The 80-foot high Laurel Falls and the Laurel Branch derive their names from the mountain laurel, an evergreen shrub abundant along the trail. The waterfall has an upper and lower section divided by a walkway that crosses the stream at the base of the upper section. Over the years, Laurel Falls has gained a huge following to become one of the most popular destinations within the park. Today, the location receives visits year-round, with most weekends seeing large crowds. During summer, more people stream in both on weekends and weekdays to enjoy the scenic view offered by the Laurel Falls.

Read on to find out more about the Laurel Falls Trail, including information about the hike, directions, and potential wildlife sightings.

Will I See Bears on the Laurel Falls Trail?

Yes, you should expect to see black bears. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to many black bears that are likely to wander onto the trail during the day. Despite the excitement of seeing bears while on the trail, it’s best to keep your distance and stay safe.

Directions to Laurel Falls Trail

From Pigeon Forge:

Take the US-321 N/US-441 S/Parkway for 5.7 miles until you reach the National Park exit. Continue onto Gatlinburg Bypass for 3.5 miles, then merge onto US-441 S. After that, take a right onto Fighting Creek Gap Road and keep going for 4.6 miles. 

From Gatlinburg:

Head northeast toward East Pkwy, then slight right. Take a right onto Baskins Creek Bypass, which will turn into Newton Lane after 0.5 miles. Turn right onto Cherokee Orchard Rd. In 0.2 miles, continue onto US-441 S for 2.5 miles. Then, turn right onto Fighting Creek Gap Road and follow this road for 4.6 miles.

Turn toward Cades Cove on Little River Road and drive about 3.8 miles to the parking lot for Laurel Falls from the Sugarlands Visitor Center. From here, the parking lot will be on your right, with additional parking across the street. The trailhead is easily visible from the parking area. 

When traveling from the Townsend Wye intersection by Cades Cove, the Laurel Falls trailhead is about 14 miles. 

From Oak Haven Resort:

Want easy access to the Laurel Falls Trail? There’s a secret entrance into Great Smoky Mountains National Park directly from Oak Haven Resort. Follow the signs towards the park through Wears Valley, TN to Line Springs Road where you will find the Wears Valley National Park entrance on Wear Cove Gap Road. This will cut 30 minutes off of your drive! Click here for directions from Oak Haven Resort.

Parking fills up fast during peak season (summer), so be sure to get here early in the day, on a weekday, or during the off-peak season. 

Is there a Bathroom at Laurel Falls Trail?

Unfortunately not, so it’s best to use the bathroom before leaving, or make a stop at the Sugarlands Visitor Center before proceeding to the trailhead.

Why Is Laurel Falls Trail Paved?

The Laurel Fall Trail was originally built in 1932 to provide fire crews with access to the Cove Mountain area in case of a forest fire. A grant from the 1963 Accelerated Works Project to the Department of Interior was used to pave the Laurel Falls Trail. This project aimed to manage the soil erosion problem that was frequent in the area. 

How Long Does It Take to Hike Laurel Falls, and Do I Have to Pay?

A roundtrip distance to the waterfall is approximately 2.6 miles. According to experts, the trail has moderate difficulty, meaning you may take up to two hours to hike to the waterfall and back. Always remember to carry plenty of water with you. And keep in mind that pets and bicycles are not allowed on the trail. It’s best to go over the restrictions within the park to avoid penalties. 

There are no fees or reservations required for hiking Laurel Falls, and parking is also free to all visitors. However, between September 7 and October 3, 2021, the National Park Service carried out a pilot program to help ease congestion. This program was designed to limit on-site parking to visitors who made reservations through Visitors were provided with shuttle services to ferry them from Gatlinburg to the trailhead at a fee. Currently, there are no pilot programs in the park, and there is no communication on any new program to be piloted. 

Is Laurel Falls an Easy Hike?

The Laurel Falls round trip is considered to be moderately difficult. The trail features a 2.6-mile roundtrip on a paved path. Hikers can experience an elevation gain of 314 feet with a moderate 273 feet per mile. 

Can You Swim at Laurel Falls?

Yes. You can swim in one of the two swimming holes found in the fall. The first swimming hole is located at the base of the main, two-tier fall, while the other is a little bit secluded and hidden.

Stay at Oak Haven Resort’s Cabins near Laurel Falls

Oak Haven offers comfortable accommodations with cabins of all sizes. Whether you’re traveling solo, with your partner, or the whole family in tow, our luxury cabins offer plenty of amenities with a convenient location near all that Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg have to offer. Book your cabin today! 

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