If you are looking for a relaxing holiday in a picturesque location, surrounded by natural beauty and exciting things to do, Gatlinburg doesn’t disappoint. And, whether you love thrilling hikes or you prefer exploring new places at a more relaxed pace, your vacation in this charming mountain town is not complete without a visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The spectacular national park is located on the doorstep of the tourist town and awaits visitors with hundreds of miles of hiking trails, some of them leading to breathtaking waterfalls. If you want to let nature take your breath away and experience the fascination that comes with the rushing water of some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country, continue reading and find out all about the top five waterfalls near Gatlinburg.
If you always dreamt of walking behind a waterfall, you might want to begin your exploration with Grotto Falls. The spectacular natural monument is also the only one of the Smoky Mountain waterfalls that you can walk behind.
Hop in your car and enjoy Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, a magnificent roadway winding past old-growth forest, cozy cabins, a rushing mountain stream. Stop at the Grotto Falls Parking place and adventure into a memorable hike through the forest and behind this 25-foot waterfall. The roundtrip distance to the waterfall is 2.6 miles, the hike is moderate, and it takes about 2-3 hours to get to the waterfall and back.
If hiking is not your cup of tea, The Sinks is a waterfall you will love. It is the only one in Gatlinburg that you can drive to, and you can reach it after a 13.5 miles drive on the Little River Gorge Road. The fact that it is very easy to access, however, makes it also one of the most crowded. So, if you want to have a tranquil, unforgettable experience, an early visit is recommendable.
Admire the uniquely shaped waterfall, and enjoy the deep, inviting pool that’s ideal for swimming. In case you plan to swim, be careful because the area is known for its strong currents that can easily drown you if you stray too close to the falls. The waterfall is reached by car, but if you want a peaceful hike in the woods, you can enjoy the Meigs Creek Trail, which begins at The Sinks and takes you to another lovely waterfall, the 18 Ft tall Meigs Creek Cascades.
Whether you love hiking or you prefer easier ways to explore, visiting the stupendous Rainbow Falls, at 80 feet high, promises you a one of a kind experience. The name of this inspiring display of nature comes from the rainbow produced by the falls’ mist. To capture this moment, make sure you plan your visit on a sunny afternoon.
If you want to praise one of the most impressive spots in the Smoky Mountains, prepare yourself for a 5.4 miles round trip, generally considered moderate in difficulty. To get to the Rainbow Falls parking area, follow the Historic Nature Trail past the Noah “Bud” Ogle Place.
There are four paved trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and one of them takes you to the gorgeous Laurel Falls, a fantastic 80 foot high falls that promises to instantly amaze your eyes. The 2.6-mile hike to and from the falls is quite easy, and it takes around two hours. It is a kid-friendly trip, but children should always be supervised. If you want to enjoy the falls without the crowds, plan your visit early in the morning. Also, don’t litter or leave food around, as this might attract bears.
To get to Laurel Falls from Gatlinburg, take the Little River Road and drive 3.5 miles to the trailhead. You will find parking areas on both sides of the road.
Another beautiful spot in e Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the 100 feet high Ramsey Cascades, the tallest waterfall in the park. Not only does the water from the cascades create a real spectacle for your eyes and calming sounds for your soul, but it also drops over rock outcroppings, collecting in a small pool, famous for its salamanders.
To reach the start of the Ramsey Cascades Trail, drive 6 miles east of Gatlinburg on Highway 321. Then, turn at the Greenbrier entrance to the park, and follow the signs for the trailhead. Once you arrived at the start, prepare yourself for an 8 miles round trip that is considered strenuous in difficulty. Whether you are an experienced hiker or a newbie, don’t climb the rocks around the waterfall. It is dangerous and prohibited.