Ramsey’s Cascades: Ultimate Hiking Guide

Explore the rugged terrain of the Great Smoky Mountains with our detailed guide on the challenging Ramsey Cascades hike. Perfect for hiking aficionados seeking their next big adventure!

The Ramsey Cascades Trail is nestled in the Greenbrier area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and leads adventurers to the tallest waterfall in the park. Towering at an impressive 100 feet, this cascade collects in a small pool to form a serene ambiance that offers a visual treat. Yes, that’s the one you see in the photos!

It’s no wonder why this Great Smoky Mountain trail has gained popularity among hiking aficionados and nature lovers, so if you’re planning a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, we highly recommend that you embark on this adventure yourself. Read our travel guide to be equipped with everything you need to know about hiking the Ramsey Cascades Trail.

Trail Basics

Trail Length

The Ramsey Cascades Trail stretches over an 8-mile course, offering hikers a moderately challenging journey to reach the highlight of the trip. The journey begins with approximately 1.5 miles on a gravel road and then eventually leads towards the deeper woods.

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As you venture further, you will see that the path intertwines with the frequently photographed Ramsey Prong, a visual treat that provides periodic aquatic soundscapes to accompany your trek.

Of course, the pot of gold at the end of this hike is the magnificent Ramsey Cascades Waterfall, which serves as a rewarding endpoint for every step taken on this trail.

Ramsey Cascades in The Great Smoky Mountains near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, USADifficulty Level and Elevation Gain

Navigating the Ramsey Cascades Trail is not for the faint-hearted. If you’ve seen Ramsey Cascades trail photos, you’ll know that your agility and endurance will be challenged by terrain filled with rocks and roots.

However, the combination of shade and the occasional beam of sunlight peeking through the canopy of the ancient growth forest provides much-needed relief. You won’t need to swim the Pigeon River to reach your destination, but expect the trail’s elevation gain to add to the challenge.

Estimated Hiking Time

The hike to Ramsey Cascade Falls is not just a test of endurance, but also a journey through time and nature. Patience is required, as this is not your ordinary in and out in an hour hiking trail. For the average hiker, reaching the captivating falls typically takes between 5 to 7 hours round trip.

This time estimation factors in brief pauses to absorb the beauty, snap photos, and perhaps rest at the base of the falls. However, individual paces can vary, and it’s not uncommon for many hikers to lag behind and take much longer, making this a full day’s worth of adventure.

So as you prepare for the trek, it’s advisable to allocate a full day to ensure you fully experience all that the path to Ramsey Cascade Falls offers.

baskins creek falls flowing through the fall autumn foliage trees in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, USABest Time of the Year to Hike

Like with the rest of the Great Smoky Mountains, Ramsey Cascades Trail unveils its beauty differently with each season. But if we were to choose the best time of the year to hike, it would be during spring and early summer.

It’s during these months that the forest comes alive with a vibrant display of basswoods silverbells and yellow birches, creating a natural mosaic of colors and fragrances. These trees not only offer a picturesque backdrop for hikers but also provide a refreshing canopy and much-needed refuge.

Autumn, with its palette of golds and reds, is another contender for the best time of the year to hike.

Getting There


Reaching the start of the Ramseys Cascades trail requires a bit of navigation. From Gatlinburg TN, embark east on Highway 321 until you approach the Greenbrier area.

A marked turn-off will guide you towards the trailhead. From there, the way is relatively straightforward, but during peak seasons, it’s beneficial to set out early to avoid potential traffic and to secure a parking spot.

As this is a less visited spot of the Great Smoky Mountains, we recommend having a map or reliable GPS to assist with your journey.

Man and woman hikers wearing backpacks hugging as the sun sets over hillsAccessibility and Parking

The accessibility to the Ramsey Cascades trailhead is generally good, with roads leading up to it well-maintained. However, during peak seasons or after heavy rainfall, some sections might be a bit challenging for low-clearance vehicles.

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As for parking, there’s a designated lot at the trailhead, but it tends to fill up quickly, especially on weekends and during prime hiking months. We recommend arriving earlier to secure a spot.

Hikers typically expect that this is going to be a full hiking day and prefer to start as early as possible. If the main lot is full, there are overflow parking areas nearby, but this might add a bit of distance to your hike’s starting point.

Safety & Preparedness

What to Wear

When preparing for a hike to Ramsey’s Cascades, your choice of attire is crucial for a comfortable journey.

One of the most important gear is a pair of sturdy hiking shoes, the kind that can withstand 8 miles of journey in varying terrains, from uneven rocky patches to slippery sections near water sources.

A high-quality footwear that offers good grip and ankle support will get you a long way. No matter the season, a light rain jacket is a smart addition, even if rain isn’t forecasted, as mountain weather can be unpredictable.

A backpack, two set of hiking boots, and a water bottle.What to Pack

Here are a few essentials that should find their way into your hiking bag:

  • A reliable camera for capturing the most beautiful Ramsey Cascades trail photos
  • Plenty of water for hydration
  • Energy snacks to replenish spent calories
  • A map or trail guide
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Rain jacket (mountain weather near Ramsey Cascades Waterfall can change rapidly)

Weather and Wildlife Considerations

Embarking on a Ramsey Cascades hike requires awareness of both weather and wildlife. The mountain climate can be unpredictable, with sudden rain showers or temperature drops. Always check forecasts before heading out and be prepared for potential weather shifts.

Additionally, while the allure of the cascades might tempt some, for safety, do not attempt to climb the rocks near the waterfall as they can be slick and treacherous.

Regarding wildlife, the area is home to black bears. While sightings are exciting, it’s essential to maintain a safe distance and avoid feeding or approaching them.

Black Bear on Rocks in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, USAPlan a Trip to the Great Smokies

Considering an adventure to the majestic Great Smokies? Don’t just stop at the cascades; make a full-fledged trip of it and immerse yourself in all the beauty and charm this region has to offer!

Gatlinburg TN vacation packages are available on Tripster to help curate your own adventure, from your choice of lodging in the heart of the Great Smokies to the surrounding attractions that you want to visit.

Whether you’re keen on exploring local cultural hubs or diving deep into nature’s wonders, curate the vacation package that fits your idea of the best Great Smoky Mountain adventure.

What Did We Miss?

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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