Smoky Mountain Trail: Abrams Falls Trail

Smoky mountain river calm stream with rocks in autumn fall leaves nature

Abrams Falls Trail

Abrams Falls has been one of the most popular waterfall trails in the Smokies. A fairly easy to moderate 5 mile hike that is ideal for the beginner or a family. To get to Abrams Falls you will turn right onto unpaved side road between sign posts #10 and #11 on the one-way side of Cades Cove Loop Road. Plan on roughly two to three hours round trip for this trail.

The trailhead is at the site of the former guest lodge operated by John Oliver in the 1920’s. He was a direct descendent of John Oliver, the first settler in Cades Cove in 1818. Abrams Creek borders the trail, and Abrams Falls was named after Cherokee Chief Abram. He lived in the village of Chilhowee at the mouth of Abrams Creek on the Little Tennessee River. This place is now buried beneath the waters of Chilhowee Lake.

The broad, heavily used path crosses Abrams Creek by bridge just beyond the trailhead. The site and sound of the creek enhance the pleasure of the walkway in all seasons. The wide path runs through a tunnel of rhododendron, not far from the picturesque stream. The trail rises and passes over a low pine ridge. Then it descends to near stream level again. Up and down the path goes four times. The second rise is over Arbutus Ridge, named for trailing arbutus, one of the earliest blooming spring flowers. The trail crosses a dip in the crest of ridge at 1 mile. To the west, the tip of Arbutus Ridge balloons into a mile round circle, which the creek curves. This path provides excellent opportunities to see the underlying bedrock, which is Cades Sandstone. The trail rises again southeast to form strata that are worn away by waterborne sand and rock. Crossing Arbutus Ridge, the leading edge of the hairpin curve passes by sharply titles Cades Sandstone outcrops.

At the falls a 20-foot plunge Abrams Falls is over the resistant ledge of this sandstone. Beyond Arbutus Ridge, the trail rises again on the mountainside above the creek. The trail eventually runs above the falls and drops to Wilson Branch just beyond. Abrams Falls is a delight to see, especially in high water. It flows over a bluff into a broad pool more than a hundred feet across. For those who want to hike further, the hiker can pick up the Hannah Mountain Trail and Hatcher Mountain Trial.