As I mentioned in my Cades Cove Loop post, Stop #5 of the loop was Abrams Falls. The 5 mile moderately steep hike to and from the falls took me 3 hours total, not bad at all in my opinion. I just felt considering the time I spent on this particular hike and the number of pictures I took that it deserved its own post.
The Abrams Falls trailhead is located at the end of a gravel side road off the main loop. I recommend using the bathroom (read ‘latrine’) before heading out since it’ll be the last chance you get for a few hours. When I arrived at the parking lot, mine was one of only a dozen cars already there.
The trail itself, classified as “moderately difficult” starts off relatively easy, mostly level and made of dirt, but quickly becomes steep and rocky. Unlike truly strenuous trails, however, it’s not a continuous climb, and about three-quarters of the way there’s a lovely brief plateau with some larger rocks, which can double as a resting place before beginning the descent down to the base of the falls.
Sadly there are no mile markers along the way, but anyone who hikes on a regular basis gets pretty decent at being able to roughly calculate distance. For those who need something a touch more concrete, there are a total of 5 bridges you have to cross, the first one right as you being the trail and the last merely yards before you reach the base of the falls.
Abrams Falls were gorgeous, emptying into what I can best describe as a swimming hole, and then leading into the river. All the other hikers and I sat on rocks on the embankment, eating our packed lunches and enjoying the breeze. A couple of people, mostly younger men who acted like they had something to prove, hopped in the water and tried to swim up to the falls, despite signs warning people of strong currents.
Like I mentioned at the beginning, it took me 3 hours to hike the trail, including the time I spent resting and eating at the base of the falls. I feel like I could have done it a touch faster, but the humidity, combined with the muddy terrain from all the rain, made speed impractical. By the end of the hike, the back of my legs were covered in mud and grime.
The hardest part of the trail for me were the steep uphill climbs – ever since moving back to Tennessee, away from the mountains of the Southwest, I’ve gotten out of the custom of hiking steep terrain on a regular basis and my calves really started feeling it. Despite the slight muscle fatigue, though, I had a fabulous time. Abrams Falls trail was my first real hike of this vacation and the challenge made me really feel like I had accomplished something.