For this quick weekend trip to the Smoky Mountains I intended to spend a day on the high ridge and a day waterfall hunting...I would let the weather decided which day would be which. After a night of listening to rain pour down on my tent and waking up to clouds and a thick mist I knew which day this would be...the waterfall day. Two waterfalls would be on the agenda, Grotto and Ramsey Cascades. I chose to head to Grotto first as its short length would provide a nice warm-up for the much longer and more difficult hike to the Cascades and also because I would beat the crowds that inevitably show up here later in the day.
Grotto Falls is accessed off the scenic Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail about a mile-and-a-half from where it enters the National Park. A small parking area and restroom denote the beginning of the Trillium Gap Trail which leads the 1.4 miles up to the falls. Due to its popularity the trail is a wide and fairly smooth one, only gradually climbing along the way, as it winds its way along the ridge through a beautiful, mature mid-elevation cove forest in search of the falls. The falls relatively diminutive size (25' or so) is more than made up for by its 'grotto' type setting. That, and this is the only waterfall in Great Smoky Mountains National Park you can actually walk behind...the trail passes right beneath the cliff it flows over. The hike was quick, beautiful, and served its purpose perfectly for me. After such a serenely beautiful location to start off my water fall day at I was more than ready to hit the trail again in search of more...
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 35.680303, -83.462559
Hike Length: 3.0 miles Hike Duration: 1:15
Trailhead Temp: 65'F
Min. Elevation: 3,200' Max. Elevation: 3,780'
Total Vertical Gain: 580' Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile: 585 ft.