Winter Guide to Wandering Tennessee’s Best Waterfalls: Part 1 – Smoky Mountains

Winter has arrived, the crowds-like most things in nature, are going home to hibernate..
However, not the waterfalls. Most people think of exploring waterfalls during the summer time.Granted a beautiful waterfall is a perfect place to cool off on a hot and humid Tennessee day..But, you haven’t seen the most beautiful moments of our falls – until you’ve experienced them in the winter time. This year – they’re going to be even more breathtaking. This summer we were witness to one of the worst droughts that we’ve ever had.. The lack of rain, the dryness and the thirst that has been building up will only add even more beauty to the rain that is falling from the sky and flowing into our waterfalls. Tennessee has over 500 waterfalls, most of which are located between our Appalachian Mountains and Middle Tennessee. 

Why visit as many as possible this winter?
1. No crowds
2. The falls will actually be flowing with breathtakingly amazing amounts of water.
3. Frozen waterfalls, awesome ice formations and if you’re luckily – a sprinkle of snow.

Here are only just a few that you will definitely want to add to your winter exploring bucket list:

Great Smoky Mountains National Park:

Gatlinburg Area:

Grotto Falls:

Height: 25ft

Location: Trillium Gap Trail in the Roaring Fork area of the GSMNP
Grotto Falls is located in the Roaring Fork section of the park, near Gatlinburg. Trillium
Gap trail is the pathway to the falls – the only waterfall in the park where the trail actually takes you behind the falls. To go to the falls and back, is just 2.6 miles. Keep going past the waterfall for another 5.6 miles to reach Mount LeConte.

Insider’s Tip: Arrive early to have the falls to yourself. Also, In the warmer months when the

Mount LeConte Lodge is open – the LeConte Llama train can be spotted going underneath the falls.

sectionofcabletrailnearmountleconte( Upper section of the Trillium Gap trail , near Mount LeConte, frozen over. )

Rainbow Falls:

Height: 80ft

Location: Rainbow Falls Trail in the Roaring Fork area of the GSMNP

Rainbow Falls trail is also in the same area as Grotto and the two can be combined in one day. Although the Roaring Fork Motor Trail is closed during the winter, you can still
access the falls. They’ll be much less crowded than in the summer months as well as most likely partially frozen over. When you’re finished with Rainbow and Grotto Falls – do some extra exploring to discover a little spot called Baskins Creek Falls .. Or head into Gatlinburg and warm up at the Donut Friar, located in The Village. They have some of the most delicious fresh baked pastries and coffee in town! Once you’re warmed up, stop in the Day Hiker – a locally owned shop that is filled with hiking needs, stories and charm. You my even spot a few of the Smokies most notorious hikers.

rainbowfallso(Rainbow Falls in the Summer of 2016)

Insider’s Tip: If you’re geared up correctly and the weather is working with you.. Hiking up
Trillium Gap to Mount LeConte and then down Rainbow Falls – back to your car.. Is an amazing way to truly experience the Roaring Fork corner of the Smokies.

Greenbrier Area:

Ramsey Cascades:

Height: 100ft

Location: Ramsey Cascades Trail in the Greenbrier area of the GSMNP

Ramsey Cascades is closed until a broken bridge can be repaired. One things for sure though, the first freezing cold winter day that it is open – gear up and go. It’s a semi strenuous 8 mile round trip hike, but seeing the Smokies tallest waterfall completely frozen over – will be worth every step!

sectionoframseycascades( Cascade on the way to Ramsey Cascades )

Fern Branch Falls:

Height: 60ft

Location: Porter’s Creek Trail in the Greenbrier area of the GSMNP

You’ll find Fern Branch Falls just 2 miles up the Porter’s Creek Trail on your left.. Porter’s Creek is an excellent winter trail, due to being at a lower elevation and accessible when Newfound Gap and other park roads are closed. Take a snowy day hike view the waterfall and also soak the beauty of Greenbrier and the history of the area.

greenbrierarea( Section of an off trail waterfall in the Greenbrier area )

Insider’s Tip: 

When you’re finished up in the Greenbrier area and noticed that your belly is growling louder than a Mama Black Bear…. Stop off at the Hungry Bear BBQ spot, just outside the Greenbrier entrance to the park. You’ll fill up on delicious BBQ, support another local business owner and have the chance to check out some really awesome Smokies photos from the past. 

Townsend Area:
Spruce Flats Falls:

Height: 30ft at the main section of the falls, but with multiple tiers

Location: Tremont area of the GSMNP

Looking for a winter wonderland hike and to view one of the parks most amazing waterfalls in the middle of it?? On an extra snowy day in the park, when the roads are closed to vehicles.. Park your car outside of the park gate at the WYE and enjoy a snow covered hike to Tremont – once to the Tremont Institute, you’ll find the 2 mile round trip trail to Spruce Flats Falls. Take some photos, make your friends jealous, soak it up and then head back out to your car.

SpruceFlats.jpg(Spruce Flats Falls in the Tremont section of the park.)

Indian Flats Falls: 

Height: 60ft(over multiple tiers)

Location: 4 miles in on the Middle Prong Trail in Tremont

Looking for a relaxing and beautiful 8 mile hike – filled with history and waterfalls? This is hike for you then.. Located in the Tremont section as well, this waterfall is accessible by the Middle Prong Trail. Middle Prong, and the entire Tremont area, are packed with fun history facts. Once the trail head area was known as Stringtown. Stringtown was developed for the employess of the Little River Lumber Company that owned the area. Complete with a post office and hotel, Stringtown also included tiny houses – before tiny houses were hip! You’ll notice multiple waterfalls and cascades along the trail, then.. 2 miles in, on your right – you’ll see a small side trail. Take that side trail just a bit and over a small hill to find a Cadillac that was left behind by the CCC in the 1930’s. Continue 2 more miles on the trail to the next side trail on your right – tucked away there is one of the most charming waterfalls in Tennessee.. Not to mention the perfect area to escape to from the real world, on a snowy day – it will be an absolutely breathtaking winter wonderland!

indianflatsfalls-copy( Indian Flats Falls accessible by Middle Prong in Tremont )

Insider’s Tip: Stop in at one of my favorite local coffee shops, the Artistic Bean! They have some of the yummiest lattes on the peaceful side of the Smokies – and some beautiful art to admire from plenty of cozy seating. 

Abrams Falls:

Height: 20ft

Location: Cades Cove

The 5 mile round trip hike to Abrams Falls is probably one of the most hiked trails in the park. Rarely will you ever have the falls to yourself in the summer time. The winter, however, is another story. Head up the gorgeous trail that is filled with pine-oak, rhododendron and hemlocks on a cold winter’s day and you may actually get to soak up the solitude that the residents of Cades Cove once experienced. If it’s a warm winter day, keep an eye out for bears on your way out of the cove! Our bears don’t hibernate, they only go into a deep sleep during the cold periods. However, they love to wander and forge on a warmer day!

15826116_1280199368721267_261172196497317102_n(Abrams Falls in Cades Cove – 5 miles RT)


Find a waterfall and go exploring!..

Need a few more reasons to visit our Great Smoky Mountains this winter?..

Here you go!…

Part 2 of Winter Waterfall wandering in Tennessee will be waterfalls of Rhea County and surrounding areas! ..


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