Posts Tagged: trails

Trails and Waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains

There are over 800 miles of hiking trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and even those don’t account for all of the walks, drives, overlooks and scenic views that can be found in this beautiful area of the Smoky Mountains. Here are some of our favorite trails and outdoor attractions.

Grotto Falls is the waterfall that you can walk behind – you’ve probably seen someone’s photo of this one. The trail that leads to Mount LeConte runs under the falls, and a Llama train walks this trail weekly, running supplies to the LeConte Lodge. This is Trillium Gap Trail, that starts from the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail – a beautiful scenic drive rather than a hike, and one that many people don’t realize exists. See our feature page on Grotto Falls for all the details.

Clockwise from TL: Rainbow Falls, Meigs Falls, Grotto Falls, Grotto Falls, Thousand Drips, Spruce Flats Falls

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Rainbow Falls Trail

The waterfalls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park are perhaps the most memorable destinations, and one of the most popular waterfalls is Rainbow Falls, the tallest single-drop waterfall in the national park. This impressive waterfall drops its water 80 feet into LeConte Creek and is named for the rainbow that appears in its mist on sunny days.

With such a popular destination, the trail to Rainbow Falls is well trafficked. It’s also quite strenuous, so you’ll likely encounter other hikers as you make your way up the mountain, including those taking brief rest stops to catch their breath along the way. The trail is 5.4 miles Round trip (2.7 mi each way) and it’s a steady climb uphill, with an elevation gain of more than 1,500 feet.

Images by Carrie Waxler

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Grotto Falls: Easy to Reach, Easy to Love

Image courtesy of Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Waterfalls are one of the most popular sights and destinations in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Grotto Falls is unique as the only waterfall in the park that you can walk behind – the trail passes behind the water drop. It’s a relatively short hike and you can get there and back to your rental cabin in just a few hours time.

Grotto Falls is a 25-foot tall waterfall, and a good place to practice your nature photography skills – do bring a camera. You can follow the trail behind the waterfall itself to see things from a completely different perspective, and you may meet some llamas. This trail leads to Mt LeConte Lodge, and llamas are used as pack animals to carry supplies up – if you’re lucky you may see this exotic pack train passing through.

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