Laurel Falls Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a moderate waterfall hike with beautiful mountain views and plenty of forest shade. A piece of heaven on earth for nature lovers who hike.
Smoky Mountain waterfalls include beautiful Laurel Falls, an upper and lower waterfall accessible by a moderate hike perfect for families who love hiking. Roundtrip, the trail is a 2.6 mile hike that winds through the forest and gives incredible views of the Great Smoky Mountains.
It's no secret that we love to hike; in fact, it's probably at the top of our list of favorite things to do together. When we took a camping trip to the Smokies and hiked this particular hike about 6 years ago, Jaden was only 4, just old enough to be getting his hiking legs underneath him.
I think the thing we love most about hiking is the sense of anticipation, the feeling that we're headed toward something beautiful, and the end result is going to be so worth the hike to get there. Of course, it might be the peaceful spots and quiet moments we find along the trail; and Laurel Falls Trail has plenty of quiet, peaceful spots.
Our experience hiking Laurel Falls Trail in Smoky Mountains, Tennessee
As mentioned above, this trail is a 2.6 mile moderate hike roundtrip. When we arrived, we had to park quite a ways down the road, along the edge of the road; parking areas were all full.
The trail itself is paved. After reading more about it, I learned that the trail was initially paved in the 1960's to help stop erosion.
It has a lot of uphill stretches, and it seemed like we kept winding up and around for a very long time. There were markers along the way, motivating us further along the trail.
The views at certain vantage spots are so beautiful and so amazing. We'd stop every so often and just admire the Smoky Mountain vista.
At one point, almost all the way to the falls, we came upon a little spring in the side of the mountain. It was almost like a small cave opening with a spring trickling out, but the cave itself didn't lead anywhere.
The kids enjoyed stopping and climbing around on rocks, exploring nature at its best. There were areas of the trail where we really hung on extra tight to Jaden; steep dropoffs and signs warning us to hang onto children were enough to make us just a bit nervous.
For the most part, the trail seemed quite safe, though. There were people all along the trail coming and going, so we were never really alone.
Smoky Mountain Waterfalls – Laurel Falls
Upon arrival at Laurel Falls, we realized it was much more popular than we'd thought. There were a LOT of people, making it more difficult to take a good photo with the 80-feet high waterfall. However, it was so worth the hike.
There are two levels to the falls, both a top and bottom section. Visitors can cross between the top and bottom falls via a walkway, known as Laurel Falls Bridge.
Looking up, we could see light shining through the trees from the sky above and water just pouring over the side of the mountain. It was stunning, so much so that pictures just don't do it justice.
What I believe was mountain laurel, lined the cliffs along the edge of the falls. It had big white flowers set against a backdrop of dark forest green leaves.
It was a steep hike down to the bottom of the falls but again so worth it. The bottom falls had a much more narrow stream of water pouring down through the rocks.
Things to know before you hike Laurel Falls Trail
Before you set out to hike the trail, here are a few things to keep in mind…
- Parking may be scarce, and you may want to go during non-peak times so you're not having to hike just to get to the trail itself.
- Carry plenty of water bottles with you, as well as snacks. Trail mix makes a great snack.
- Plan for 2 to 3 hours of a moderate hike.
- Be aware there are bears in the area, so take the necessary precautions.
- There are no restrooms on the trail.
- Pets are not allowed on the trail. Neither are bicycles.
- Strollers and wheelchairs are not recommended, mainly because of certain steep parts and rough pavement.
- Be warned that climbing around on rocks near the waterfall is dangerous and prohibited, and many people have been injured, some even killed; it's important to be cautious and sensible. There really is no guard rail between the top and bottom falls; so hang onto your little ones, and pay attention to signs.
- Finally, leave no trace. Carry out what you carry in. Protect both the park and wildlife by doing this.
Learn more about this trail and things you need to know before hiking there.
More Great Smoky Mountains Adventures
Have you hiked to Laurel Falls? Have you hiked other trails in the Great Smoky Mountains?
Update Notes: This article was originally published on July 31, 2012, but was re-published with bigger photos and more details in March of 2018.