horses in Cades Cove

4 Smoky Mountain Waterfalls to View on Your Drive from Gatlinburg to Cades Cove

cataract falls
June 27, 2023

If you ever heard that getting there is half the fun, this is certainly true on your journey from Gatlinburg to Cades Cove! You’ll get to experience a variety of spectacular scenery along Little River Gorge Road that runs southwest from the Sugarlands Visitor Center, including a variety of beautiful waterfalls! When you combine several stops on your drive with an afternoon in Cades Cove, there is no better day trip in the Smokies! Here are 4 Smoky Mountain waterfalls to view on your drive from Gatlinburg to Cades Cove:

1. Cataract Falls

Cataract Falls is situated just left of the Sugarlands Visitor Center, making it a convenient first stop along your drive to Cades Cove! The trail is just 3/4 miles roundtrip and suitable for families with young children, starting off paved before it quickly turns to gravel. Just before the waterfall, the trail will go under a bridge and up a small set of stairs. Turn right, and you’ll see Cataract Falls, which is composed of two low-flow streams that create a 25-foot drop into a small pool below!

2. Laurel Falls

laurel fallsThe Laurel Falls Trail is moderately difficult and runs 2.6 miles round trip to the waterfall, so you’ll want to allow about 2 hours for this hike. While the trail is paved at the trailhead, it doesn’t extend the full length of the trail, and there are several steep sections. However, your effort will be well rewarded once you see the 80-foot-tall Laurel Falls! The waterfall consists of an upper and a lower section divided by a walkway that crosses the stream at the base of the upper falls. Keep in mind that Laurel Falls is a very popular trail, and parking at the trailhead is limited!

3. The Sinks

Another one of the Smoky Mountain waterfalls to view on your drive from Gatlinburg to Cades Cove is known as the Sinks! It’s the most visited waterfall in Great Smoky Mountains National Park due to its amazing beauty and a perfect location right along the road! If you’re not into hiking and want to see a waterfall, this makes an excellent option! The Sinks is actually not a natural formation but was created when loggers dynamited the river due to a huge log jam!

4. Meigs Falls

meigs fallsMeigs Falls is an unmarked waterfall along the drive from Gatlinburg to Cades Cove, so it’s a bit of a hidden gem! The good news is that you can see the waterfall from the road, making it another great option for a quick pit stop without hiking! If you travel about a 1/4 mile west of the small parking area for the Sinks, you’ll notice a pullout on the left (across from a rock wall). If you stop and look into the forest, you’ll see Meigs Falls in the distance!

Now that you know about the Smoky Mountain waterfalls that you can see on your way from Gatlinburg to Cades Cove, you won’t want to miss Abrams Falls right here in the Cove! Learn more about the Abrams Falls Trail and the spectacular waterfall along the trail!

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