Laurel Falls is one of the most popular destinations at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, according to the National Park Service. While I much prefer the hike to Grotto Falls, there are many reasons why the hike to Laurel Falls is worth a visit. For one, you get to walk across the middle of an 80 foot waterfall on a bridge! Which, quite frankly, is pretty cool. Second, the hiking trail is easy to follow and well marked, making hiking to Laurel Falls moderately easy. Third, who doesn’t love a roaring waterfall? Overall, I’m glad I went to Laurel Falls during my trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park! Keep reading to learn more about this amazing hike!
Laurel Falls Hike Trail Details & Location
Difficulty: Moderate | Round Trip Distance: 2.6 mi | Elevation Gain: 314 ft. | Time: 2 hrs
Trailhead Location: Laurel Falls is located on the Laurel Falls Trail. The trailhead is located a few miles past the Sugarlands Visitor Center on Fighting Creek Gap Road. There is parking near the trailhead on both sides of the road, but it can fill up fast. We got lucky and someone pulled out just as we were pulling in.
The hike to Laurel Falls is Moderate Due to the Trail Conditions
While I found it fairly easy to hike to Laurel Falls, I can see why it is designated as a moderate hike.
The paved hiking trail is now broken and eroded in several locations, due to weather, tree roots, and years of use.
There are also areas that are quite steep and that can get slippery when conditions are wet. This trail is definitely not wheelchair, stroller, or pet friendly.
That said, the hike is still pleasant and filled with lots of vegetation and beautiful mountain vistas!
The Laurel Falls Trail has stunning views of the Great Smoky Mountains
One of my favorite parts of the Laurel Falls Hike was when the trees cleared and my sister and I could look out above the Great Smoky Mountains. We went the second weekend of October 2018. Sadly, it was just before the leaves fully changed colors.
Still, the views took my breath away and I could see little dots of orange and yellow across the mountain landscape.
The Laurel Falls Trail crosses over the mid section of Laurel Falls with a foot bridge
When we arrived at Laurel Falls, we walked across the waterfall on the foot bride. This allowed us to view Laurel Falls from all different angles.
We looked up at the cascading waterfall,
as well as down the waterfall. It was pretty impressive.
While Laurel Falls was beautiful, photographing it mid-day cast harsh shadows and light on the falls
As a photographer, I was most excited to hike to Laurel Falls to photograph it. I love taking slow water photographs, however, sometimes you can’t decide what time of day you get to hike.
Sadly, the afternoon sun dotted the waterfall, creating bright patches of light in my photographs.
If I went back, I would go at sunrise for the best lighting on the falls.
Once you reach Laurel Falls, you can turn around to go back to the parking lot, or continue along the Laurel Falls Trail
The Laurel Falls trail continues past the falls until it meets up with the Cove Mountain Trail and the Little Greenbrier Trail. We hiked a little bit beyond the falls to get the above view of Laurel Falls, but then turned back to hike back down.
The hardest part about the hike, in my opinion, was the sheer number of people hiking it. The large crowds and time of day made it difficult to fully enjoy and photograph the falls. This experience was a complete contrast with my hike to Grotto Falls.
That said, I’m still glad I hiked to Laurel Falls. The hike was fun, not too strenuous, and made for a great memory. I hope you get the opportunity to visit Laurel Falls and Great Smoky Mountains National Park for yourself. If not, at least you can see it through my photos! Thanks for reading and sharing my adventures with me!
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