When you visit the Smokies, you definitely don’t want to miss out on some of the most popular hidden gems in the area. Why not spend a little time exploring some of the more “hidden” hiking trails in the mountains? Here’s a few Smoky Mountains hiking trails you’ll want to experience, but probably didn’t even know much about:
Hen Wallow Falls
Highlights: wildflower viewing, hiking trails
The trip to Hen Wallow Falls is a pleasant walk through hemlock and rhododendron forest. A signed side trail leads to the base of the falls by way of steep switchbacks. Hen Wallow Creek, only two feet wide at the top of the falls, fans out to 20 feet at the base. The waterfall is 90 feet high. If you look carefully in the water at the base of the falls, you can often find salamanders.
The hike to the falls is 4.4 miles roundtrip and considered moderate in difficulty. Hikers continuing on the Gabes Mountain Trail beyond the falls can enjoy an impressive old-growth forest. It takes about 3-4 hours to hike to the waterfall and back.
Park in the designated hiker parking area at Cosby Picnic Area (near the entrance to Cosby Campground). Then backtrack on foot approximately 100 yards along the road to the signed start of the Gabes Mountain Trail.
Gabes Mountain Trail
After making it to Hen Wallow Falls, many hikers continue onto Gabes Mountain Trail to see the diversity in old-growth forest found surrounding the trail. If you continue along Gabes Mountain Trail, be sure to add a couple more hours to your hiking time. We recommend getting an early start if you plan this hiking adventure, so you can make it back before evening.
Greenbrier Hiking Area
Highlights: wildflowers, picnic areas, walking trails, fishing
The drive to the Ramsey Cascades trailhead provides good wildflower viewing from your car, while the Porters Creek Trail makes a good wildflower walk. Ramsey Cascades is another popular trail in the area with good wildflower viewing opportunities. From the trailhead, it’s 4.0 miles to the cascades, which are the tallest in the Smokies.
Six miles of mostly gravel road follow the river and its tributaries into the upper Greenbrier area. Bicycling is permitted on Greenbrier roads but is prohibited on all trails. The Greenbrier Picnic Area is open year round. Trout fishing is open year round.
Rich Mountain Road
Rich Mountain Road is an 8-mile, one-way, gravel road that provides stunning views down into Cades Cove. The road heads north from the Cove over Rich Mountain to Tuckaleechee Cove and then back into Townsend, TN. The entrance for Rich Mountain Rd. is near the halfway point around the Cades Cove Loop Road and across from Cades Cove Missionary Baptist Church.
Rich Mountain Road is also a great place to see wildlife. If you stay alert you’re likely to catch sight of a black bear, deer or one of many other species of wildlife. The road is closed during the winter months and may also be closed due to heavy rains at other times throughout the year.