The 10 Must-See Waterfall Hikes in Tennessee

Tuesday, March 27, 2018
Welcome to East Tennessee, the home to the nation's most visited national park— the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Tennessee is famous for beautiful outdoor scenes. With its beautiful blend of rustic scenery, smoky mountaintops, rolling hills and countryside, it’s pretty clear Mother Nature lay her place in Tennessee. 

As one of the Appalachian Trail’s highlighted states, Tennessee is a paradise for backpackers and hikers,  and the state has plenty of hot spots for black bear sightings. Challenge your self  and your family! Join numerous hikers that have logged over 100+ miles and the park will reward you with mileage pins.

Here are 10 must-see hiking trails and waterfalls in Tennessee, in no particular order. (Click each waterfalls name to view more photos.)

1. Hike to Ozone Falls
Located just off U.S. Highway 70, Crab Orchard, Tennessee. This stunningly grand Ozone Falls is a 110-foot waterfall with a pool below it has been a popular tourist attraction for more than a century. The waterfall was named Ozone, because the mist from the falls was believed to have healthy qualities. Today, the waterfall is protected as part of Ozone Falls State Natural Area and it's just a short hike — less than a mile — and easy, but the trail that takes you to the pool below is strenuous, especially on the way back up.
Located outside Cookeville is a 211-acre site with a spectacular 75-foot waterfall, which is the eight largest in the state in terms of volume. The pool below is a popular swimming hole, and even though the two-mile round-trip hike is rugged, can be difficult at times with a lot of slippery rocks and logs. It is super crowded on pretty days. Before you consider making this hike, you should definitely invest in a good pair of water shoes and pack super light.

Located between Spencer and Pikeville, TN on the edge of the Cumberland Plateau, this park is famed for its many waterfalls. The main Fall Creek Falls drops 256 feet, making it one of the tallest single vertical drops east of the Rocky Mountains. It is even more spectacular when seen with its companion, the 250-foot Coon Creek Falls. The two can be seen from the same overlook. Trails under Fall Creek Falls is always on the top list of nature experiences in Tennessee.

This park also has a companion falls —  4. The Cane Creek Cascade Falls at 85 feet you can see the downstream flow into a swimming hole area that was quite crowded but its pretty fun to splash around.  All are fairly accessible for hikers of any level.

Located between Sparta and Cookeville, outside Sparta not far off Interstate 40, there is a 1.5-mile round-trip trail you can take to see all of the falls.  Consists of the 20-foot Cascades, the 30-foot Upper Falls, the 80-foot Middle Falls and the 136-foot Lower Falls. But you cannot go to the base of the falls because access is limited. No swimming or wading at this park. 

Located at Great Smoky Mountain National Park an easy drive Cades Cove.  Abram Falls has the highest volume of water flow of any waterfall in the GSMNP, I highly recommend it for outdoor activities when visiting the Smokies. There are rocky areas and tree roots along the way but if you hang in there it is well worth it. Once you arrive, you will know it, the falls are glorious, but because of the curve of the trail, they remain hidden from your view until you are only 50 yards away. I could honestly spent the entire day watching and admiring this falls.
This trail is not  listed on most maps or websites so it is pretty quite. It starts from the Tremont Institute inside the GSMNP which has a bathroom and little visitor shop. This trail is narrow with lots of rocks and roots but it is a fun hike on a beautiful day.  If you are short on time or want to do a couple of short trails in a day. It is challenging enough to keep things interesting but won't wear you down and the waterfall is a nice reward. Sitting by the waterfall was refreshing I hated to leave.

8. Hike to Grotto Falls
The hike to Grotto Falls begins from the Trillium Gap Trailhead. Along the way you'll see  beautiful old-growth forest which includes many large eastern hemlocks.  At 1.2 miles you will reach a tumbling cascade. Just beyond this point, looking upstream, Grotto Falls will come into view for the first time. The most distinctive feature about Grotto Falls is that it's the only waterfall in Great Smoky Mountains National Park that a person can actually walk behind. The 25-foot high waterfall offers a cool, shady, and moist retreat for hikers in the summer. This same environment also provides ideal habitat for salamanders as well.

You can  also reach Grotto Falls by starting your hike from Rainbow Falls trailhead, located off Cherokee Orchard Loop Road. This will add another 3.4 miles to your roundtrip hike. Rainbow Falls has the distinction of being the highest single-drop waterfall in the Smokies. The name for the waterfall comes from the rainbow that's produced by mist on sunny afternoons. During extended cold periods an impressive ice formation builds around the waterfall.

