Ramsey Cascades and the 4 mile trail leading to the falls was the highlight of my 1st trip to the Smokies. Everything we saw that week end was wonderful, but this hike really stood out above the others. If you plan to go, the hike to the falls is mostly uphill and about a 2200' gain in elevation over the 4 miles. Some parts are quite a bit steeper than others and I would call it moderately difficult. The cascade is listed as 100' high, but is broken up in several sections.
Directions: Ramsey Cascades is in the Greenbrier area of the park. From I-40 in NC, cross into Tennessee and drive 8 miles to exit 443 - the Foothills Parkway. If the Parkway is closed, you will have to continue to exit 440 at US 321. Take the Foothills Parkway until it ends at 321/32. Turn left, drive just under 2 miles and turn right on 321 towards Gatlinburg. Drive 11.9 miles, cross the bridge over the Little Pigeon River, and immediately turn left on Greenbrier Rd. Coming from Gatlinburg, drive 5-6 miles from town and turn right on Greenbrier Rd. Drive down this sometimes narrow gravel road for 3.1 miles to a fork. Bear left here, cross the bridge and continue another 1.5 miles to the parking area. The trail head is signed and very obvious.
The trail begins as an old gravel road through the forest. Huge boulders and moss covered fallen timber are everywhere. In Spring, this area of the park is loaded with wildflowers. The trail soon crosses Middle Prong on a foot bridge and will cross a couple more side creeks. After about 1.5 miles into the hike, the road bed forms a small circle. At the opposite side of the circle, the trail becomes a foot trail and this is where the beauty of the forest really becomes evident. The trail follows Ramsey Prong and at just over 2 miles into the hike, crosses the stream on a foot bridge. The trail then passes through beautiful old growth forest - one of the sections of the park that was basically untouched by logging before the park was formed. Two large poplars really stand out as the trail passes between them.
At 3 miles or so, the trail gets more difficult as it becomes rocky and rooty in places. In wet weather the trail can look like a small creek and you may end up with wet feet. Just before you reach Ramsey Cascades, you'll be scrambling over rocks and using roots for hand holds and steps. Once you finally reach the waterfall, be very careful and don't climb on the wet rocks around the waterfall! Several people have died here doing just that. Even if you don't die and just get hurt, the rescue people have a long way to come to carry you out.
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