Blog for Zip line Attraction in the Smoky Mountains

Located in Pigeon Forge, TN and near Gatlinburg and Sevierville.


A Hike To Abrams Falls

By Ross Bodhi Ogle
Posted on May 17, 2022

Have you had a chance to visit us at Smoky Mountain Ziplines yet this season? If not, you're missing out on our amazing zipline canopy tour and some of the best spring weather we've seen in a long time. But there's still plenty of time this spring and summer to work us into your vacation-travel plans.

And once you've had a blast on our ziplines, Gatlinburg and Great Smoky Mountains National Park should be the next priorities on your itinerary. One specific destination we highly recommend is the Abrams Falls Trail in the Cades Cove area of the national park. We've had a chance to do this one lately ourselves, and we think it's a great mid-range hike for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages. And the waterfall payoff is well worth the journey.

Your outing starts by driving to Cades Cove, which is on the western end of the Tennessee side of the park. Once you're there, you'll drive onto the cove's one-way loop road, which is 10.5 miles long from start to finish. The Abrams Falls trailhead is located about halfway around the loop, not far past Stop #10 on the loop road. The trailhead is clearly marked by a sign. Turn right and follow the gravel road a couple tenths of a mile to the parking area. From there, you're on foot.

The falls are about 2.5 miles from your starting point. The trail starts by crossing Abrams Creek on a log footbridge, the first of several you'll encounter along the way. If you time your visit right in the spring, you'll spot an abundance of rhododendron along the way as well as a wide variety of wildflowers. In summer, the forest canopy (pines and oaks on the ridges and hemlocks along the creek) is thick, but the trail runs parallel to the creek for much of the trip. Along the way, you'll spot several points where you can diverge briefly from the main trail to go down the creek and enjoy the sights.

For the most part, the trail is gently rolling and not terribly challenging. The exceptions to this are three ridges that you'll have to ascend and descend. They're not terribly steep, but you'll definitely notice the climb. While you're traversing these ridges, note that the creek meanders out of sight to wind its way around the far end of the ridge. Once you've descended from each ridge, you'll see that the creek has wound its way back and is realigned with the trail. Another landmark to look for is the marked side trail that leads about a half-mile to the Elijah Oliver Place, one of the cove's many preserved historic structures and homesteads.

About a quarter-mile from the falls, the trail descends and winds its way sharply down to Wilson Creek (a tributary of Abrams Creek), which you'll cross by footbridge. Just past this bridge, you will arrive at the wide basin of water at the bottom of Abrams Falls, which are only 20 feet in height. But at 100 feet in width, they produce a massive volume of water. That's what makes them so impressive. (By the way, the falls were named for a Cherokee chief whose village once stood several miles downstream.)

Please note that due to strong currents and undertows, swimming in the pool at the base of the falls is very dangerous. Ten people have drowned at this site over the years, and others have fallen to their deaths or suffered serious injury climbing on the slippery rocks around the waterfall, so please exercise caution.

The entire journey to the falls and back is about five miles and, depending on your pace and how long you linger at the falls, can take anywhere from three to four hours. As such, make sure you set out in plenty of time to finish your hike by sunset. It's also probably not a bad idea to take snacks and fluids with you and to wear sturdy shoes suitable for trail walking. You should also be able to cross narrow log bridges on foot, even though handrails are in place. Finally, note that black bears are sometimes active in this area, so read up on how to handle yourself if you encounter one (or a mother and cubs).


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