Gabes Mountain Trail to Hen Wallow Falls

Gabes Mountain Trail is an easy to moderate hike that begins at the Cosby Campground in Tennessee and takes you down to the 90 foot tall Hen Wallow Falls.

Location: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, off I-40
Roundtrip Distance:4.4 miles roundtrip to the falls and back
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Features:Beautiful dense hardwood forest, waterfall and bridges
Directions:From Gatlinburg, take Highway 321-73 North 17.8 miles to the turn for Cosby Camp – Highway 32. Turn right toward Cosby Camp. Drive 1.2 miles and veer right onto Cosby Park Road. Continue 2.0 miles to the Gabes Mountain Trailhead parking lot on the left. The trailhead parking area is large but not marked.
Recommended Gear: Good hiking boots or shoesDaypackDayhiker First Aid KitSunscreen, some snacks, plenty of water.   If you want to swim, bring some towels, a bathing suit, and some good [easyazon_link keywords=”water shoes” locale=”US” tag=”blueridgemountainlife-20″]water shoes[/easyazon_link] are really helpful.

Gabes Mountain Trail

Gabs Mountain Trail begins a steady but easy climb towards Hen Wallow Falls, and up the side of Snake Den Mountain.  The trail passes through a lush forest, the provides a beautiful setting, and a full forest canopy above you.

As you hike the trail, you’ll see Rhododendron, Hemlocks, and lots of yellow poplars.

Gabes Mountain Trail actually goes much farther, out to the intersection with Maddron Bald Trail, 6.6 miles from the trail head.  however few people hike this far, and the majority of hikers do the out and back trail to Hen Wallow Falls.

Gabe Mountain Trailhead

Overall, the hike out to Hen Wallow Falls isn’t strenuous at all. We brought all 6 of our kids, with our youngest being 4 at the time, and she had no problems walking most of the distance.  

The trail has as steady, but very moderate climb, and winds through some really gorgeous “new growth” forest.  The total elevation gain while on the trail is 555 feet.  You climb up on your way to the falls, and have a gradual decent on the way back.  The trail itself is very clear, and you shouldn’t be concerned about not being able to find it or getting lost.

Gabe Mountain Trail

The trail has lots of  points of interest along the way, including the gorgeous Rock Creek near the beginning.  The trail starts in damp heavily wooded forest and slowly dries out as you travel along the trail.  Paying attention to the changes in the forest as you hike the trail  makes for an interesting and educational experience, especially if you have kids.

We stopped at the Rock Creek crossing, which you will cross soon after starting the hike.  Our kids had a blast here and the bridge across the creek was “exciting” for them.  The shallow area in the picture below would be a fun wading area for smaller children, and the creek is full of crawdads and other wildlife.

As you continue along the trail, the base will change from a dirt rock base to one with lots of roots, so watch your step as the roots tend to catch your shoes and boots.   You’ll also cross over a few smaller creeks as you make your way towards the falls.   The bridges are all standard primitive log construction.

You’ll also pass along side some interesting rock formations and cuts as you begin to get closer to the falls. If you listen closely, you’ll be able to hear Hen Wallow Falls in the distance a ways before you actually reach it.

Hen Wallow Falls

Hen Wallow FallsAbout 1.8 miles in, you’ll reach the small spur trail that leads down to Hen Wallow Falls.   There is a sign, so you can’t miss it.

The spur down to Hen Wallow falls is fairly steep, and good hiking shoes are recommended.  If you have smaller children, you’ll want to hang onto their hand.  There are lots of trees to grab onto for stability, and going slow and steady will get you to the base of the falls without issues.

Hen Wallow Falls is a unique waterfall, in that it starts up high very narrow, and spreads out to newly 20 foot wide as it cascades down the rock.

Read all about Hen Wallow Falls and see our photos: Hen Wallow Falls Guide.

Wrapping Up

If you are looking for a moderate and family-friendly day hike, with some great photo opportunities, I would highly recommend Gabes Mountain Trail and Hen Wallow Falls.  Probably one of the better hiking trips we’ve taken as a family.  Very safe, lots to see, and just long enough to be worth it, but not too long so the kids start complaining.

Definitely on our short list, and we’ll be taking the hike again as a family soon.


About the author

Larry Deane is co-owner of Blue Ridge Mountain Life. He has spent more than 20 years exploring the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and has a deep passion for nature, history, storytelling, and adventure. Along with his wife Jenn, they combined these passions to create Blue Ridge Mountain Life, a travel guide to these stunning mountains they are fortunate to call home.

Larry has more than 20 years of experience as a writer and journalist, and has established himself as a leading voice and expert for Blue Ridge Mountains. He is also an avid hiker, photographer, and videographer. He loves sharing his mountain adventures and knowledge with more than 500,000 people per month on Blue Ridge Mountain Life.


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