9. Hike to Laurel Falls 
Located at Little River Road in Gatlinburg, TN.  Laurel Falls is an extremely popular destination within Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Parking can be a problem during peak season. If you wish to avoid crowds your best bet is to begin your hike early in the morning, during the early evening hours, on a weekday, or during the off-season. The hike to Laurel Falls and back is 2.3 miles. The climb is roughly 314 feet in elevation before arriving at the 80-foot waterfall. The hike is well worth it though - Laurel Falls is very photogenic!

10. Hike the Hen Wallow Falls 
This waterfall is located on a short side trail off Gabes Mountain Trail. The roundtrip distance to the waterfall is 4.4 miles and the hike is generally considered moderate to difficulty. It takes about 3-4 hours to hike to the waterfall and back. The short trail down to the waterfall is very steep-sturdy hiking shoes are recommended. These rocks are slippery due to mist and algae. Climbing rocks around the waterfall is prohibited on the trail. Black bears are sometimes active in this area.

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27 comments:

  1. Wow, I had no idea there were so many beautiful waterfalls in TN. Now I want to book a trip there to go see them!

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  2. Wow! 85 feet for The Cane Creek Cascade Falls?! All of these sights are absolutely stunning. I can't wait to travel this summer.

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  3. We are heading down to Tennessee this April. Will have to see which ones are close to where we are going to be visiting. These are all beautiful.

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    1. Hope you enjoy your visit to Tennessee, I highly recommend the area of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.

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  4. We have one small waterfall in our area. When we want to go hiking to view one, we head to TN. I will have to check out one or two of these on our next trip that we've not seen yet.

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  5. I just love waterfalls, so I'd love to do any of these hikes. I'm not sure I've ever done a hike actually. I really should.

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  6. Oh my goodness those are some beautiful looking places to hike and get to see waterfalls. I have to admit I would just love to visit any one of them.

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  7. So when I just opened this post I was like wow I want to Hike to Ozone Falls, and then I scrolled down and kept on seeing more and more beautiful places of the falls. I am blown away!Wish I lived in Tennessee.

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    1. We are so lucky to be surrounded by beautiful scenery here in East Tennessee. There's always something to do whatever season maybe. Long summer and short winter that's what we have here!

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  8. Absolutely beautiful....we love our falls in Georgia and visit frequently with family. My favorites are Amicalola Falls and Tocccoa Falls in North GA.

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    1. I'm glad to know that you and your family enjoy waterfalls in your area. It is such a great place to relax and have fun at the same time.

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  9. Tennessee is one of my most favorite places to go! That part of the country is just beautiful! All of these are beautiful and I can't wait to go again!

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    1. I totally agree, we love it here the scenery from mountain to waterfalls never fails to amaze me. And most of all the short winter!

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  10. Just beautiful. Tennessee is just such beautiful country. I've been to a few of these spots and they are incredible.

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  11. Oh my gosh, these are beautiful. If I lived closer I would have to walk past these often. Amazing.

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  12. I love waterfalls, they are beautiful and amazing. I haven't been to Tennessee but it is on my domestic travel bucket list.

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  13. I've visited Tennessee several times and have never seen any of these beautiful waterfalls. I will definitely have to check them out on my next visit there.

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  14. I've always wanted to visit Tennessee. I have to put these falls on my bucket list. They're so gorgeous! Can't wait to see them in person.

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  15. I had no idea there were so many beautiful waterfalls in Tennessee! I've been to one of these but not the others!

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  16. Wow sis, you just reinforced our desire to really go and see Tennessee.
    That's what we hope to visit this year.

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    1. I'm sure you and your family will enjoy here sis. If you plan to stay somewhere in Smoky Mountain national park area I recommend the Laurel Falls its an easy short hike. Stop by as well to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg area.

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  17. We love going to waterfalls and swimming holes. Wish we lived a little closer! This would make for a fun summer road trip!

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  18. All of these waterfalls are worth seeing, each one is beautiful and it would be nice to spend and afternoon in each one if we had that much time! My fave is the Cummin falls!

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    1. Me too Cummin Falls is one of my favorite.

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  19. I haven't been to Tennessee but I certainly love to travel here

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  20. Tennessee is an absolutely beautiful area. I would love to go back and experience some of these waterfalls.

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  21. I loved all the waterfalls, the most I loved was the Ozone Falls, wonderful! Great trekking!

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