If there’s one thing Gatlinburg and surrounding areas have plenty of, it’s beautiful waterfalls flowing through scenic views for all to enjoy!
You can bring a picnic, hike to/from, camp near, or just enjoy as a casual observer while you visit the stunning, natural terrain of Tennessee.
Explore the Smoky Mountain National Park waterfalls via YouTube before you go for an extra bonus.
Best Waterfalls in Gatlinburg, TN
There are many waterfalls around the area of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. You probably can’t visit them all while you’re in the area (unless you’re here for a few weeks!) so you’ll want to narrow down the list to ensure you don’t miss out on the best waterfalls in Gatlinburg.
- The Sinks
- Rainbow’s Fall
- Grotto Falls
- Laurel Falls
- Ramsey Cascades
- Meigs Creek Cascades
- Place of a Thousand Drips
- Cataract Falls
- Mingo Falls
- Lynn Camp Prong
Stunning Waterfalls to Visit while in Gatlinburg
Grab your hiking boots, sunscreen, and some picnic supplies, and head out for some leisurely walks or long hikes to enjoy the best waterfalls near Gatlinburg.
1. The Sinks
Located within the Smoky Mountains National Park, the Sinks is one of the most picturesque areas of the whole park. It’s situated along Little River Road, 12 miles from the Sugarlands Visitor Center.
The Sinks form where the Little River curves into an S-turn, crafting pools with massive boulders at the edges. The pools here are naturally formed because of the river, but the Sinks aren’t actually natural as is.
They were formed by loggers way back when using dynamite to unjam the river bend for their log transporting needs.
The Sinks isn’t a hike-in waterfall, either, so it’s easier for families to enjoy on a lazy afternoon. The Meigs Creek Trail starts at the falls, though, so if you’re in it for the hiking, enjoy the falls first and hike out from there.
The trail leads to the Meigs Creek Cascades, another gorgeous fall in the park boundaries.
The stunning waterfall offers clear water and beautiful views. And while many folks do like to swim here, the location is dangerous due to the undertow and strong currents around the falls. Swim elsewhere, like the Greenbrier section of the park!
Top tip: Parking at the Sinks is extremely limited and fills up quickly at peak hours. Get here early for a spot or come at less busy times.
Named for the stunning colorful cascade of water reflecting back light as it passes through the mists, Rainbow Falls is the waterfall you won’t want to miss.
The waterfall is an 80-foot rock face drop that helps to create the immense beauty of the prismatic mist. During heavy rain, the waterfall is especially full and during the winter, the incredible ice formation is equally impressive and worth seeing.
The falls are best viewed on sunny afternoons for the prismatic glow.
You can access the waterfall from Rainbow Falls Trail in the Roaring Fork area. The hike to Rainbow Falls is a 5.4-mile out and back that’s considered moderately difficult.
The trail does continue past the falls for another 4 miles to the summit of Mount Le Conte, as well, if you’re in it for a full day.
Some folks rank the trail difficult, however, because of the length, elevation gain of about 1500 feet, and the rocky terrain. Most folks say it takes them 3 to 5 hours to hike there and back (possibly more if you’re among those ranking it as difficult).
Pets are not allowed on the trail.
3. Grotto Falls
Another waterfall accessed only by hiking is the Grotto Falls, also tucked into the Smoky Mountains National Park.
The Trillium Gap Trail that leads you there wanders through a hemlock forest and runs alongside the 25-foot high waterfall.
The trail is 3 miles round trip and considered moderately difficult by most. You can access the trail via the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. It takes between 2 and 3 hours according to most to hike to and back from the waterfall.
Pets and bicycles are not allowed on the trail.
4. Laurel Falls
One of the few paved trails in the Smoky Mountains National Park, the Laurel Falls Trail trailhead can be found on Little River Road 3.5 miles from the Sugarlands Visitor Center (toward Cades Cove).
The trail, branch, and falls are all named for the gorgeous evergreen shrub mountain laurel that blooms along the trail in May.
The Laurel Falls themselves consist of both a lower and upper section that’s divided by a walking path crossing the stream at the base of the upper falls.
