The Great Smoky Mountains are famous for waterfalls, and Hen Wallow Falls is a spectacular example! Tucked away in Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s northeast section, this tall horsetail waterfall—a popular tourist attraction since the first half of the 20th century—makes an excellent day hike destination.
The moderate hike to Hen Wallow Falls is a 4.4-mile out-and-back along the Gabes Mountain Trail involving about 900 feet of total elevation gain. Allocate 3-4 hours for the venture, given you’ll want to linger at the transfixing cascade before turning around.
To reach Hen Wallow Falls, take the Gabes Mountain Trail from the Cosby Picnic Area in Cosby Cove. You’ll head southwest and then west on historic wagon roads, crossing Rock Creek and then a few headwater branches of Crying Creek as you make your way up the tributary vale of Bearneck Cove.
Bearneck Cove cuts into the northern footslopes of Snake Den Mountain, and the trail steepens as you climb its flanks. You’ll eventually turn north out of the upper reaches of the cove, leaving the old road that bygone daytrippers once used to get closer to the waterfall. You’ll cross a saddle and skirt another drainage; watch for old chimneys and other signs of former settler presence.
Roughly a mile and a half or so from the trailhead, you’ll reach Bearneck (or Messer) Gap. The gravesite of Molly Sutton marks this pass.
You’ll sidehill your way onward toward the ravine of Lower Falling Branch of Hen Wallow Creek. Just past the two-mile mark, you’ll hit the steep access trail that drops down to the foot of Hen Wallow Falls.
Though the waterfall (like any in the Great Smokies) is most impressive after heavy rainfall, it’s always a sight to see. The creek’s a mere two feet or so wide at the lip of the falls; as it peals down the mossy rockbed, the sheet expands to 20 feet.
Gabes Mountain Trail continues on to intersect the Madden Bald and Old Settlers trails, but you’ll retrace your steps after relishing the waterfall scenery as long as you’d like.
-Look for salamanders in the pools below the falls. The Great Smoky Mountains and the Southern Appalachians in general are a global hotspot of diversity for these long-tailed amphibians, and this is a productive site for spotting them.
-Black bears frequently forage in the vicinity of the Gabes Mountain Trail: Stay aware and consult park literature and/or rangers so you know what to do if you run into one.
-A hike out to Hen Wallow Falls in wintertime is well worth it: Gorgeous ice formations often mark the waterfall’s frigid plunge.
From Light #3 in downtown Gatlinburg, which is located at the intersection of Parkway and 321, head East on 321 out of town. You will drive east on 321 for approximately 18.1 miles. 321/East Parkway will dead-end into Highway 32 – turn right towards Cosby. Continue on Highway 32 for 1.2 miles to the park entrance. Turn right into the park and continue 2 miles to the Gabes Mountain trailhead (right-side of street). You will want to park at the Cosby Picnic Area on the left-side of the street.