Grotto Falls is widely considered to be one of the best waterfall hikes in the Smokies, and is therefore a very popular destination, especially in the summer. As you walk behind the waterfall you'll not only hear, but also feel the thunderous power of the water plunging into the pool in front of you.
Trillium Gap Trail meanders through an old-growth hemlock forest and actually runs behind the 25 foot high waterfall. The cool, moist environment near the falls is ideal for salamanders and summer hikers. The hike is 3 miles roundtrip and considered moderate in difficulty.
Access trail: Trillium Gap Trail on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
Trailhead: From the parkway in Gatlinburg, turn at traffic light #8 and follow Historic Nature Trail into Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Take Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail to stop #5 where there is a large parking area. Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a narrow, winding, one-way road that is closed in winter. Buses, RVs, and large trucks are prohibited on the road.
Trail Notes: The roundtrip distance to the waterfall is 2.6 miles and the hike is generally considered moderate in difficulty. It takes about 2-3 hours to hike to the waterfall and back.
Carry drinking water with you. Portions of this trail are rocky-sturdy hiking shoes are recommended. Do not attempt to hike the trail in sandals or flip flops. Pets and bicycles are prohibited on the trail.
Do not climb on rocks around the waterfall. Over the years, several people have fallen to their deaths and many others have suffered serious injuries from climbing on rocks near waterfalls or along the riverbanks. These rocks are slippery due to mist and algae. Closely supervise children at all times.
Trail Location: Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
Roundtrip Length: 2.6 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 585 Feet
Avg. Elev Gain / Mile: 450 Feet
Highest Elevation: 3777 Feet
Trail Difficulty Rating: 3.77 (easy)