for most of the way as it meanders through a beautiful old-growth forest, which includes many large eastern hemlocks. For the most part the trail to the waterfall travels a gentle grade along a wide and well-worn path. As you proceed to the falls you’ll cross over four small streams without the benefit of a footbridge. At 1.2 miles hikers will reach a tumbling cascade. Just beyond this point, looking upstream, Grotto Falls will come into view for the first time. The most distinctive feature about Grotto Falls is that it’s the only waterfall in Great Smoky Mountains National Park that a person can actually walk behind. The 25-foot high waterfall offers a cool, shady, and moist retreat for hikers in the summer. This same environment also provides ideal habitat for salamanders as well.”
“Laurel Falls is an extremely popular destination within Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Thus, parking can be a problem during peak season. If you wish to avoid crowds your best bet is to begin your hike early in the morning, during the early evening hours, on a weekday, or during the off-season. Roundtrip, the hike to Laurel Falls and back is 2.3 miles in total length. The hike is well worth it though – Laurel Falls is very photogenic, and is widely considered to be one of the best waterfall hikes in the Smokies. Visitors should also note that you’ll be traveling in bear country on this hike. If you still have plenty of energy left in your legs after soaking in the sights at the waterfall, hikers will have the option of continuing along the Laurel Falls Trail for another 2.7 miles to visit the old fire tower atop Cove Mountain.”
Porters Creek Trail
“The first mile of the Porters Creek Trail is actually an old gravel road, which meanders through a lush forest of moss covered trees and rocks as it follows along the banks of Porters Creek. If you happen to have the opportunity to hike this trail during the spring you’ll likely be treated to an absolutely awesome display of yellow trillium near the trailhead. Roughly two-thirds of a mile from the trailhead several old stone walls will appear on your right. These are remnants from the Elbert Cantrell farmstead, who settled in the Porters Creek community in the early 1900s. Also on your right, just past the stone walls, is the Ownby Cemetery, which also dates back to the early part of the 20th century. Roughly one mile from the trailhead, after crossing over a footbridge, hikers will reach a fork in the road. The spur trail on the right leads to an historic farm site. A short hike of roughly 250 yards will take you to the John Messer farm site, which includes a cantilevered barn that was built by John Whaley around 1875. There’s also a cabin on this site that was built by the
Smoky Mountain Hiking Club in the mid-1930s. Members of the club were permitted to use the cabin as an
overnight facility until 1981.”
“The Ramsey Cascades Trail gains almost 2200 feet in elevation over its four-mile course, and is considered to be a moderately strenuous hike. The beginning of the Ramsey Cascades Trail follows the remnants of an old gravel road. At 1.5 miles from the trailhead you’ll reach an old cul de sac, which marks the end of the old roadway you’ve been following to this point. This location also marks the junction with the old Greenbrier Pinnacle Trail, which used to lead hikers to the top of Greenbrier Pinnacle where an old fire tower once stood. The trail, however, is now overgrown and is no
longer maintained by the park. From here the Ramsey Cascades Trail continues towards the east as a narrow footpath. Hikers will soon enter the largest old-growth forest remaining in the Smokies.
One of the primary reasons the national park was created was in response to the
damage being done to the ancient forests by the logging industry. This forest was one of the few to remain mostly unscathed. According to the Eastern Native Trees Society some of the largest trees in the park are located on this trail, including the third tallest red maple in the park (141 feet), the second tallest white oak in the park (123 feet), and the tallest black cherry in the park (146 feet). Over the course of the last 2 miles hikers will also see some very large tuliptrees, eastern hemlocks, basswoods, silverbells, and yellow birches.”
Hen Wallow Falls
“Almost from the start the trail begins to make a steady climb up the northern
flank of Snake Den Mountain. While ascending the Gabes Mountain Trail, which was once known as the Messer Trail, the roots and rocks will testify just how rough this route can be in some places. Although rugged, the trail passes through a beautiful lush-green forest of rhododendron and ferns, with eastern hemlocks and yellow poplars providing a nice overhead canopy. After walking a short distance Rock Creek will appear on your right. Soon after you’ll pass the side trail that leads to the Cosby Campground, almost four-tenths of a mile from the trailhead. Shortly thereafter the trail crosses over Rock Creek. Roughly 1 mile from the trailhead hikers will reach Messer Gap. There’s another faint side trail on your right here, that supposedly leads to an old grave site. To continue on towards the falls, hikers should proceed straight ahead. Just past this junction look towards your left and you’ll see the remnants of an old rock wall from an old homestead.”