August 23, 2013
by Julie Dodd
Nature’s air conditioning. That’s what you experience by standing by Laurel Falls.
The July day when I made this hike, the temperature in Gatlinburg, Tenn., was in the 90s. Here at Laurel Falls, the temperature was pleasant, and the mist from the falls refreshing. (You can almost feel the mist from my photo.)
This photo shows why Laurel Falls is one of the most popular hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The falls are beautiful — and were enhanced by heavy rain the previous week.
The hike has other qualities that make it a favorite.
The hike is 2.6 miles round trip. That’s a do-able length for most people in moderate physical shape. And the great view makes it a distance that some people will try to do that will push them. The National Park Service website says to allow about two hours for the hike. Be sure to carry water — and enough for everyone in your group.
The trail is less than four miles from the National Park Service Visitor Center just outside of Gatlinburg. So getting to the trail itself doesn’t require a long drive.
The Laurel Falls Trail is paved. When you walk the trail, you will encounter numerous families with strollers. For small children and those with mobility issues, the paved trail makes the hike to the falls accessible. Even though the trail is paved, it is steep in place. I wouldn’t recommend flip flops or heels as footwear — but I did both of those on the trail.