Abrams Falls is one of the most traveled hiking trails in the most popular section of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Located just beyond stop #10 on the Cades Cove loop road, this trail is convenient for day trippers to the area who want a good hike on their drive through. The Abrams Falls hike is 2.5 miles one way, or 5 miles round trip at moderate difficulty.
A short dirt road off of the main loop just before the Visitor Center leads to the Abrams Falls trailhead. Once out in the parking area, head for the bridge over the confluence of Abrams Creek and Mill Creek. Just before the bridge are a sign and a path towards a backcountry camping site. Sometimes it holds a sign that says the site is closed due to “aggressive bear activity” and black bears have been seen at the trailhead as well. Cross the bridge and stay on the main path to the left. There is another path to the right, but that is a hike for another day. A good portion of this hike follows along Abrams Creek.
Some sections of this hike will be steep while at other times you will need to navigate around muddy patches of collected water. There are three sections that cross various streams by way of a single log with a railing, so if somebody is crossing in your direction politely wait, and then cross. You might think on the way to the falls that the hike is mislabeled as moderate because it seems easy, but it is mostly uphill on the way back.
The trail can get rocky and at times there are rocks sticking straight out of the earth along side the path. Make use of these if you need a rest but be careful if it has been wet. At the top of one hill are a group of boulders that are a little above the trail but are still accessible if you want to see a view.
The final destination of Abrams Falls is a 20 foot waterfall that is more impressive for the volume of water moving through than the height of the falls itself. There are plenty of boulders around to take a rest and enjoy the falls. A deep pool of water forms at the bottom of the falls that gradually becomes shallow so it can be refreshing for people of any age, but make sure to hold on to children’s hands. Keep an eye out for snakes for they are frequently seen basking or swimming in the rapids just beyond the pool of water. People like to climb up to the top of the falls and jump down, however this is ill-advised and dangerous.
There are many ways to enjoy this hike but there are some items you may consider bringing to make your experience more memorable: fishing gear, bathing suit, towel (if you don’t want to bring a bulk of towels, just share!), snacks, bags to carry trash out, camera, and lots of water. Because it is a waterfall and people like to swim, a lot of people wear flip-flops or sandals on the hike. Resist the temptation and wear good hiking shoes. Just allow time for your feet to dry in the sun after you cool them off in the water. It cannot be stressed enough to bring something with which to carry trash back to the trailhead. There are no trashcans at the falls and there is a littering problem. Please don’t contribute!
The hike to Abrams Falls should take less than 4 hours, depending on how long you want to wait before you turn around and head back to your car. Make sure you check when the Loop Road gates are closed and time your hike accordingly. This hike does attract a lot of hikers but people are mostly very friendly in passing on the trail.