Grotto Falls Trail: Your In-Depth Hiking Guide

This easy hike leads to one of the most rewarding waterfall destinations in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Plan your Grotto Falls hike adventure with our ultimate guide!

Grotto Falls Gatlinburg trail has been a popular hike in the Smoky Mountains for ages. Families with kids and visitors with dogs easily reach the highlight of the trail–the Grotto Falls, of course!

Once you get there, take all the time in the world to walk behind the falls, admire the surrounding lush forest, and maybe even enjoy a romantic picnic.

To experience the loveliest trip to Grotto Falls TN, arm yourself with everything you need to know about this easy yet rewarding Great Smoky Mountains hike.

Grotto Falls: The Only Falls You Can Walk Behind

Grotto Falls is a not-so-hidden gem within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The trail and the destination (the 25-foot horsetail waterfall) are really popular, and we understand why. If you’ve seen the iconic Grotto Falls photos, you already know that visitors enjoy strolling behind the refreshing cascade. After all, Grotto Falls Smoky Mountains is the only waterfall in the Smokies where you can actually walk behind the water.

Grotto Falls is incredibly easy to access via the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, a short drive from Gatlinburg. The hike is also relatively easy, thus offering the perfect blend of convenience and natural beauty.

As you make your way along the trail, keep an eye out for salamanders! Grotto Falls has a cool, moist environment, making it an ideal home for the fascinating amphibians.

Depending on the season, the trail’s ecosystem also boasts colorful flowers. White violets are often found along the trail, especially during spring. They add a charming touch to the trail’s natural beauty and make a good subject for nature photographers and flora enthusiasts!

Waterfall at Grotto Falls in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, USA
photo credit: Michael Calvert via Facebook

Grotto Falls Trail Distance and Difficulty Level

Distance and Difficulty

The hike to Grotto Falls TN spans approximately 2.6 miles round trip, making it a manageable distance for hikers of various skill levels. In terms of difficulty, Grotto Falls Trail is often considered an easy hike.

Related Post: Best Hikes in Great Smoky Mountains: 9 You Don’t Want to Miss

It’s not overly strenuous, but there are some inclines and uneven terrain along the way. Experienced hikers usually take 2-3 hours to complete the trail roundtrip, excluding the time spent admiring the falls.

Grotto Falls Trail is Dog-Friendly

Planning to bring Fido along? You’ll be pleased to know that dogs are more than welcome to join you on this journey. In fact, dogs are often seen hiking along the trail, and many are off-leash.

Just keep an eye on them as you get closer to the falls. The trail can become a bit slippery due to the proximity to small streams.

grotto waterfall in gatlinburg tennessee
On this hike, you’ll actually get to see two waterfalls

How to Get to Grotto Falls: Trailhead and Parking


Grotto Falls Gatlinburg is easily accessible via the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, and reaching the trailhead is a breeze. To get to Grotto Falls Trailhead, set your GPS for Grotto Falls Trillium Gap Trail Gatlinburg TN 37738.

As you venture along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail’s one-way road, you’ll find the trailhead located on the left side of the road, right by the Grotto Falls Parking Area. Don’t worry about getting lost. There are signs along the Roaring Fork Motor Trail for Grotto Falls parking.

Related Post: Waterfall Hikes Smoky Mountains – 12 Stunning Trails to Explore

Coming from Gatlinburg? To get to Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail from Gatlinburg, head southeast on the Parkway (US-441 S) and turn right onto Cherokee Orchard Road. Follow this road to the entrance of Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.

Parking Fees

The best time to visit Grotto Falls is early in the morning. The parking area can fill up quickly as the day progresses, so getting there early ensures you’ll have a spot and a more serene hiking experience. Parking costs $5 or $15 per vehicle, depending on how many days you plan to explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Woman standing on rocks with mountains and forest in the background while HikingGrotto Falls Seasonal Closures and Restrictions

Best Time to Hike

Wondering when is the best time to hike Grotto Falls Trail Smoky Mountains? Hike this trail during the spring for a stunning experience. The waterfall gushes with life and vibrant wildflowers adorn the trail, creating a picturesque backdrop.

Related Post: Smoky Mountains in the Fall: Festivals and Foliage Guide

Fall is also a good time to hike Grotto Falls Trail Gatlinburg. The leaves along the trail change colors and the way they envelop the path is just a chef’s kiss enchanting. Additionally, the subtle fog from the fall’s moist environment adds just the right amount of drama–perfect for Instagrammable photos!

Seasonal Closures

Keep in mind that the Roaring Fork Motor Trail is closed in winter. As this is the gateway to Grotto Falls, you won’t be able to hike to the Falls at this time.

Safety Reminders

Remember to prioritize safety during your hike. The rocks around the waterfall may appear tempting, but they’re often slippery due to mist and algae. Several accidents have occurred over the years, some of them fatal. Even if you can walk behind the falls, just admire the falls from a safe distance if it’s too misty.

Lastly, keep an eye out for black bears! The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to these majestic creatures. You already know this, but this is just a reminder to maintain a safe distance and avoid approaching or feeding them. Binoculars and telephoto lenses have helped visitors spot black bears from afar.

A backpack, two set of hiking boots, and a water bottle.Attractions Near Grotto Falls Trail

Smoky Mountain Llama Treks

Once you’re done exploring the wonders of the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and Grotto Falls Tennessee, explore the rest of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This time, with a llama!

Smoky Mountain Llama Treks offers the chance to join an experienced guide and a team of fluffy, well-trained llamas on a journey into the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. The guides will carry your gear. All you need to do is immerse yourself in the breathtaking views and enjoy a remarkable outdoor excursion with the super cute llamas.


Anakeesta is far from your typical theme park experience. It’s a mountaintop outdoor adventure park that marries the beauty of the Great Smokies with exciting family-friendly activities.

So while in Gatlinburg, aside from exploring the beautiful hiking trails, spend some time enjoying the scenic chairlift rides, zip lining, tree canopy walks, and more–all set against the backdrop of the breathtaking Smoky Mountain landscape. Let an adventurous trip to Gatlinburg turn into an exciting experience with your loved ones.

aerial view of Anakeesta surrounded by trees with mountains in distance during day in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, USA
photo credit: Anakeesta via Facebook

Historic Nature Trail

In the hunt for more easy but equally enchanting moments amidst nature in the Great Smokies? Add the Historic Nature Trail to your itinerary.

True to its name, the Historic Nature Rail features interpretive signs and panels that provide information about the park’s history, flora, and fauna. It’s a great opportunity to learn about the natural and cultural history of the area.

Plan the Best Gatlinburg Outdoor Adventure

The best way to fully experience Gatlinburg is to strike a balance between exploring its natural wonders and modern attractions. Gatlinburg is nestled in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains, making hiking trails like the Grotto Falls super accessible. At the same time, the town itself boasts a variety of thrilling ways to experience nature.

On your next trip to Gatlinburg, plan a vacation that’s part outdoor exploration, part mountain town discovery. Use special deals, such as Gatlinburg Vacation Packages, to create the ultimate getaway. These packages bundle together popular attractions, tours, and accommodations in Gatlinburg and offer them at discounted prices.

It’s a convenient way to make the most of your visit and ensure you don’t miss out on any of the fantastic experiences this charming mountain town has to offer.

Take in the breathtaking scenery and immerse yourself in the unique culture and attractions that make Gatlinburg a must-visit destination in the Great Smoky Mountains.

What Did We Miss?

Do you have anything to add to our guide? Leave us a comment below!

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Written by Nicole King

There are only two things that make Nicole really happy–books and travel! When her head’s not buried in a book, she’s most likely...

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