Hiking the Grotto Falls Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains

October 22, 2018

The hike up the Grotto Falls Trail is rated fairly easy in difficulty. So whether you are a novice or experienced hiker Grotto Falls is one of the most unique waterfalls in the national park that you have to see! You may see some beautiful flowers along this trail and even some exciting animals as well! Keep reading to discover what you can expect along the way!

Round Trip Length 2.6 Miles
Elevation Gain 450 Feet
Trail Highlights Waterfalls, old Growth Forest

Trailhead:Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail road

From the Parkway in Gatlinburg, turn at traffic light #8 onto Historic Nature Trail. Follow this road straight up until you come to Cherokee Orchard Road this brings you into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Continue to drive almost a mile until you come across the sign for the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. Follow this sign, it will lead to the right. The parking area for Grotto Falls has a labelled sign.

Trail Description:

The hike up the Grotto Falls Trail starts from the Trillium Gap Trailhead.  This will be the trail that hikers will follow for most of the way to the falls. The roundtrip length is 2.6 miles. The beginning of this trail goes through an old growth forest and pass many old, large hemlock trees. In the spring this is a wonderful trail to take if you want to see a plethora of wildflowers!

A majority of this hike has a well-worn and wide path. However, closed-toe and sturdy shoes are recommended. In several areas the trail becomes rocky, and several sections of the trail are covered by small streams without footbridges to cross. At 1.2 miles, hikers will get their first glimpse of the waterfalls as they reach the tumbling cascades below it.

Grotto Falls is only 25 feet tall. However, it is one of the coolest waterfalls to see. Making the trek up the Grotto Falls Trail means you get the honor of walking behind the waterfall! This is the only waterfall in the national park that allows visitors to do this. Once you are behind you will not only hear, but also feel the power of the water that plunges into the pool below. The rocks behind the waterfall are very slippery so use extra caution!

Grotto FallsThings to Know About the Grotto Falls Trail:

– The trail actually continues on. Hikers can travel two more miles to the summit of Brushy Mountain. Beyond that though, for another 5.6 miles, hikers can continue on and will reach the summit of Mt. Leconte which is 6593 feet in elevation!

-The Grotto Falls Trail is the same trail that the llamas use to take supplies up to Leconte Lodge.

– This trail, along with all of Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is closed December through March. However, the trail can still be accessed via the Rainbow Falls trailhead.

The short and beautiful hike up the Grotto Falls Trail is a must try for any visitor to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! While spring and summer may be ideal times to visit, you can still climb up the trail in fall and winter. If you decide to see a waterfall in the same area in the winter, but not Grotto Falls then we invite you to go see Rainbow Falls which can be quite spectacular when frozen!