Only at Grotto Falls can you actually walk behind the cascading waterfall, one of the most unique views and photo opportunities in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Take the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and then follow the Trillium Gap trailhead to reach Grotto Falls.
A roundtrip hike to Grotto Falls measures 2.6 miles and generally takes the average hiker about two to three hours—allowing for a casual stroll to enjoy nature and the scenic landscape. During your time on the Grotto Falls Trail, you will cross four small streams without the help of a bridge.
The Trillium Gap Trail leading to Grotto Falls offers views of vibrant foliage, including large hemlock trees and a variety of wildflowers. You’ll see both yellow and white trillium, from which the trail takes its name as well as snowy white violets and the delicate blooms of stitchwort. Dutchman’s breeches also can be found along this trail. Look for the white blooms that resemble men’s pants hanging by their cuffs from a clothesline. The wildflowers are especially vibrant in May (late spring).
En route to the 25-foot waterfall, be prepared for a gentle, but steady ascent—an elevation gain of 585 feet. The trail is considered an easy to moderate hike, requiring sturdy shoes and the ability to walk along an uneven, unpaved nature trail. Although it can be a little strenuous, it is completely worth it because at the end of the Grotto Falls Trail, the magnificent waterfall waits for you!
You’ll enjoy the soothing sounds of the falling water and maybe catch sight of a salamander or two at this natural oasis. Many visitors describe the experience of walking behind the thunderous power of the waterfall to be the highlight of the trip.
Visitors have the opportunity to hear the fall’s power and see the water cascaded into the pool in front of them. Walking behind a large waterfall is an experience like none other and should not be missed!
After the waterfall, if you wish to continue to the 6593-foot summit of Mount Leconte, use our Trillium Gap Trail hike review to guide you there.