Spruce Falls – 2 miles round trip.
Trailhead: From Townsend take US 73, turn right toward Cades Cove. Go two tenths of mile and turn left on Tremont Road. At two miles, turn left into Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont. Park in the parking lot and walk along the paved road until it ends. The trail marked Falls Trail is to the left.
Spruce Falls has been called an “undiscovered jewel” of the Smokies. The hike to the base of the falls is only a mile in length, it is fairly difficult, steep, and narrow in places, traversing some fairly large boulders.
From the paved road, the trail takes steep switchbacks beneath an evergreen canopy past the institute’s water tank, to a crest where you can catch your breath, and listen to the roar of the Middle Prong of Little River and great views of the Smokies and the valley below.
Then there is a series of ups and downs through a variety of vegetation along the side of steep slopes. There are two stream crossings, both are fairly easy to cross, just a little rock hopping. At the second crossing you’ll pause and try to figure out where the trail goes. Just follow it directly across and you will see where the trail picks back up.
At a plateau, you will again hear the roar of the river and see it and Tremont Road below. You will head down a laurel bowered trail, and soon you’ll be making the final steep descent to the base of the falls.
Spruce Flats Falls is also known as Three Step Falls. It is described as a four cascade, 125-foot drop/320 foot run. However there are upper falls which can be seen only from above a exceedingly steep trail that crosses Spruce Falls Creek at the base of the falls.
Most hikers are content with the beauty of the lower falls, where large rocks circling the picturesque pool fed by the cascades make a pleasant place to sit and soak in the beauty of this beautiful fall.