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Grotto Falls



2.6 mile 4.2 kilometer loop
85% Runnable


Ascent: 515' 157 m
Descent: -516' -157 m
High: 3,690' 1,125 m
Low: 3,174' 968 m


Avg Grade: 7% (4°)
Max Grade: 20% (11°)


No Dogs
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One of the few waterfalls you can run behind in the Smokies.

Michael Flanigan

Features Fall Colors · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall

Roaring Fork Motor Trail is closed during the winter. Check the NPS site for road closures to make sure that the road is open.


A fun and relatively easy run that can be enjoyed by the entire family.

Runner Notes

Very rocky and a lot of roots at certain points on the trail. The trail also narrows down at points.


The trail is not too steep and is in pretty good shape. There are spots that have a lot of roots or are pretty rocky, but most of the trail is dirt until the last 150 ft or so around the waterfall. There are a few places where shallow (< 2 inches deep) streams run across the trail. Most of these you can get through without getting wet.

Along the trail, there are several places that you give you a good view of the area. We also saw several different insect species (butterflies, millipedes, and caterpillars) on or near the trail. My son loved looking for these insects which kept him interested as we were running.

The run took us a little over 2 hours, but we also stopped and had snacks at the waterfall and took several pictures. Going to the falls, the trail is all uphill even though it is not very steep. But what goes up, must come down! When running with a small child, it's nice to be able to say "it's all downhill from here".

The only drawback to this trail is that parking can be difficult. It is a pretty popular trail being so close to Gatlinburg. The actual parking for this trail is a fairly small lot, and there are lots of cars on the side of the road. We ended up parking about half a mile from the actual trail on a gravel shoulder.

Other than the parking, this was a fun run with our family.

Flora & Fauna

Salamanders and varying insects that my 6 year old liked.

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Sep 8, 2018
Shawn Lancaster

Trail Ratings

  4.4 from 41 votes


in Roaring Fork


  4.4 from 41 votes
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in Roaring Fork


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2,285 Since Sep 4, 2017



Grotto Falls
Sep 4, 2015 near Gatlinburg, TN
Grotto Falls in background with rock path on the right. Taken November 2018 on a rainy/snowy ascent of Mt. Laconte. A little rain makes the creek crossings swollen. Socks were damp to say the least even with Gortex leather mid-hiking boots.
Nov 11, 2019 near Gatlinburg, TN
Pack Llamas
Mar 2, 2020 near Gatlinburg, TN
Leave Only Your Footprints. The scene from Grotto Falls after a February morning snow fall in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. From Dec. to mid-March, the trail begins at the Rainbow Falls Trailhead (6 miles r/t). Rest of the year, you can begin at Trillium Gap Trailhead for a 2.6-mile hike.
Apr 7, 2016 near Gatlinburg, TN
Standing behind Grotto Falls with my son.
Sep 6, 2017 near Gatlinburg, TN


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