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Laurel Falls at Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Nice easy trail to a small waterfall. Along the way there are a few nice views of the nearby hills and rock formations
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Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Easy
Length: 2.6 miles
Duration: Less than 1 hour
Family Friendly

Overview :  Laurel Falls is one of the most popular destinations in the park and parking at the trailhead is limited. The area is especially busy ... more »

Tips:  From Sugarlands Visitor Center, turn toward Cades Cove on Little River Road and drive 3.5 miles to the trailhead where there are... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Parking Area/Trailhead

The parking areas for this popular short hike are on both sides of the road, so watch for cars and people.

2. Laurel

If you're not from the hills, you may not know the mountain laurel. It's the smaller bush with small leaves, on either side of the trail. Blooming in the early summer, it turns large patches of woods and hillsides to pink or white.

A few yards up the trail is rhododendron. It wears larger leaves, stands taller, and flowers with hues from white... More

3. Pine Oak Forest

This area just feels different. It is warmer, drier and the light is more intense. You are on a south-facing slope that is more directly exposed to the sun. Pines do well here. Notice that the ground is littered more with pine needles than other kinds of leaves. In fact, you are in the middle of a pine-oak forest, with a few maples thrown in... More

4. Cove Hardwood Forest

Can you tell the difference between this area and the last one? The oaks, maples, tulip trees and dogwoods in this cooler ravine offer shade that makes it a little more pleasant in the summer. The leaves of the trees are colorful in the fall, but their dense canopy also blocks sunlight from the forest floor, so the groundcover tends to be sparse... More

5. Rocks

If you're a bit winded by now, have a seat on the rocks. These rocks stand on edge because of internal earth pressures that jammed colliding layers of rocks and soil together. The only way they could go was up. The rocks will be here for a few more millions of years, until freezing water cracks and crumbles them. How does that happen?

The... More

6. Water

This stream is typical of the unnumbered thousands in the Southern mountains. It does an important job. Moisture-loving plants thrive along its banks (hemlock, beech, and rhododendron). Animals drink from its flow. It contributes to the rivers far below. Even in the driest of weather this one still runs; during spring floods it gushes about... More

7. Picture Window

What is there to say about such a view? Spring wildflowers, fall color, icy beauty in winter and lush green in summer. It has everything. Your bench in this little amphitheater is a choice seat for Nature's displays and a place you'll not want to leave. When posing for photos don't back off the edge!

8. Twisted Trees

Stiff winds twist, prune, bend and break these trees. Even normally straight pines are contorted into odd shapes. The higher up the mountain, the more pronounced this effect. Lighting also works on the trees. Many of them bear stripes and scars from crown to ground, reminders of past run-ins with thunderbolts.

9. Persistence

Rock tripe, the scaly lichen on rock faces from here to the falls, has found a way to cope with the harsh weather. Being only one-half inch tall, but maybe dozens of years old, it hugs the rock and successfully resists the wind that would tear it loose. During brief wet periods it soaks up whatever moisture it can and then waits out the drought ... More

10. Cliffhanger

The rest of the trail clings to the mountainside as you walk along a narrow rock ledge to the falls. Sheer drops are long and steep, so be careful. The trees along the way sometimes create a tunnel effect, almost closing completely overhead for considerable stretches. Contrast this mood with the open forest and gentle slopes of the first half... More

11. Laurel Falls

Laurel Branch tumbles down from Cove Mountain and eventually becomes part of Little River. It is representative of the hundreds of miles of Smokies streams, whose purity is unexcelled by streams anywhere else in the United States. Their beauty appears in many forms, slow trickles and gurgling branches to torrents and cascades. The abundance of ... More

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