12 Sensational Waterfalls In Gatlinburg Tennessee You Must See

The Sinks Falls Gatlinburg Tn

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Waterfalls and hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains go together like chocolate bars and marshmallows in smores. They are utterly fabulous and a great way to enjoy the outdoors. We’ll introduce you to the best, most stunning waterfalls in Gatlinburg Tennessee. Plus, with our included waterfall map and hike description, you’ll have everything you need to lace up your boots and head out on the trail.

Eastern Tennessee is also home to the Oak Ridge National Laboratories, which why I give homage to the Nobel Prize-winning high-energy physicist, Richard Feynman. Doctor Feynman gave a two-part lecture series ‘Six Easy Pieces’ and ‘Six Not So Easy Pieces.’ In his honor, we’ll begin with the six easiest waterfall hikes and then tackle the six not so easy treks.

Map of Waterfalls Near Gatlinburg

WaterfallFall HeightRound Trip Hike (mi)Elevation Gain
Place of a Thousand Drips3000
The Sinks1200
Cataract Falls250.20
Laurel Falls552.2314
Trickling Falls602.2700
Grotto Falls252.6600
Baskins Falls403.2600
Husky Branch484.7385
Abrams Falls205400
Rainbow Falls755.41865
Indian Flats Falls608.01260
Ramsey Cascade858.12150

Are you planning a waterfall trip?

🚘 Before you explore Gatlinburg routes think about renting a car. In the article below you’ll find all the useful information about the parking spots and prices

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Laurel Falls

Laurel Falls is the most photographed place in the Smokies for a good reason. They are absolutely beautiful, with a paved trail from the parking lot to the waterfalls. Perhaps the hardest part of a Laurel Falls hike is finding a parking spot. However, with two lots on either side of the road, you should be able to find a spot without waiting too long. Per the park’s website, over 375,000 visitors hiked Laurel Falls in 2020 – that’s an increase of over 110,000 people compared to 2019.

The trial Laurel Falls reservation program has been replaced by a park wide parking fee program. GSMNT parking tags are required if you’re parking anywhere in the National Park for longer than 15 minutes. (Daily – $5, Weekly – $15, Annual – $40). They are available online, but you’ll still need to print them so it might be better to pick them up at a park office or automated machine.

Like so many hikes in Great Smoky National Park, it’s better in the morning when the weather is cool, and you have an excellent chance of seeing bears. It is 1.3 miles out-and-back (2.6 miles round trip) with 350′ of gain. Even though the path is paved, it’s not recommended for wheelchairs. However, it’s an excellent option for a rainy day hike, so you don’t have to fight your way through the muck.

Once you reach Laurel Falls, you’re rewarded with an 80′ waterfall right off the trail. The cool mists blow onto the path, but you don’t have those awkward moments of kids splashing in the pool while you’re trying to take your photo. There’s little opportunity to enter the water from Laurel Falls and always excellent photographs, even when the trail is busy.

Pro Tip– As of March, 2023, there is a park wide parking fee program for Great Smokey Mountain National Park

bear on Laurel Falls Trail
The cascades at Laurel Falls

Grotto Falls

Grotto Falls is famous as ‘The One You Can Walk Behind.’ The trail takes you right behind the waterfalls. You get a little mist on your face, but you don’t have to take your shoes off.

See also
An Adventurous Romantic Getaway to Sevierville - Gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains

The approach to Grotto Falls is beautiful as well. For starters, you take the Roaring Forks Motor Trail out of Gatlinburg, a one-way loop through the mountain that reminds you of a ride at Disney World. Park near the top of the loop to access the falls.

If you go on another waterfall hike near Gatlinburg first thing in the morning, it’s still possible to find parking at Grotto Falls for your second hike. However, too late into the day and parking is hit or miss. If you can’t find a spot near the falls, you’ll be hiking uphill to the trailhead and then uphill to the falls. After all, you can’t come back around on a one-way loop on the Roaring Springs Motor Trail if you missed a spot that you wanted.

The hike to Grotto Falls travels through old-growth forest on Trillium Gap Trail, but it requires 2.6 miles round trip travel and about a 600′ gain. Once you arrive, you’re rewarded with a 25′ waterfall with a path behind it. In fact, walking along the final approach to the cascades on Roaring Branch spring is beautiful, with lots of secluded spots to eat a sandwich and soak your feet.

Pro Tip– If you want the earliest breakfast in Gatlinburg or to grab a sandwich for lunch on the trail, Old Dad’s General Store’s full service deli opens at 7:00.

