And for Roaring Fork waterfalls, Grotto Falls is one of the great waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains!
This Smoky Mountains hike to waterfalls on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail will include hiking through a forest, and you can see some smaller waterfalls along the way too. Grotto Falls are waterfalls that you can walk behind!
Share the Grotto Falls video with the people you’ll be hiking in the Smoky Mountains with!
More pictures from the hiking trail below, but first…
Basics about the trail to Grotto Falls
Hills! This is mostly gradual uphill the whole way until you get to the waterfalls. This is an out-and-back hike, which means that the way back will feel easier!
You’ll take the Trillium Gap Trail to get to Grotto Falls.
The distance of this hiking trail to Grotto Falls is around 2.8 miles round trip.
It’s officially recommended to give yourself 2-3 hours to complete the hike to Grotto Falls and back. How much time you spend on the trail can depend on your fitness level, how many stops you make, and how long you spend at the waterfalls! Bring a light picnic lunch and you can find a rock to sit on and eat with views of the waterfalls!
You can also continue hiking on the Trillium Gap Trail past Grotto Falls to get to the Mount LeConte summit, the 3rd highest peak in the Smoky Mountains. While the Alum Cave Bluffs Trail is generally the more popular way to get to Mt LeConte, it’s possible to take the Trillium Gap Trail too.
If you’re coming from Gatlinburg, the drive to the Grotto Falls trailhead might be around 20 minutes.
Your destination for google maps can be Grotto Falls parking. Because of the popularity of these waterfalls, you might end up parking along the side of the road a bit further away from the trailhead. Hopefully no more than a quarter of a mile away though!
No dogs on the trail to Grotto Falls
In general, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is not a pet-friendly park when it comes to hiking trails. Pets are not allowed on the vast majority of hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains, and that includes the Trillium Gap Trail that takes you to Grotto Falls.
There are bears around Roaring Fork
You will see a “bear-proof” heavy duty trash container at the trailhead parking lot, and all over the national park.
Take extra care when it comes to your food scraps and trash!
“Garbage kills bears.” “A fed bear is a dead bear.” If bears start to recognize human food as bear food, they can become a serious threat to humans – to you! If that happens, a bear may have to be put to rest for good. This is why it’s said to be important that everyone does their part to pick up after themselves.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is bear country!
Toilets near Grotto Falls trailhead
There are basic no-flush toilets at the Grotto Falls parking area.
Getting to the Trillium Gap trailhead
So again, your destination for google maps can be Grotto Falls parking.
Once you get near, you’ll be driving on Cherokee Orchard Road, and then it will become a one-way road. From there, you’ll follow the signs to Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail! You’ll pass by the Rainbow Falls Trail and the Baskins Creek Falls Trail along the way. Then you’ll come across a sign for Grotto Falls parking. (Pictures are from 2 different days, sunny day and foggy day!)
Just past the Grotto Falls parking area sign there are a few standard parking spots, but not many. If there are no spots here, you basically will just keep driving until you find a spot along the side of the road.
Side note! See the more of the Smoky Mountains:
- Best shoes for hiking in the Smoky Mountains
- Best hikes with VIEWS in the Smoky Mountains
- Best scenic drives in the Smoky Mountains
- Driving the scenic route from Gatlinburg to Clingman's Dome
- Driving the slow scenic route from Gatlinburg to Cades Cove
- The big list of things to do in the Smoky Mountains
PHOTOS for a little bit of what to expect when hiking the Trillium Gap Trail to Grotto Falls!
I hiked to Grotto Falls in late September 2020. Pictures are from that time.
Trillium Gap Trail to Grotto Falls, 1.4 miles away.
Trillium Gap Trail to Mt LeConte summit, 6.7 miles away.
Trillium Gap Trail to Grotto Falls, 1.2 miles away.
Trillium Gap Trail to Brushy Mountain Trail, 2.9 miles away.
Trillium Gap Trail to Rainbow Falls Trail, 2.3 miles away.
And then right before Grotto Falls comes into view, there will be another small waterfalls that you can climb down to see! The water from these waterfalls are basically just a little bit downstream from Grotto Falls.
Then once you’ve taken in the the views from these waterfalls, you can continue the hiking trail just a short distance ahead to arrive at Grotto Falls!
If you’re climbing or stepping on any rocks, take care, as rocks can be slippery and/or unstable! It’s best to test out a rock or log to see if it moves before you put your full weight on it.
And then once you’ve taken in the views of the waterfalls, you can head back the way you came!
And that’s a bit of what it’s like on the hike to Grotto Falls!
Be sure to see the list of more great waterfall hikes in the Smoky Mountains!
Also see the best of hiking in the Smoky Mountains for scenic views! (That aren’t waterfalls.)
And then there’s the big list of things to do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
HAPPY HIKING TO SEE THE POPULAR GROTTO FALLS!
Best shoes for hiking in the Smoky MountainsYou will want good shoes for hiking in the Smoky Mountains.
In general, the best shoes for hiking in the Smoky Mountains will be hiking boots (more ideal) or trail running shoes (more versatile for everyday activities compared to hiking boots but still will give you advantages compared to regular shoes).
I liked wearing my hiking boots for the thicker soles (good on rocky trails) and the waterproof (water resistant) nature of them.
They were especially helpful on rainy day hikes to keep my shoes (and socks!) dry! They are also better to be walking on mud compared to regular shoes.
On rougher terrain (like the trails that are a bit rougher with more rocks), hiking boots are more ideal so you won't feel it on the bottoms of your feet as much.
If you want shoes that can work out better as everyday "out and about" kind of shoes, then you might like trail running shoes better! Trail running shoes are a little more durable than regular shoes, so they can also work out as good hiking shoes. Trail running shoes are a bit lighter weight and less bulky compared to hiking boots.
Shoe fit is very important for your feet! Be sure to break in your new shoes by walking around the neighborhood and/or at the grocery store before you go on your "big hike" in the Smoky Mountains!