“A great run past a popular waterfall followed by a peaceful climb to a remote fire tower.
— David Hitchcock
Fall Colors · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife
is one of the more popular waterfalls in the park, and the trail to this point can be a bit crowded, but the falls are worth the run to see them. Past the falls is some of the beautiful, quiet running that the Smokies are known for. It is definitely recommended that you extend your run if you have time for a day trip up to the Cove Mountain Fire Tower.
Closed when the Little River Road is closed from the Townsend Y to Sugarlands Visitor Center. For park road conditions, information can be found at twitter.com/smokiesroadsnps or by calling (865) 436-1200 and dialing extension 2, 2.
Paved for the first 1.1 miles to the falls, but busy with lots of families hiking in the area during the course of the day. Consider running early in the morning to avoid the crowds.
From the Sugarlands Visitor Center, go 3.8 miles on the Little River Road. The main parking lot for Laurel Falls
is on both sides of the road at the trailhead, with additional parking in lots on either side of the gap. From the Townsend "Y" intersection, take the Little River Road 13.7 miles to the Laurel Falls Trailhead.
As you start from the parking lot, follow the paved trail to Laurel Falls
, an 80-foot waterfall that offers great photo opportunities, despite the number of people who will probably be there. The first portion of the Laurel Falls Trail
is one of the most popular trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park due to it being paved, having only 300 feet of elevation gain, and a rewarding view of 80-foot Laurel Falls
about 1.1 miles into the trail.
Once you have taken all of your photos, continue on the trail up the hill. This is the beginning of your 2.9-mile climb to the top of Cove Mountain, and once you pass the falls, you'll have a relatively quiet run in the woods to the top of Cove Mountain. At Cove Mountain there is an old fire tower that now serves as an air quality monitoring station with limited views into Wears Valley, an area outside of the park.
You'll wind through a quiet forest, some areas which were not heavily logged by the various lumber companies in the early 1900s. About three miles into the trail, you'll find the intersection of the Little Greenbrier Trail
, which you can take down to the Little Greenbrier School and Metcalf Bottoms via the Little Brier Gap Trail
Continuing on the Laurel Falls Trail
for another 0.9 miles, you end up at the intersection of the Cove Mountain Trail
. Turn left up the hill to the Cove Mountain Fire Tower. This is a great place to grab a snack or have lunch before returning to your car via the path you came.
Flora & Fauna
Mountain laurel around the falls.