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Laurel Falls to Cove Mountain Fire Tower

Intermediate
 3.9 (26) RECOMMENDED ROUTE

A great run past a popular waterfall followed by a peaceful climb to a remote fire tower.


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Map Key

8.4

Miles

13.4

KM

82%

Runnable

4,055' 1,236 m

High

2,291' 698 m

Low

1,781' 543 m

Up

1,781' 543 m

Down

8%

Avg Grade (5°)

24%

Max Grade (13°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Fall Colors · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife

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.

Overview

Laurel Falls 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.

Runner Notes

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.

Description

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.

Contacts

Shared By:

David Hitchcock

Trail Ratings

  3.9 from 26 votes

#3

in Elkmont

#906

Overall
  3.9 from 26 votes
5 Star
35%
4 Star
38%
3 Star
15%
2 Star
4%
1 Star
8%
Recommended Route Rankings

#3

in Elkmont

#906

Overall
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4,889 Since Aug 4, 2016
Intermediate

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Photos

Hike the popular 2.3 mile roundtrip trail to reach the 80 foot Laurel Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The falls is broken up in an upper and lower section with a narrow bridge cutting across. This photo is shot at the bottom of the lower section of the falls.
Apr 7, 2016 near Gatlinburg, TN
Laurel Falls by Smoky Moments Photography. Please don't attempt to climb on and around the falls. Several people have been seriously hurt falling on the slippery surfaces.
Oct 5, 2017 near Gatlinburg, TN
Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Laurel Falls
Jan 21, 2016 near Gatlinburg, TN
Vista on Laurel Falls Trail. Overlooking The Smoky Mountains.
Nov 24, 2015 near Gatlinburg, TN
Laurel Falls Hiking Trail.
Nov 24, 2015 near Gatlinburg, TN
Laurel Falls Trail.
Nov 22, 2015 near Gatlinburg, TN

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Check-Ins

Mar 23, 2019
Jason McClung
8mi — 1h 20m
Sep 8, 2018
Shawn Lancaster
Nov 14, 2017
Chris Gaddy
Lots of leaves covering roots and rocks. Beautiful and peaceful run nevertheless. 10.1mi
Apr 5, 2017
Chris Gaddy
Nice and quiet after passing the falls. 8.1mi