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Hiking Trails & Waterfalls

Hiking is one of the most popular outdoor activities in the Smoky Mountains, and many people vacation in the Smokies specifically for that purpose. Most of the roads through the half-million-acre National Park are paved, and auto touring along the Cades Cove Loop Road, Newfound Gap Road or Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a great way to go sightseeing in the Smokies. But, there's nothing like lacing up hiking boots and hitting the trails on foot to explore through the pristine wilderness that is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The Park is famous for its waterfalls, many of which can be accessed via hiking trails—some moderate, others that present quite a challenge. Located in an old-growth hemlock forest, Grotto Falls is found on the Trillium Gap Trail, which actually runs behind the 25-foot high falls. The hike to 90-foot Hen Wallow Falls is a pleasant trek along the Gabes Mountain Trail through hemlock and rhododendron forest. The tallest waterfall in the Park is the 100-foot Ramsey Cascades, though the Ramsey Cascades Trail is a strenuous 8-mile roundtrip hike unsuitable for novice hikers.

Hikers are cautioned never to attempt climbing waterfalls or to climb on rocks around waterfalls. Rocks are slippery due to mist and algae. Children must be closely supervised at all times.

If you plan to hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, please stay safe by learning what to do if you see a bear. Black bears are active in the Park, and hikers should maintain a safe distance from all wildlife, as animals in the Park can be extremely dangerous and are protected by federal law. The National Park Service website provides important information on Black Bear Safety, including a bear safety video explaining what to do if you see a bear, including maintaining eye contact while backing away slowly.

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