Great Smoky Mountains Natl. Park — While the Great Smoky Mountains are gorgeous in any season, some of the trails are not accessible year-round. One hike in the Greenbrier area, however, is a local favorite no matter the weather or calendar date.
Porters Creek Trail is an easy to moderately difficult trek at roughly 4 miles roundtrip to Fern Branch Falls with just shy of 700 feet of elevation gain. The trail follows along Porters Creek and passes the Ownby-Longbranch Cemetery early on.
Around 1 mile in, the path branches off to the Brushy Mountain Trail on the right where hikers can see the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club Barn and historic Messer Cabin. To get to the falls, stay on Porters Creek Trail.
Fern Branch Falls is a common turnaround point, but the trail does continue on for roughly 1.7 miles to Backcountry Campsite 31.
What to expect on the trail:
Porters Creek Trail was reopened in late April 2023 after the national park finished repairs on the trail. Much of the Greenbrier area closed in July 2022 after flooding damaged and washed out many trails and parts of Greenbrier Road.
While this trail is a year-round favorite, it is most popular for springtime wildflower viewing.
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.
- Dress in layers.
- 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.
- Pets are not allowed on the trail.
- 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.