Trail approaching Grotto Falls
Grotto Falls through the trees

Place of a Thousand Drips

The Place of a Thousand Drips wouldn’t be a destination waterfall, but it’s visible from the Roaring Forks Motor Trail on the way back from Grotto Falls. The motor trail takes you by several photo-worthy stops like the Bud Ogle Cabin, Ephraim Bales Cabin, and the Alfred Reagan Tub Mill. However, this is a waterfall piece, so we’ll focus on waterfalls.

The Place of a Thousand Drips is a series of waterfalls cascading off the rocks about 3-miles past the Grotto Falls parking lot. You can simply enjoy the falls as you drive by, pull over at the parking lot .2 miles past the falls and walk up the road to enjoy them at length.

Place of 1000 Drips

Abrams Falls

Abrams Falls at Cades Cove might be the best swimming hole in all of the Smokies that you, unfortunately, can no longer swim in. For starters, there’s a large parking lot with ample parking for even midday hikes. Abrams Falls is the biggest waterfall in Gatlinburg with the most water and deepest pools. Look but don’t leap off the falls, as the hydraulics can be dangerous. With the huge pool beneath the falls, you’ll be able to safely soak after a sweaty hike. In many ways, Abrams Falls reminds me of Lula Lakes in Chattanooga.

The 2.5-mile trail climbs up and over several hills on the way to the falls. On the 5-mile round trip, you’ll end up with over 400′ of elevation gain. The trail condition gets a little rough over the tops of the hills, but it’s in generally good shape. If you’re hiking this midday, you might break a sweat both ways, but you can splash in the creek by the parking lot to cool off before you head out on Cades Cove Loop.

Abrams Falls Trailhead
Abrams Falls, the most voluminous waterfall in Gatlinburg

The Sinks

The Sinks are another ‘roadside waterfall’ in the Smokies. They are 12-miles past the Sugarland Visitor Center on Old Highway 73 / Fighting Creek Gap Rd. There is a small parking lot at the falls, but no overflow parking.

The falls at The Sinks aren’t the most spectacular view, but it’s an incredible swimming hole. The powerful hydraulics beneath the falls should be avoided, but there are plenty of places to enjoy a swim at The Sinks. The sinks are a perfect stop on the way back to Gatlinburg from Abrams Falls since you should already have your swimsuit on.

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How to Spend Romantic Spring Weekend in Mobile Alabama
The Sinks Falls Gatlinburg Tn
Swimming at The SInks

Cataract Falls

Cataract Falls is a small waterfall behind the Sugarland Ranger Station. If you park by the ranger station (and not at Sugarlands Visitor Center), it’s only a .1 of a mile into the falls through deep hemlock forests.

Cataract Falls might not be instaworthy, but it’s a fun walk on a beautiful trail. Since it’s just outside of Gatlinburg, it’s perfect if you’re looking to round out a day or to do one more thing before heading home. It’s even directly connected to town via the 2.0 mile Gatlinburg Trail if you would rather head up the mountain from your hotel instead of venturing into town.

Cataract Falls View

Six Not so Easy Pieces

Here are six not so easy waterfall hikes near Gatlinburg to finish out the post. These are hikes that might have more than 5-miles of hiking, steep trails, a lot of elevation gain, or maybe all three. Don’t worry, the longest hike is only 8-miles with 2000′ gain, and you’re never above 8000′. These aren’t death marches, they’re just not so easy.

  • Ramsey Cascades: The highest waterfall in Gatlinburg accessible by trail. 8-mile round trip with over 2000′ gain.
  • Rainbow Falls: A beautiful waterfall with hikes through the old-growth forest that’s right off the Roaring Springs Motor Trail. 5.4 miles round trip with 1685′ elevation gain.
  • Indian Flats Falls: an 8-mile round trip with some rocky sections of the trail. The falls are a series of four waterfalls of 10-15′ high.
  • Husky Branch Falls: You could take the easy way along the Little River by the Elkmont Campground or the more challenging up-and-over route from Husky Gap with a total climb of 2300′ on a 9.4-mile round trip.
  • Trickling Falls: You gain almost 700′ on the 2.2-mile round trip to Trickling Falls. It’s well worth the .2 miles side trip to see the falls on the way up to Chimney Rock.
  • Baskin Creek Falls: It’s not always about the distance… A steep trail drops about 600′ in the final mile to reach Baskin Creek Falls. (3.2 miles round trip). One of the most secluded falls off the Roaring Springs Motor Trail.

