Hike the Trillium Gap Trail to the walk-behind waterfall at Grotto Falls, one of the most sought-after waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains.

georgia hiking trails: 2-4 miles 2.6 miles
(round trip)
? Your mileage may vary! Accuracy of your GPS device, weather conditions, and stops along your route will affect your own recorded distance.
georgia hiking trails: moderaterelatively
moderate
?Our difficulty estimate, based on distance, terrain, elevation change, & ease of wayfinding. May vary daily due to weather, trail reroutes, downed trees, etc.
georgia hiking trails: no dogs allowed No dogs
allowed
?Due to park regulations, no dogs are allowed on this trail. Check out our favorite dog-friendly trails near Asheville for a great hike with your pup.

LOCATION:in the Smoky Mountains near Gatlinburg, TN

GEAR: North Face Pack, our hiking gear list and Nikon D810 Camera

WEAR: Our ultra-soft Asheville Trails shirts and mountain logo hats

OFFICIAL MAP: Trails Illustrated #317: Clingmans Dome, Cataloochee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Grotto Falls is not only one of the most beautiful waterfall hikes in the Smoky Mountains, but it also offers a unique chance to hike behind the falls. This hike follows the Trillium Gap Trail from the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, meandering and climbing deep into an old-growth hemlock forest. It’s a particularly beautiful and scenic hike. The route offers the chance to view a variety of flora and fauna along the banks of the brilliantly clear and rambunctiously tumbling Roaring Fork.

This hike explores a particularly beautiful stretch of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s a popular hike, too – so expect company on the trail. If you go, please remember to pack out everything you pack in, and leave no trace to help preserve the bountiful beauty of Smokies.

Grotto Falls on the Trillium Gap Trail

Hike the Trillium Gap Trail to the walk-behind waterfall at Grotto Falls, one of the most sought-after waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains. #hiking #trailrunning #tn #tennessee #gatlinburg #smokymountains #greatsmokymountainsnationalpark #gsmnp #travel #outdoors #adventure

Grotto Falls: the hike

The hike begins at a trailhead off the mile-long Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, located just southeast of Gatlinburg, TN (view maps and driving directions). (This hike’s popularity often leads to limited parking. If the main parking area is full, there’s an auxiliary parking area just past the main trailhead).

Trillium Gap Trail

The hike’s first tenth of a mile follows an access trail to an intersection with the Trillium Gap Trail. The route begins a climb, following the Trillium Gap to the southeast. The trail’s gentle gradient winds its way across four usually-shallow stream crossings on the way to the falls. Stepping stones offer a semi-dry way to cross the creek crossings, but a good, grippy waterproof boot (and careful treading) helps to ensure dry feet.

A springtime hike along this trail reveals the nature of its name. In late spring, colorful trillium wildflowers carpet the forest floor alongside a plethora of other wildflowers. Bloom season in the Smokies is simply incredible. The hike continues winding through wide switchbacks, climbing roughly three hundred feet to a small waterfall. At just under 1.25 miles, the first glimpse of the waterfall comes into view.

Grotto Falls on the Trillium Gap Trail

A dazzling series of cascades, with clear, deep pools come together to put on a display of natural splendor. Golden light casts down from the tree canopy above, blanketing the trail with a soft and natural glow. A cool breeze mists its way up from the base of the falls.

The trail skirts along the right side of the falls, crossing some slick, mossy boulders coated in the waterfall’s mist. The view is incredible, but tread carefully!

Perhaps the most popular feature of the waterfall is the chance to sneak behind the falls and experience the rumble of whitewater against the pool below. During the heat of the summer months, the waterfall’s cool mist offers a most welcome chance to cool off mid-hike.

Grotto Falls on the Trillium Gap Trail

Beyond Grotto Falls, the Trillium Gap Trail continues its climb, offering access to the summit of Mount LeConte after hiking another five miles to the southeast. This hike departs from the waterfall, following its outbound route in reverse. The return to the parking area is as easy going as it is acoustically rich, with a wide variety of birds singing a cheerful chorus. The hike reaches the trailhead at 2.6 miles, completing the adventure.

More Smoky Mountain hiking adventures

The Smokies are certainly hike-worthy, with scores of soaring green mountain summits, lush valleys, and tumbling waterfalls. Follow the Alum Cave Trail to Mt LeConte, climbing through a rocky, rugged terrain to the LeConte Lodge at the mountain’s summit, and stunning vistas from Cliff Top and Myrtle Point. Hike the Chimney Tops Trail, climbing to stunning views of a craggy pinnacle and nearby Mt LeConte. For a more mellow adventure, hike to Andrews Bald near Clingman’s Dome, and catch beautiful vistas from a grassy mountaintop covered in late-spring wildflowers. Explore Cades Cove and hike to the tumbling cascade at Abrams Falls. Or check out the full list of our favorite Smoky Mountains hiking trails for even more adventure inspiration.


Trillium Gap Trail to Grotto Falls: Map, Directions & Details

Trillium Gap Trail Map to Grotto Falls
This map reflects our route when we last followed the trail. Trails and routes change frequently – so please refer to official trail maps for the latest route.

Love the trail?

This trail is maintained thanks to the hard work of countless volunteers and donations from supporters of the Friends of the Smokies. Please support them by making a donation or joining a volunteer day. Let's work together to keep these fantastic trails maintained and open for use!

Updates

Did you have trouble accessing the trail, or notice some recent trail updates or storm damage? We'd love to know! Contact us here, and thanks for helping us keep this site updated!

Driving Directions



Parking

Free parking is available at the trailhead.


GPS Coordinates

35.680217, -83.463617     //     N35 40.813 W83 27.817

Elevation Profile

Grotto Falls Trillium Gap Trail Elevation Profile
 
 
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Nicholas Walsh
Author

Nicholas Walsh is a adventure photojournalist from the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia. The son of avid outdoorsman father and a mother with a passion for education, he sought to wander his home from an early age. With passions for snowboarding, cross-country skiing, surfing, and whitewater paddling developing before his seventh birthday, it became clear that both a personal and professional life spent outdoors and abroad would be in his future. Nick is a freelance photojournalist, based in Atlanta, Georgia with professional affiliations to several media and photographic production firms. Follow him on Instagram: @_shootnick_