Laurel Falls Trail

Anna and her sons write about their experience of Laurel Falls Trail, in TN, USA.

Laurel Falls Trail
Top of the Laurel Falls 

Laurel Falls Trail is a very popular hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN. It is a trail that leads to a gorgeous waterfall called Laurel Falls.

Parking at  Laurel Falls Trail seems to always be a little problematic. It must be a popular trail because of the falls or maybe because there have been attempts to make the trail more accessible by means of a paved path. We don't know the exact reason but we are never put off by the number of tourist hiking there. Even though the parking spots are limited in the main parking, people can put their car in an additional parking lot a bit further away from the main one, or on the sides of the road.

The hike itself is not long, it is paved and quite easy to do. The pavement hasn't been mended in a long time by the looks of it so it is not your usual smooth and in one piece sidewalk. The nature always trying to take back its territory and refusing to become tame and easy is reclaiming this human attempt to bring some convenience in the middle of it. Nevertheless we have seen parents handling strollers with a lot of cunning and skill that only people with small kids are known to be able to muster in such circumstances.

path side attractions on the trail

We have been there many times as it is a place where our kids love to try their skill at stone stepping, balance walking on logs, climbing and attempting new ways of crossing over to the other side of the stream at the end of the waterfall. Just walking through the forest and seeing so many people all over the country smiling and going where you are going or coming back is quite enjoyable as well.

crossing over the log

In the spring, pink and white mountain laurels make the hike even more pleasant. The water in the waterfall is abundant in this season, as well, not so abundant, though, in the fall when it doesn't rain so much and the water dries out. We love to see the colours of the fall and we don't mind the water is not so plentiful in the fall, the kids love it because they have more boulders to climb in the stream and more stepping stones to try stepping on. In the winter, be careful when walking over the stones and tree roots. Next to the stream they are covered in an invisible coating of ice that can prove to be very slippery. In the winter, the trail is not so crowded and the falls are beautiful and full of water.  So in every season the hike is worth doing.

Boulders in the falls are a playground for kids and adults alike

Mihai, 14

Laurel Falls is a short trail about an hour away from Knoxville, TN by car. It is usually crowded because it is paved and has a very nice waterfall at the end.

We went there a few times, but sometimes we didn't stay for various reasons. When it was not raining, the trail was crowded, and when it was raining, the trail was wet AND crowded. A hurricane could have passed through the region and the trail would probably still be crowded.

Sometimes, we were lucky enough to find a parking spot (sometimes quite far from the trail) and decided to visit the fabled waterfall. Once as we climbed out of the car, I saw a few other people giving us dirty looks and then driving away.

We had to hike a bit to get to the entrance of the path, but we soon got there. The trail is not only paved, but is not very steep, so it is very easy, although it has enough curves to give you mild nausea if you watched a time-lapse of someone hiking it.

on the trail three years ago

Unfortunately, most of the trail is very boring, so I won't talk about it, but eventually, we get to a part which is clear of trees, and we could see into the valley. The first time we went here, I was constantly being warned not to step too close to the edge so that I don't fall off.

When you actually get to the waterfall, the sight is worth the hike. A medium-size waterfall falls into a valley with some logs in it. I and my brother (and cousins) usually go down into the valley to climb some logs, which is quite fun (and dangerous).

with cousins at the top of the falls three years ago

Laurel Falls Trail is:

The green pine trees blocking our view of the forest floor;
The roaring of the waterfall crashing onto the rocks;
The massive icicles on the side of the path;
The brown mulch in a gully next to the road;
The crowded parking lot next to the entrance of the trail.

I would go again when there are fewer people (although that might never happen).

Paul, 11

A week ago we went again to Laurel Falls Trail.  This particular trail was very smartly designed, since the path to the waterfall is paved.

view from the path, in the winter

On the path were many shortcuts that went off-road, which we used. This trail is not for the faint of heart because it is long, steep, and crowded, all of which makes it exhausting.  From the path, if you look to your left, you can see the mountains in the distance. I usually think that they look like jagged spikes rising out of the earth.

the descend to the tail of the waterfall 

When we arrived at the waterfall, we had an amazing idea. Our idea was to climb to the bottom of the falls and look upwards. This in itself was tricky since we had to climb rocks, cross fallen trees, and descend into small caves. At one point we had to cross an old, rickety log that crossed the river. When we arrived at the bottom, we took a short break, then began the treacherous hike back up again.

last time we went there

I would go again to Laurel Falls so that I could climb to the top of the waterfall.

Laurel Falls is for me:

The sound of twigs cracking on their deathbeds of stone.
The breeze tussling my hair.
The cold water seeping down the mountainside.
The view of many mountains in the distance
The off-road shortcuts leading to the far side of the path.