These particular falls are one of the most popular spots in the Smoky Mountains NP, so be sure to find parking early or you’ll likely not get to enjoy the falls!
The trail leading to the waterfall is 2.6 miles and is considered moderately difficult. It takes most folks about 2 hours to hike to and from the waterfall. And though the trail is paved, the asphalt is uneven and rough and does not extend the entire length of the trail.
Despite the trail being paved, bicycles and pets are not permitted on the trail.
The tallest waterfall in the Smoky Mountains National Park, Ramsey Cascades stands at 100 feet. And if not the most stunning, certainly one of the most impressive falls in the park.
The hike itself is rocky and climbs about 2,500 feet to the drainage of Mt. Goyot. The falls are located along a remote 8-mile (round-trip) hike.
Most folks consider the trail strenuous and not for the faint of heart or physically immobile. The cascades are located in the Greenbrier area of the park, where old-growth hemlocks and poplars grow.
6. Meigs Creek Cascades
If hiking isn’t a great option for you or you’re tight on time from snagging some Insta-worthy pics, Meigs Falls is a great waterfall option for your adventures in Gatlinburg.
The waterfall is viewable from the Little River Road between Townsend and the Sugarlands Visitor Center. Take the Little River Road west from the visitor’s center and go 11.8 miles. Turn left at the parking area right before you reach the bridge.
Or if walking a short distance isn’t a problem, you can take the Meigs Creek Trail another 1.1 miles north of the parking area on the road where you’ll find a long pull-off area. A better viewing area is about 100 yards up the trail.
Hiking to Upper Meigs Falls is an option via the Meigs Creek Trail which runs 3.5 miles round trip at moderate difficulty.
A unique waterfall at the Great Smoky Mountains NP is the Place of a Thousand Drips. This fall has a dramatic flow of water during rainy periods, as it splits into several channels and cascades down the rocks to create the many “drips” that gives it this name.
To find the falls, follow the Historic Nature Trail into the park and take the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail to stop #15.
The trail is closed in wintertime.
For a family-friend walk-in falls, the Cataract Falls in Smoky Mountains NP is a great choice.
The trail leading in is only 3/4 of a mile round-trip and fairly level and accessible. The trail isn’t particularly well-known, nor are the falls, so you’ll also have fewer crowds to contend with along the way.
The trailhead is directly left of the Visitor’s Center (when you’re facing the center from the parking lot) and starts off paved and turns into gravel. The Fighting Creek flows alongside the trail and dense vegetation creates a lovely canopy of trees overhead.
There are bridges along the trail, crossing the Creek in several spots, too, for some extra aesthetics and fun on the way.
During drier seasons, the left side of the waterfall will have minimal to no flow of water. It’s best to visit the falls immediately after rain.
9. Mingo Falls
Just outside the Great Smoky Mountains NP is the Cherokee Indian Reservation (Qualla Boundary). Within the reservation, you’ll find the Mingo Falls.
You don’t need a special permit to enter the reservation, either, so it’s well worth the trip, even if you don’t have a significant chunk of time.
The Mingo Falls stands at 120 feet and is one of the tallest and most impressive falls in all of Appalachia!
The falls are accessible via Pigeon Creek Trail. And the hike itself it very short. At just 0.4 miles, the trail is ranked as moderately difficult.
To get there, drive south toward Cherokee from the Oconaluftee Visitor Center on US-441. Take the second left onto Big Cove Road and then turn left at the first stop sign. Drive 4.5 miles to the Mingo Falls Campground and take the short trail.
10. Lynn Camp Prong
Dancing over many cascades to pool below, the Lynn Camp Prong is a spectacular waterfall in the Rocky Mountains National Park.
The waterfalls are accessible via the Middle Prong Trail on Tremont Road. This trail follows the former route of an old logging railroad, so it’s fairly level and wide and great for easy hiking – and great for younger families. The trail to the cascades and back is 1.3 miles.
Wildflowers brighten the trail in spring and summer and wildlife abounds. To find the trailhead, from Townsend “Wye”, take Laurel Creek Road for 0.2 miles towards Cades Cove.
Turn left at the sign for Tremont and follow the road past the Great Smoky Mountains Institute. Go another 3 miles to find a small parking area at the end of the road.