Abrams Falls is one of the most iconic destinations in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so it's well worth visiting this beautiful waterfall near Cades Cove.
To help you get the most out of your experience, we've made this guide with tips and information for hiking to Abrams Falls in the Smoky Mountains!
Abrams Falls Quick Facts
Round Trip Distance: 5.1 Miles
Area of the National Park: Cades Cove
Highlights: 20' Waterfall
About Abrams Falls
This moderately difficult hiking trail is one of the most popular hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and its no secret why. After all, Cades Cove is one of the most visited destinations in the Smokies and Abrams Falls is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the park.
Since this hike only requires a 5.1-mile round trip, it is accessible for many visitors and this hike takes only 3-4 hours at the most.
On your way to the falls, you'll pass through a lovely forest filled with rhododendron, pine, hemlock, and mountain laurel. This hike is moderately difficult because hikers have to ascend and descend several ridges on their way to the falls. Some of these rocky ridges provide nice overlooks into the Abrams Creek Gorge.
After passing over 3 ridges, the trail begins to descend to Abrams Creek. Overall, the hikers descend some 675 feet to the falls.
The main highlight of the Abrams Falls Trail is a large, 20 Ft. tall waterfall that topples over a prominent sandstone cliff. Of all the falls in the park, this one is the largest volume waterfall in the Smokies, so it's always a spectacular sight to behold, even in the drier months.
To the left of Abrams Falls, there is a large rocky beach area where you can enjoy a scenic pool at the base of the falls. During the warm summer months, cool mists from the falls make this a refreshing place to rest before making your return trip to Cades Cove.
Both Abrams Falls and creek are named for a Cherokee chief named Oskuah, who later adopted the name Abram. Oskuah lived several miles downstream from the falls in what is today the Southwestern section of the national park.
Check out this video from the Great Smoky Mountains Association for a sneak peek of what to expect when you hike this excellent trail in the Smokies!
To help you get the most out of your visit to Abrams Falls, here are some local tips!
- Start Your Hike Early – To avoid hiking this trail when it is crowded, it's best to begin your hike before 10 AM.
- Visit During The Offseason - Summer and Autumn are some of the busiest times of year to visit Cades Cove and Abrams Falls. Hiking this trail in the spring or the winter is the best way to enjoy the beauty of Abrams Falls without the crowds. Major holidays also bring large numbers of visitors to the Smokies.
- Visit During Rainy Times of Year – Abrams Falls is even more spectacular when water flows are higher. If you want to see the falls at full throttle, visit during spring and winter when the park sees more rainfall.
- Visit During Weekdays – Weekends are typically busier times to hike this trail, so try planning your hike on a weekday.
Wildlife at Abrams Falls
The Cades Cove region of the park is a great place to spot wildlife and Abrams Falls is no exception. Deer, turkey, and black bears are commonly seen in this area of the park. Please note that bears are more active in the evening and morning hours.
Abrams Falls is also one of the only places you can find one of the national park's rarest residents: river otters.
In the late 1980s, otters were successfully reintroduced to Abrams Creek. Today, some lucky park visitors report seeing these elusive animals to this day along Abrams Creek and nearby streams. Some have even seen otters diving for fish in the large pool at the base of Abrams Falls.
Hiking Trail Safety Tips
Over the years, the Abrams Falls Trail has been the site of numerous injuries and even some deaths. Powerful currents in the pool at the base of the falls have caused several drownings and since 1979, there have been 29 water-related deaths here.
The park service strongly discourages swimming at Abrams Falls.
Another common hazard on the Abrams Falls Trail is falling on slippery rocks. Mist from the falls causes algae to form on nearby rocks, so please exercise caution when walking near the falls.
Please practice these safety tips to make your hike enjoyable and incident free:
- Hike in sturdy shoes with ankle support
- Let someone know where you will be hiking and when you are expected to return
- Bring plenty of food and water
- Give wildlife plenty of space
- Carry a flashlight, even for daytime hikes
- Begin returning well before dark
The national park service provides an excellent list of safety tips for enjoying backcountry destinations in the Great Smoky Mountains like Abrams Falls.
The Abrams Falls trailhead is located on the western end of the Cades Cove Loop just before the Cades Cove Visitor Center. To reach the trailhead, you'll need to drive 4.8 miles of the one-way Cades Cove Loop Road and then turn right onto a gravel road that ends in a parking lot. Here, you'll see a sign for the Abrams Falls Trailhead just before a footbridge. Near the beginning of the hike, you can take a short, 0.5-mile side trail to Elija Oliver's Cabin, which was built in 1818.
Please note that the Cades Cove Loop Road is closed to vehicle traffic on Wednesday and Saturday mornings until 10 AM from May to September.
If you don't mind a longer hike, there is an alternative route you can take from the Abrams Creek Campground to reach Abrams Falls. This hike goes on the Cooper Road Trail and the Little Bottoms Trail to reach Abrams Falls. All in all, this hike is a 9.9-mile round trip and it passes through some of the most remote sections of the national park. Although this hike is longer, it is less traveled than the main route that begins in Cades Cove.
Final Thoughts on Abrams Falls
Though this trail can become crowded from time to time, it's well worth seeing this stunning waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Better yet, this hike is short enough and easy enough for many hikers to enjoy.
Written by Mark Frazier