Laurel Falls Trail: An Essential Guide to Hiking

November 2, 2023

The sparkling jewel of Tennessee, it’s no secret that hoards of visitors make their way to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park each year to reconnect with nature.

However, with more than 800 miles of trails, it can be difficult to know where to begin your Smoky Mountain journey. Many hikers opt to tackle the scenic route of the Laurel Falls trail. Follow along to learn everything you need to know about Laurel Falls, TN.

An ever-popular destination, both experienced and novice hikers alike are drawn here thanks to cascading 80-foot high falls and the moderate 2.6-mile roundtrip distance.

Wondering ‘is Laurel Falls an easy hike?’ or perhaps pondering what to pack for your trail excursion? From when to plan your hike for less congested parking to our top tips on trail gear. Our experts are here to spill the beans on Laurel Falls.

Named after the beautiful blooming mountain laurel branch and shrub, this is one Smoky Mountain trek you won't want to miss!

Directions to the Laurel Falls Trailhead

Wondering just how to arrive at the Laurel Falls trailhead? From the Sugarlands Visitor Center simply head toward the Cades Cove on Little River Road and drive 3.5 miles to the trailhead. Here you will find parking lot areas on both sides of the road.

Please keep in mind that Laurel Falls is one of the most heavily visited areas in the Smokies, as a result, the path can be quite crowded. For a less congested Laurel Falls Smoky Mountains experience we suggest visiting early in the day. And avoiding school holidays and weekends.

Laurel Falls with autumn trees in the great smoky mountains near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, USAAbout Laurel Falls Tennessee

Curious about just what makes this popular trail attraction so inviting? Located just a quick 30-minute drive from Pigeon Forge, families, outdoor enthusiasts, and nature lovers alike converge here for a relatively low-effort hike with maximum payoff. Topping out at 2.6 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 314 feet.

Related Post: Fun Things to Do in Gatlinburg Tennessee: 10 Can't-Miss Activities

Visitors can expect to complete the journey anywhere from 90 minutes to 2 hours depending on their pace. The Upper Falls are quite magnificent, especially after a rainfall. Visitors with little ones will be glad to learn that the path is paved making it easy to navigate with strollers and small children.

Trail History

Laurel Falls Trail was built in 1932 to provide fire crews access to the Cove Mountain area in the event of a forest fire. By 1935, workers had completed the Cove Mountain Fire Tower. Quickly the trail became trodden with hikers due to its stunning scenery and greenery.

This high level of use led to erosion which convinced the Department of Interior to pave the trail in 1963. Today the trail is one of the longest and most popular of the four paved trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

man and woman with walking hiking poles on trail overlooking mountains

Photo Credit: Viktorcvetkovic via Getty Images

Hiking Laurel Falls

Ready to witness the rosy-hued blossoms of the mountain laurel for yourself? Begin the Falls hike by following Little River Road. Keep your eyes peeled for pine oaks, maples, dogwoods, tulip trees, and the laurel bush. The path will rise slowly until it begins to double back along the mountain ridge giving hikers epic mountain views.

The last portion of the trail will feature the famous falls and some steep drop-offs, so take care. It is important to note that the Falls consist of an upper and lower section divided by a walkway known as Laurel Branch.

This crosses the stream at the base of the upper falls. After you absorb the sweeping views of the falls you can forge on with your hike by making your way to the old fire tower atop Cove Mountain. With this 2.7-mile addition, you will up your active hiking time to around 5 hours.

Laurel Falls Hike Tips

Don’t let an errant boot blister or surprise rainstorm leave your Laurel Falls hiking plans in the lurch! Consult our must-bring list of hiking necessities and you’ll be all set for a perfect Smoky Mountain Laurel Falls hiking day:

  • Sufficient water and high-energy snacks
  • First Aid Kit
  • Rain gear and rain pants for colder season hikes
  • Extra clothes and a pair of hiking socks
  • Trail Map
  • Fully charged phone
  • Portable phone charger
  • Flashlight and/or headlamp
  • Matches
  • Whistle
  • Bug Spray
  • Sunscreen

A backpack, two set of hiking boots, and a water bottle.Pigeon Forge Hotels

Packed up those hiking boots and loaded up on trail mix? In case your Pigeon Forge hiking will not be accompanied by some star gazing and National Park camping. We highly recommend you sort out your Laurel Falls lodging ahead of time.

If bugs and sleeping bags aren't your thing, we offer up a wide array of Pigeon Forge hotels and Laurel Falls/Gatlinburg options. Savor modern amenities, breakfast buffets, and lazy rivers when you book any of our premier properties.

Opt to stay just minutes away from the park’s entrance. Or enjoy a spacious suite in the heart of downtown. Whatever your Smoky Mountain desires. Make your reservation worry free knowing you are always guaranteed our lowest rates online.

Psst…need to take a breather from all of your mountain fresh fun? Check out the countless other Things to Do in Pigeon Forge and keep yourself occupied with days at Dollywood, Anakeesta, WonderWorks, and more.

view of newfound gap from the appalachian trail smoky mountains

View from the Appalachian Trail

Tumbling streams of crystal clear water plus an abundance of flowering shrubbery make Laurel Falls an evergreen favorite of the Great Smoky National Park.

What once began as a path to aid in fire safety has gone on to provide endless hours of nature-filled entertainment to children and adults alike.

Amateur photographers, trail enthusiasts, and tourists will be taken back by the vast greenery and beauty of these celebrated falls.

What are you waiting for? Start planning your own Laurel Falls trek today!

Tell us, Have You Hiked The Falls?

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Written By Isis Maya

A New York native, Isis-Maya spent most of her professional life working in TV production until a vacation whisked her away to Central America and her love o ...

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