Trail: Ramsey Cascades Trail
Type: Out & Back
Surface: Old Gravel Road, Forest Trail
Distance: 8 miles
Time: 6 hours
Foot Traffic: Not Crowded
Restrooms: Greenbrier Road Picnic Areas (backcountry regulations)
Highlights: Waterfalls, Streams, Wildflowers, Footbridges, Magnificent Trees
Ramsey Cascades Trail Trailhead
From Gatlinburg: At traffic light #3 in Gatlinburg, turn off of US 441 and drive east on US 321 for 6.0 miles. Turn right onto Greenbrier Road (Greenbrier Road does not have a sign, so look for the large Great Smoky Mountains National Park sign just before crossing the Little Pigeon River). Drive 3.1 miles on Greenbrier Road then turn left. You will reach the Ramsey Cascades Trail trailhead in another 1.5 miles.
Ramsey Cascades Trail Description
Ramsey Cascades | Photo: Anthony Jones
Ramsey Cascades Trail begins on an old gravel road, transforms into a narrow forest trail, and ends on rather difficult rocky terrain.
Not only does the trail surface change over the 4.0 miles, the rise in elevation is 2,280 feet, leading to a “strenuous” rating for this trail.
The payoff is a beautiful waterfall.
Along the way, hikers experience old-growth forest, dreadfully rare in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
This area of the park somehow escaped the commercial logging of the early 1900’s that stripped most of the trees from the mountains.
Old Growth Forest | Photo: Michael Hicks
The result is large, magnificent, old-growth trees. A few reach nearly 150 feet in height and some nearly 7 feet in diameter.
Expect to see large basswoods, yellow birches, tulip trees, silver bells, and eastern hemlocks, especially after the 2.0 mile mark.
Ramsey Cascades Trail shadows the Ramsey Prong of the Little Pigeon River. Several river crossings on the way up give hikers an opportunity to enjoy the sights and sounds of the river.
A little more than halfway to the cascades, a narrow, single-log footbridge crosses high above the river, about 10 to 15 feet. This can be quite unnerving for someone averse to heights. Just hold on to the rail and DO IT!
Ramsey Cascades is the tallest waterfall in Great Smoky Mountains National Park at 105 feet. The beautiful waterfall drops down rock outcroppings and gathers in a small pool.
There are several places to get great photos with the waterfall in the background.
IMPORTANT: Do not attempt to climb the falls. Several people died trying to climb to the top. It is very dangerous. DON’T DO IT!
Nearby Points of Interest
Porter Creek Trail trailhead is at the end of Greenbrier Road. Not many people hike this trail even though it has great historical buildings. In addition, nearby Old Settlers Trail has the most historical remnants of any trail in the Smoky Mountains.