Having arrived there late in the morning, earlier than we had expected, we set out to find something simple we could do. It was a warm afternoon, in the mid 80s, so something with water would make the experience more enjoyable. We picked the Laurel Falls trail.
This trail is a paved trail, the only paved trail, off of the road between the Sugarlands visitor center and Cades Cove. It does offer a parking lot, but beware, it’s practically always full. This was a Saturday, and it was in the afternoon. Well, we did come for a hike, so we parked about a half mile away and walked up to the trail. It was so busy there they had three park rangers attempting to guide traffic and help people park.
The actual trail is 1.3 miles up along a paved path. They say paved, but I found this “feature” not to my liking at all. It’s full of “potholes” and downright uneven in so many places.
I much would have preferred mud, or gravel, or even an old creek bed. I know why they paved it, but if you’re going to do that, then keep it up. I have no idea how a wheelchair can make it up this thing with any ease.
That being said, the trail is simple enough. There is a rise of about 320 feet through moderately dense forest. The falls themselves are beautiful, with two distinct layers, and a concrete bridge crossing over the highest part. If you like, you can scale down to the second part below and sit and relax, as we did.
My daughter even attempted to follow me out to a rock I was sitting on, slipped and enjoyed a refreshing bath in Smoky Mountain waters.
There are plenty of rocky formations along the trail that offer great picture places. There is also one lesser waterfall about halfway up that allows for the younger ones to crawl all over it without overt danger to their beings.
Overall, this is a nice little trail; just don’t go on it if you want some solitude. It took us about 1.5 hours to go up and down (we did sit in the waterfall for about 25 minutes) and I counted almost 200 people. With this comes the usually trash you encounter on a heavy path like this. I picked up about 10 empty or near empty water bottles that had been tossed to the side. Hit this trail early on a weekday morning, and it’ll be quite enjoyable.