This moderate 2.6-mile round-trip hike passes through mature forests supporting old-growth hemlocks to one of Great Smoky’s gorgeous waterfalls. The trailhead is on Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, 1.7 miles from the start of the one-way road. The parking area may fill up in summer, so get there early in the day.
You will be hiking along Trillium Gap Trail, one of the main arteries leading to the summit of Mt LeConte, which is 6.6 miles from the parking area.
The well-maintained trail makes a moderate ascent all the way to the falls. There are a number of easy creek crossings along the way. You might encounter large black-and-white pileated woodpeckers, or hear their insistent drumming on the trunks of dead trees. During the spring you might see liverworts or silverbells in bloom or, on warm days, salamanders doing push-ups at the edge of a stream. Grotto Falls is a favorite subject for photographers. Here, Roaring Fork spills 20ft from an overhanging ledge as the trail passes behind a transparent wall of water – very cool.