The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is 800 square miles and home to over 100 waterfalls. Since that is way too many to see during a short trip, our Great Smoky Mountains Waterfalls Guide breaks it down to our 3 Favorite Waterfalls and the 3 Most Popular Waterfalls in the Park.

Favorite Waterfalls

Our favorite waterfalls are a combination of picturesque and secluded. It can be overwhelming or less enjoyable to be in big crowds so these ones are either a little more off the beaten path, or have a larger area to enjoy the beauty.

Soco Falls

Double Waterfall
Trail Distance: 0.2 mi (Steep)
Parking: Two small pull-offs for parking. This helps to limit the number of people enjoying the waterfall at one time.

  • Technically in Maggie Valley, NC but just outside the park and is one of our favorite waterfalls in NC!
  • Hike to the base of Soco Falls
    • This is a short but very steep and slippery hike. Fellow waterfall chasers have tied ropes along the path to help you maneuver down.
    • Wear outdoor shoes
Soco Falls, North Carolina

Soco Falls

Abrams Falls

20 ft. waterfall with large volume of water
Hike Level: Moderate
Distance: 4.9 miles Out & Back
Elevation Gain: 649ft.
Parking: Maintained Parking Lot (middle of Cades Cove Loop)

  • This is one of the more popular waterfalls, but the area is large enough for people to spread out.
  • This area is kid-friendly. Families relax in the pool at the base of the falls.
Abrams Falls Great Smoky Mountains National Park Tennessee

Abrams Falls

Spruce Flats Falls

30 ft. Cascade Waterfall
Hike Level: Moderate
Distance: 1.8 miles Out & Back
Elevation Gain: 413ft.
Parking: Tremont Institute Parking

  • Very picturesque and secluded waterfall. We had it to ourselves for about an hour.
  • This trail is not on Google Maps, but it is well marked.
  • Once you are within viewing distance of the falls, there is a faint boulder trail to the left of the small cascades (5 ft.) that will take you to the main cascade and pool.
  • There is also an upper spruce flats falls. It is a more dangerous hike, so let us know if you are interested and we’ll send more information about the trail.
Spruce Flats Falls Great Smoky Mountains National Park Tennessee

Spruce Flats Falls

Most Popular Waterfalls

Popular does not always mean the best, but these are the most accessible and well known. If going to any of these on the weekend, they will be very busy. We recommend getting to these falls before 8 am to enjoy them with less of a crowd.

Laurel Falls

80 ft. Waterfall (Upper & Lower)
Hike Level: Easy
Distance: 2.4 miles Out & Back
Elevation Gain: 396 ft.
Parking: Laurel Falls Parking

  • This is a very busy waterfall with a small viewing platform between the upper and lower falls.
  • The trail is paved and uphill the entire way, with a few good spots to stop and enjoy the view.
  • Make sure you climb down to the lower falls area. It is less hectic and allows you to appreciate the entire waterfall.
  • Laurel Falls Great Smoky Mountains National Park Tennessee
  • Laurel Falls Lower Great Smoky Mountains National Park Tennessee
  • Laurel Falls Trail Overlook Great Smoky Mountains National Park Tennessee

Laurel Falls

Rainbow Falls

80 ft. Waterfall
Hike Level: Moderate/Hard
Distance: 5.5 miles Out & Back
Elevation Gain: 1,653 ft.
Parking: 2 Main Parking Lots (Along Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail)

  • This is the highest single-drop waterfall in the Park.
  • On sunny afternoon days, the mist from the falls creates a rainbow.
  • The best time to visit is in the morning because of crowds and photo lighting.
  • Please be careful around the falls. The rocks are slippery which has to lead to serious injury and deaths over the years.

Grotto Falls

25 ft. Waterfall
Hike Level: Moderate
Distance: 2.6 miles Out & Back
Elevation Gain: 534 ft.
Parking: Parking Pull-Offs and Roadside (Along Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail)

  • You are able to walk behind these falls which makes for a fun photo opportunity.
  • This trail is part of the Trillium Gap Trail, which is a popular route to the Mt. LeConte Summit.
  • LeConte Lodge uses this trail to bring in their supplies by llama back. They typically start this trek between 7:30 & 8:00 am on Monday, Wednesday, & Friday.

We’d Love to hear from you in the “Comments” below:

  • Have you visited any of these waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park?
    • If so, what did you like or not like about them?
  • What waterfall(s) do you think are “must not miss” and should be added to our list of favorites?

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