Pro-Tip: Read what to pack for a day hike to make so you don’t forget anything.

Ramsey_Cascades by Zach N 0421
Baskins_Creek_Falls by Scott Basford

Gatlinburg Waterfalls FAQs

What Is the Easiest Waterfall to See in Gatlinburg?

Cataract Falls is the easiest waterfall to see in Gatlinburg because it is just outside of town with a very short approach hike. This is especially true if you park near the Sugarland Ranger Station and not the Visitor Center.

What Do You Wear to a Gatlinburg Waterfall Hike?

You don’t need to enter the water on most of the Gatlinburg waterfall hikes, so just wear whatever you would wear for a traditional hike unless you’re planning to get wet.

What’s the Best Gatlinburg Waterfall for Swimming?

The Sinks is the best Gatlinburg waterfall for swimming because it is a short hike to a large pool that is deep enough to swim in.

Can You Drink From Grotto Falls?

As a general rule, you shouldn’t drink from any waterfall before treating the water.

Which Hike is Easier: Grotto Falls or Laurel Falls?

Hiking to Laurel Falls is shorter with less elevation gain than Grotto Falls. Also, Laurel Falls is off the road while Grotto Falls is off the Roaring Springs Motor Trail Loop. However, Laurel Falls is a popular hiking destination so parking can be difficult on the weekends and you might end up walking along the road to get to the trailhead at Grotto Falls.

See also
Hiking in Gatlinburg - A Guide To The Best 23 Trails In The Smokies
Rainbow Falls by Eric Epps Flicker

Wrapping up Hiking to Waterfalls in Gatlinburg

Hiking in Great Smoky National Forest is always beautiful, but somehow it’s better with a waterfall waiting for you at the end. The six easy waterfall hikes in Gatlinburg are perfect for a half-day activity or string them together to form a waterfall tour. The not so easy hikes are perfect for packing a lunch and enjoying a day in the woods.

Vary your experience in Gatlinburg

Best extreme activities in Gatlinburg

What’s more?

Waterfall hikes are beautiful all year long. Hiking in the spring, you’ll see wildflowers and rhododendrons blooming. The summer is the perfect season to splash in the creek. Tennessee in fall attracts leaf peepers and nature lover. Perhaps the most beautiful season for waterfalls is in the winter, where the cascades turn to ice in a frozen, shimmering beauty. Waterfalls hikes in Gatlinburg make a perfect addition to any adventure trip or romantic weekend.

Ready to Book Your Trip? These Links Will Make It Easy:

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Hi! We are Jenn and Ed Coleman aka Coleman Concierge. In a nutshell, we are a Huntsville-based Gen X couple sharing our stories of amazing adventures through activity-driven transformational and experiential travel.



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2 Responses

  1. Do we need parking reservations for Laurel Falls in October 2022? Any tips to make our trip to Laurel Falls easier? Possible best time of day? Thank you so much for the help!!

    1. Thanks for reaching out Debbie,

      The recreation.gov site says “No parking reservations are currently required to park at Laurel Falls trailhead. Parking is first-come-first-serve and extremely limited. Parking on the road shoulders or grassy areas is illegal.” with no passes available for October or November, so you should be good there. We like going first thing in the morning so you not only get a space near the trailhead but there aren’t too many people at the falls.

      Dad’s General Store is open for take out breakfast early and you’ll be done in time do do the Roaring Springs Motor Trail Loop after the Laurel Falls hike before the Motor Trail gets too busy and probably even get spots a spot at Grotto Falls. You might want to grab a picnic lunch at Dad’s and explore around the Motor Trail until mid afternoon. There are some neat cabins and short little hikes around there that should be very photogenic. The leaves are just starting to change in Huntsville, so I imagine they’re pretty nice right now in Gatlinburg.

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Meet Ed & Jenn

Hi! We are Jenn and Ed Coleman, and together we are Coleman Concierge. It is our goal to inspire you to get out, expand your world, and to seek adventure, even in your own backyard.

We deeply believe in the transformational power of travel. Our tagline is amazing adventures for ordinary people because we believe that you don’t have to be super rich, super fit or super anything to have an amazing adventure. Expanding your comfort zone and trying new things will pay huge dividends in both health and happiness.

We advocate for sustainable and ethical travel and truly believe in the power of travel to transform both ourselves as well as the world around us.


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