Abrams Falls, located in the Cades Cove area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is one of the most popular waterfalls and hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This trail is to the falls is heavily trafficked, accessible year around, and moderate in difficulty.
Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Waterfall that you can go behind and swimming
Drive 4.8 miles along the one-way Cades Cove Loop Road. Just after crossing a creek on a small bridge, turn right onto the gravel Abrams Falls Rd through a pasture area. You'll soon reach a large parking area for the trailhead. The trailhead is at the far end, where the woods begin.
Standard Day hiking gear
Abrams Falls Video
We hiked this trail during prime Fall color season, here's our video:
Hiking to Abrams Falls
The hike to Abrams Falls is an out and back hike. The hike to Abrams Falls itself is 2.5 miles, then 2.5 back to the parking area, making the total round trip length about 5 miles.
The hike is moderate, with a few ups and downs. The ups provide some short, but significant elevation gain. There are three, and the third is the largest, and will take you to a rocky ridge with nice views. From there it's all downhill to Abrams Falls.
Be aware that the trail is very rocky and full of roots, so you will want to keep at eye on your footing to avoid tripping.
The trail begins just after the trail sign, at a bridge crossing. The first section of the trail is creekside and relatively flat. After crossing the bridge, go left to Abrams Falls. For the majority of the trail, you'll follow the creek.
There are a number of access points to the creek on the trail side, and they are worth exploring. Be sure to keep an eye out for Otter that were released here some years ago.
The trail follows a ridge, that is often very high above the creek. While the trail isn't exceptionally narrow, it's narrow enough where if you are hiking with children, you'll want to keep them close, and away from the edge. A fall or slip from here could be deadly.
At the 2.5 mile mark, a small and typical log foot bridge will go the left, take this bridge and side trail to Abrams Falls, you'll be able to clearly hear it at this point. You'll arrive at the small "beach" area, surrounded by a number of large rock areas for viewing and photographing the waterfall.
Abrams Falls itself is only 20-25 foot tall, so not a tall waterfall compared to many others in the area. What does make that Abrams Falls stand out is the amount of water rushing over it. In fact, Abrams Falls has more water rushing over it, than any other waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The pool at the bottom of the Falls is deep and large. While you will often see people swimming here, and the pool is certainly very inviting, we STRONGLY recommend not swimming here. Due to the water volume, there are very strong currents, and and under-toe. Under the water are many "traps", that have lead to 21 water related deaths since 1971.
Abrams Falls Trail is one of the most busy trails in the National Park, and receives over 1000 visitors a day during peak season. We highly recommend hiking this trail early in the morning to avoid the crowds, or on a weekday. This will also allow you to avoid the common traffic backups in Cades Cove that can often cause you to sit idle in traffic for hours.
After visiting the Falls, you'll head back the parking lot the same way you arrived.
This has been bucket list hike for us, and while we enjoyed it, we hiked it during prime Fall season, and while gorgeous, there were far too many people for us. We'll go back, but will hike it during the off season to avoid the crowds.
Definitely a great hike, just be sure to come prepared with the day hiking essentials, hike safely, and as always, leave no trace.
Our Waterfall Guides
See our full guides to more than 40 waterfalls in the Blue Ridge Mountains, on our Waterfalls Page. Information, Directions, Photos, Video, and more!