Great Smoky Mountains Natl. Park — Hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains doesn't necessarily mean you have to commit to several hours or multiple days.
There are plenty of quick treks included in the over 800 miles of trails in the national park.
At just over 1 mile round trip on a well-marked path with minimal elevation change, the trip to Cataract Falls is considered an easy hike on the Cove Mountain Trail.
Starting at the Sugarlands Visitor Center, you'll follow the Fighting Creek Nature Trail until it runs into Cove Mountain Trail then continue on until you make it to the 25-foot falls. The park asks visitors not to climb on the rocks around the falls for their own safety.
If you want to add a little more to your journey, the Fighting Creek Nature Trail is a looped easy-to-moderate hike at just around 1.5 miles and passes by the historic John Ownby Cabin.
If you have your pets in tow, the Gatlinburg Trail is also nearby. At just shy of 4 miles, this easy trail is the only one on the Tennessee side of the park that allows dogs.
Cataract Falls is in a very popular area so expect to share it with other hikers and joggers. This area also has some black bear activity and can shut down at times until they move on.
What to expect on the trail:
Some tips before you visit:
- Let someone know where you plan to hike, when you plan to be back, what clothes you are wearing and what your car looks like.
- Wear sunscreen and bug spray.
- Pack plenty of water and snacks.
- Take a light source with you (preferably not your phone). The park said the number one reason people have to get rescued in the park is not bringing a light.
- Keep an eye on the weather.
- Be courteous to other park visitors.
- Leave the plants and wildlife alone.
- Have a backup plan if the trail is closed or too busy.
- Check on road closures at twitter.com/smokiesroadsnps.
- Make sure to have a parking tag.