Map and Directions
To get to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from where you are, see directions to get to Gatlinburg or Townsend, Tennessee. From Townsend take TN 321 to the Park entrance, turn right on Little River Road to Cades Cove. From Gatlinburg, turn right at the Sugarlands Visitor Center onto Little River Road and on to Cades Cove, where you will travel nearly halfway around the 11-mile loop road to the parking area for the 5-mile round-trip hike to Abrams Falls.
A fairly easy 5-mile trek (round-trip) that is ideal for the beginner or a family. Plan on roughlyAbrams Falls in Cades Cove three hours, depending on your pace and whether you have small children along. Since the departure point for this hike lies within Cades Cove (the most visited spot within the Park), you will find little solitude unless you are hiking very early in the morning or in the “off” season before May or after the last pockets of Fall color have disappeared. However, even if the circumstances are not ideal, the hike to Abrams Falls is more than reward enough for the effort. The name Abrams is a shortened reference to Abraham, the Cherokee chief of a village on the Little Tennessee near the mouth of what is now Abrams Creek.
You will climb to approximately 1,800 feet at one point, but when you arrive at the falls you are actually 300 feet lower than when you started.
Point of departure
You have entered Cades Cove from either Townsend or Gatlinburg via Little River Road (refer to map above). Drive along the one-way Cades Cove Loop Road 4.9 miles, and turn right onto a gravel road that terminates within 0.5 mile at a parking area. Signs mark the area well, but you’ve gone too far if you get to the Cades Cove Visitors Center. The Abrams Falls Trail begins at the wooden bridge at the end of the parking area.
Abrams Creek Trail
From the parking area, enter the forest and cross the wooden bridge at Abrams Creek. The trail leads right 0.5 mile to the Elijah Oliver Place and left to begin the hike to Abrams Falls.
The trail to Abrams Falls parallels Abrams Creek most of the way, except when Abrams Creek twists left from Arbutus Ridge to form a nearly one-mile loop resembling a “horseshoe,” a stretch of the creek that has always been populated with trout fishermen when we’ve passed. At mile 2.5 you will cross Wilson Branch and take the short side trail to the falls.
Eighteen smaller streams drain the slopes of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s, Cades Cove and empty into Abrams Creek. At the falls, what was the relatively peaceful Abrams Creek is suddenly diverted into a narrow chute along the right side, transforming Abrams to a violent and beautiful twenty-foot plunge over the ledge. During the hot summer months, the natural pool attracts sunbathers and swimmers. During June, the falls are framed by rhododendron and laurel that have grown up the steep bank found at this point on Abrams Creek. The mist created by the plunge of the falls creates a natural air conditioner, and the pool is a wonderful spot to pause, cool off, and enjoy some of the very best the Park has to offer the visitor.
For those who want to hike further, the remaining two miles of the trail are more isolated and challenging than the section you have just completed. The trail ends at the Abrams Creek Ford, where the hiker can pick up the Hannah Mountain Trail (which leads left 1.9 miles to the Rabbit Creek Trail at Scott Gap) and Hatcher Mountain Trail (which leads right 2.8 miles to the Cooper Road Trail and the Beard Cane Creek Trail). Otherwise, you can retrace your steps to the Abrams Creek Trail and return to Cades Cove–completing the 5-mile trek to Abrams Falls and back. From there you can continue on the Cades Cove Loop Road to the visitors center where you can refresh yourself and then enjoy the remaining sights of Cades Cove.
Hiking The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
If your trek to Abrams Falls is a day-hike, take a knapsack and carry a few extra items. Include some bottled water and a snack. Never drink the water from a Park stream without boiling it first. Though the streams in the park are invitingly cool and deceptively clear, they contain bacteria that can wreck your trip and a substantial period thereafter, if you succumb to the temptation to drink from them. You might even include a camera in your knapsack too. If you are making an overnight trip to LeConte Lodge, you’ll be carrying a backpack, and we assume here that you have included all the necessary items and arranged for the required reservation at the lodge. A backcountry permit is required for overnight stays in the backcountry. Certain campsites are reserved in advance. Smoky Mountain backcountry permits are available online. You can also contact the Backcountry Office for more information or assistance with trip planning by calling: 865-436-1297.