Spruce Flats Falls

Spruce Flats Falls receives fewer visitors than some of the other waterfalls in the Smokies, but I think it's one of the nicest in the park. The hike is about 2 miles round trip and is moderate to difficult. Probably not for smaller children, but bigger kids should be OK. You could combine this one with a hike to Lynn Camp Prong cascades and have a very full day in the area. The photos are from both a spring and fall visit.

Directions: From the Sugarlands Visitor Center, drive west on Little River Rd for 17.6 miles to the intersection of Laurel Creek Rd and TN 73, also known as the Townsend Wye. Bear left on Laurel Creek Road towards Tremont and Cades Cove. In .2 miles, turn left on the road towards the Great Smoky Mountain Institute. Drive 2 miles up this road and turn left across Middle Prong. Park at the Institute parking area for the trail on the right.

Begin the hike by walking up the paved road towards the Institute staff housing cabins. Pass the buildings and look for the sign saying 'Falls Trail'. The trail ascends quickly up a series of switchbacks passing a water tower along the way. After maybe 10 minutes or so, you may notice a fork in the trail - bear to the right and stay on the main trail. At just under 1/2 a mile from the parking area, the trail crosses a small wet weather branch. The trail gets a little rough here and up to the crossing of Bull Branch at just over 1/2 mile in. The trail is less obvious here, but continue straight and up to a point. From here the trail, bears left and down the remaining distance to the cove that holds Spruce Flats Branch and the waterfall.

The main waterfall in the background of the above image is 25-30' high. The stream then flows a short distance and over the smaller drop in the foreground. If the rocks aren't wet, you should be able to get closer for a better view of the main falls as shown in the video and additional photos.



Depending on the water level, you may be able to cross the creek without getting your feet wet and continue to the top of the next drop of the stream before it meets Middle Prong. A steep scramble will get you to the base of this section. Do not attempt to cross Middle Prong at this point to get over to the road and back down to the parking area. The river is very swift and the rock bottom is very slippery. One slip and you'll be a goner. The last photo is the very bottom section of the waterfall.


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