I think I read somewhere that of the more than 9million people that visit Great Smoky Mountain National Park every year fewer than 5% venture more than a mile away from the roads. I have often cited this statistic when we make our annual Memorial Day trip to the park and we have definitely found solitude during the peak season on Rocky Top or at Gregory Bald.
However, 5% of 9 million is still 450,000 people. And a significant portion of those people were on the trail to Abrams Falls the day we decided to take it on. This hike has been on our Smoky Mountain bucket list for quite some time. Frankly, we have avoided it because of its popularity and because access to the trailhead requires tackling the one-way Cades Cove loop road. To quote the official Cades Cove and You flyer, “Expect delays. During peak season it may take over 2-4 hours to travel the 11-mile loop.” Not very appealing to tackle when we are anxious to get on the trail or back to town to grab a shower. But this was our Cades Cove trip and we prepared ourselves to brave the crowds.
The Abrams Falls trail is one of the easiest trails in the park; across 5 miles of roundtrip trekking it boast only about 300 feet of elevation gain/loss. This is about as flat as trails get here! The trail is great for families and/or people with questionable fitness. We actually encountered a newborn on this hike (in a carrier, of course).
The trail begins among some burned out areas. Apparently controlled burns were employed in the part of the wood earlier in the year.
Most of the trail was well-maintained and wide. Easy as they come!
There are three (?) stream crossings with log bridges. These are easy for all but the most nervous of hikers.
The falls at the end of the hike are actually very lovely. The rushing waters empty into a clear green pool. This is where we realized we were not the only people to opt for this hike on a warm summer day. Nearly every flat rock was occupied by picnickers and families. Several groups brought floats to enjoy the water beneath the falls. This is definitely not getting away from it all.
The return hike is where the elevation change is noticeable (funny how that works) and there are two climbs of note in this direction. Neither is particularly hard, but you will break a sweat.
Overall, this hike is a great introduction to the beauty the Smokies have to offer. It is definitely popular for good reason!