Spruce Flats Falls

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On my November 2017 trip to the GSMNP, I saved what I consider to the the best waterfall in the GSMNP for the last day. While there, I hiked to the very popular Laurel Falls, Grotto Falls, Cataract Falls, and a number of Waterfalls on the Road Prong Trail. When Saturday morning came, I had time for one last hike. After reading what Waterfall Rich had to say about Spruce Flats Falls and taking the suggestion from a friend Brian Solomon who guided me along the Road And Tomahawk Prongs just days before, I decided to make this my final Great Smoky Mountain’s Destination in 2017. I mapped out how to get there and decided to see a few things along the way between our cabin in Gatlinburg to the Great Smoky Mountains Institute in Tremont. The first stop was just as I entered the GSMNP!

My travels went right to the popular Sugarlands Visitor Center. In the very back of this area, kind of close to where the rangers work, is a Trailhead to a waterfall in 0.1 miles named Cataract Falls. While pretty, it wasn’t much of a waterfall, and on a very low flow stream. I visited this my first day here and decided to give it one more try as it had rained pretty good most of Friday night. Disappointingly, the full night of rain did not lead to more water at Cataract Falls.

From the Sugarlands Visitor Center, I took the Fighting Creek Gap Road, which becomes the Little River Gorge Rd. Much of this Road follows right along the healthy Little River and was just a gorgeous drive along the river. Once I drove out of the morning fog, the color of the Smokies had to be at their absolute peak.

Once I was along the Little River, photogenic scenes were literally around each corner. I had a deadline today so I had to get this hike started and finished. I couldn’t resist though stopping along and exploring 2 scenes along the Little River: A nice waterfall on the opposite side of the river named Meigs Falls, and a 10 foot drop on the Little River itself known as “The Sinks”.

Just down from the Meigs Falls and The Sinks, The Little River meets up with another fork of the Little River at what is known as the Townsend Y. Just past this was my next turn, left onto Laurel Creek Rd. Almost immediately, another left turn onto Tremont Rd. Drive about 2 miles up this road to the Great Smoky Mountains Institute. The 1 1/4 mile hike to Spruce Flats Falls begins here. Before I did this, I kept driving up Tremont Rd initially. I had scouted this out on the map and saw Spruce Flats Falls to be almost roadside on the opposite side of what is now the Middle Prong of the Little River. I got out, looked at the scene and almost crossed the river here. The smaller falls that are below the main falls can be seen just across the river and I had my water shoes on. I was a little iffy on climbing up the wet rocks on the smaller falls though and there had to be a reason that all the research I had done said to park at the Institute and not to go this way. So I drove back to the Institute and began my hike.

The lady inside the store at the Institute told me to simply hike up the road in back and follow the signs. This sounded easy enough. There were plenty of signs to follow. No chance of getting lost if you just follow the signs.

Getting to the Spruce Flats Falls was just about following the “Falls” signs as the trail did a number of switch backs, while climbing steadily up the mountain where it levels off. It doesn’t stay level long as it begins to drop towards the Falls soon. The hike itself was about 1 1/4 miles.

Once there, WOW…….what a gorgeous waterfall was all I could come up with . The nice flowing stream, along with the picture perfect drop and pool were spectacular. It was slightly treacherous getting down to where to waterfall was as much of the rocks were wet and about as slippery as ice.

YouTube Video of Spruce Flats Falls:

On the way back, now being 11 am, I got caught in that crazy Smoky Mountain National Park Traffic. I couldn’t believe that this place was still this crowded in November.

6 comments

  1. Great Photos, What date did you visit Spruce Flats? I try to “keep track” of the dates of the peak fall colors for the various locations. Also, what waterfall is the headline photo…I assume from another location (and obviously shot in the summer), it’s a beauty! I enjoy following your blog. I also visit and photograph waterfalls frequently. Thanks, Craig

    1. Thank you very much for the kind words. Spruce Flats and all of these photos came from Saturday November 4th. While Spruce Flats Falls was my main destination, I made a few stops along the way at Cataract Falls behind the visitor center near Gatlinburg, and then stopped at Meigs Falls and The Sinks which are both roadsides.

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