The road that the hike to Grotto Falls is located off of is one of the most popular scenic drives in the Smoky Mountains, the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.
Grotto Falls is one of the great waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains!
The Grotto Falls hike on the Trillium Gap 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 in the Smoky Mountains!
If you can’t see the video above, watch the Grotto Falls video on youtube.
More for your Smoky Mountains trip beyond Grotto Falls
If you’re interested in Grotto Falls, then you may also be interested in these top things around Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
- Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
- Baskins Creek Trail
- Arch Rock
- Laurel Falls
- Myrtle Point
- Clingmans Dome
- Cades Cove
- Things to do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (for VIEWS!)
More pictures from the Grotto Falls 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.
The Grotto Falls trailhead is located right on the popular scenic drive Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.
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.
New for 2023:
You need a parking pass for Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
You can buy this when you arrive, or you can buy it online ahead of time.
According to recreation.gov, the official national park reservation website:
If you purchase your parking tag through recreation.gov, you will need to know your license plate number.
You will receive your parking tag via email and you will need to print the tag prior to your visit to display in your vehicle once you arrive.
Park staff cannot print your tag for you.
Annual parking tags purchased online via Great Smoky Mountains Association will be shipped right to your door.
Please allow 2 weeks shipping time.
According to the National Park Service:
Annual parking tags must be displayed in the front, lower passenger side windshield.
Daily and weekly parking tags must be placed face-up on the front, lower passenger side dashboard.
See current Great Smoky Mountains parking fees.
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!
Also see more waterfalls in the Roaring Fork area.
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!
Here are some ideas for a few days in the Smoky Mountains!
Among the most popular things to do in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are Clingmans Dome, Cades Cove, and Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. These are some of the best scenic drives in the Smoky Mountains!
There is the Clingmans Dome Trail that will take you to the highest peak in the Smoky Mountains. But you can also see amazing views even from the Clingmans Dome parking lot without stepping foot on the trail!
You can make Cades Cove just about the drive along Cades Cove Loop Road. But there are also stops to make including historic cabins, a historic mill, and even the waterfall hike of Abrams Falls Trail. And, you might end up stopping because you see BEARS! You can bike Cades Cove and you can walk Cades Cove too.
The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is also a scenic drive you can enjoy from your car, but there are stops you might want to make too!
Another classic Smoky Mountains activity would be to do an epic hike in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Alum Cave Trail can take you to the Mount LeConte summit for one of the highest peaks in the Smoky Mountains. You can even hike to the summit and then stay near the summit at the LeConte Lodge, which says they are the highest guest lodge in the eastern United States! (It does sell out fast!)
You may also want to see some of the best waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains. (These waterfalls require hiking.)
You also have a chance to see elk in the Smoky Mountains! The best place to see elk is in Cataloochee Valley, but you might see them at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center too.
You can go camping in Great Smoky Mountains National Park for a budget-friendly stay. Otherwise for traditional lodging, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are popular Tennessee towns to stay outside of the national park.
PLUS visit the Kentucky national park: Mammoth Cave National Park
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