“A sweet out and back run with old-growth forest, cascading streams, and a beautiful waterfall.
— Tony Gayda
This trail runs along side cascading streams and becomes progressively more difficult as it goes. The reward for your efforts is a fabulous waterfall at the end (turn around).
River/Creek — Waterfall — Wildflowers
The drive to the trailhead is a long gravel road that narrows to one car width at several points. There are a couple vehicle bridge crossing as well that are only a single car width. It is not a difficult drive, but one that requires you to stay aware of drivers coming from the opposite direction.
The first 1.5 miles of the trail from the parking area would be fine for running as the incline is moderate and the trail is wide. As you progress further in on the trail, it will narrow, can be muddy or even flowing with shallow water. There are also some steeper sections as well as plenty of roots, small rocks, rock steps, a foot log, stream crossings, and finally a minor rock scramble to the base of the falls.
The trailhead will be at the east end of the parking area. The trail begins as an extension of the gravel road from the parking area and quickly crosses over the Middle Prong of Little Pigeon River via a foot bridge. The first 1.5 miles is easy as the trail follows an old jeep road.
At about 2.1 miles, there is a side stream that crosses the trail and then beyond that a typical GSMNP foot log used to cross over the Ramsey Prong. The trail crosses Ramsey Prong again around 2.9 miles.
As you get close to the end of the trail and the waterfall, the trail becomes more rugged as you scramble over rocks and roots and also encounter a small rock staircase. You'll need to rock hop one more stream and then scramble up some large boulders to get to the base of the waterfall. Be very careful on the large boulders at the base of the waterfall as they can be very slippery. You may also want to bring a rain coat or poncho as the waterfall can produce a lot of mist if there is enough flow from recent rains.
In the springtime you may be able to spot yellow trillium, wild geranium, showy orchis, and creeping phlox. There are also sections that contain dense forest with rhododendron, moss, and ferns.
The Ramsey Cascades Trail is named after the Ramsey family that once lived in the area. The trail name was once spelled Ramsay, but has been more recently updated to Ramsey to properly reflect the spelling of the family name.