The Falls in Fall: Great Gatlinburg Hikes

There’s no end to the magic of fall in Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains. If you like the outdoors, here are some great hikes you can try while visiting White Oak Lodge and Resort.

It could be the perfect fall day: an energizing hike through brightly colored trees that takes you to a secluded waterfall, cleanup and a little relaxing downtime at White Oak Lodge and Resort, a little shopping among Gatlinburg’s Art and Craft Community, then a hearty meal at one of hundreds of Gatlinburg’s renowned restaurants.

First things first: Here are some great places to take that hike.

Grotto Falls
Known as “the one you can walk behind,” Grotto Falls is the only waterfall in the Smokies that gives you the magical experience of standing behind the wall of water as it cascades to the ground. Just minutes out of Gatlinburg off the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, hikers will follow the Trillium Gap Trail to the Grotto. Tip: Prepare to drive, park and hike from the parking area.

Ramsey Cascades
The tallest waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Ramsey, is home to numerous salamanders if you can reach the top. The trail to the waterfall gains more than 2,000 feet in elevation over its four-mile course and the eight-mile roundtrip hike is considered strenuous in difficulty but well worth it.

It takes about five to seven hours to hike to the waterfall and back. The last two miles pass through old-growth cove hardwood forest with large tuliptrees, basswoods, silverbells, and yellow birches. Tip: Don’t climb rocks near any waterfall. It’s extremely dangerous.

Mt. LeConte Trails
Hike to the best sunrises and sunsets. The trails to Mt. LeConte are worth the day trip and you can reserve lunch at the LeConte Lodge dining room if you call ahead. The Alum Cave Bluffs Trail, past storm-tossed boulders, up stone stairs and under Arch Rock, is one of the best hikes in the Smokies. Tip: Try the Boulevard Trail for a longer but easier ascent, or a more challenging trek on Rainbow Falls Trail to the top.

Laurel Falls
For those who aren’t feeling the more challenging trails, this picturesque hike starts a few miles from the Sugarlands Vistor Center and is only 2.6 miles. The 80-foot cascade is one of the most photographed spots in the Smokies. The walk to Laurel Falls is stroller, wheelchair and walker friendly.

If you want to add more to your hike, you can continue along the Laurel Falls Trail about 2.7 miles to visit the old fire tower on Cove Mountain. Tip: Come in the early morning to beat the crowds and have perfect light for photography.

There are so many ways to experience fall throughout the Smokies, the only difficult part is figuring out how to do them all.

Have you visited or hiked to any of the waterfalls or hiking trails in the Smokies? Tell us about your favorites.

Victoria Hoffman

A native of New Jersey, Victoria isn't entirely sure how she ended up in Kansas City, but has enjoyed writing, editing, creating, communicating and marketing for high-profile accounts throughout the city ever since. In her spare time, Victoria is an actor (and active) with local community and city theatre.