Grotto Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains

Terri~Lynn Bealle

Suwanee, United States

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Artist's Description

Grotto Falls spill 25’ over a cavernous rock overhang, or Grotto, into a large pool along Roaring Fork Creek.

The Trillium Gap Trail passes through old growth hemlock and mixed hardwood to the fall, and continues behind it en route to Brushy Mountain and Mount Le Conte.

Grotto Falls is the only waterfall in Great Smoky Mountains National Park where you can walk right behind a waterfall on a designated trail. Visitors will enjoy a picturesque setting, swimming, and salamander viewing on the short hike to Grotto Falls.

The Trillium Gap Trail rises steadily on mild grades from the Grotto Falls parking area into a thick forest. Note large concentrations of eastern hemlock as you progress. Hemlock, sometimes referred to as the redwoods of the east, are among the largest and most common trees in the Park. They can grow to 150’, have trunks 6’ in diameter, and live several hundred years.

Just before reaching the main fall you’ll pass a lively cascade and pool suitable for wading (1.23 miles), a good alternative when the Grotto area is overrun with midday crowds. The main trail continues beside the creek to Grotto Falls (1.3 miles 3,760’), and curls behind it under the protective grotto to the far side. This cool, moist environment is ideal habitat for salamanders, of which there are 30 species in the Park.

The Trillium Gap Trail continues 2.05 miles above the falls to Brushy Mountain, a worthwhile extension for those with time. Brushy Mountain, a heath bald, is celebrated for its spectacular views and rhododendron, laurel, and sand myrtle blooms.


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