Hike #19 OF 52 – Trillium Gap to Grotto Falls – Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN




After weeks of sickness, cat sitting, and crazy work overtime overload, I’m finally back to posting!  I actually just returned yesterday from a birthday hiking trip bonanza with my Mom to the Smokies, so I have plenty to share 🙂

We got to our hotel Friday night around midnight, so while Mom and I wanted to get started hiking right away on Saturday, we also acknowledged that sleep and a relatively easy first day would be our best bet so we wouldn’t be exhausted for the entirety of our trip.  After a good night’s sleep and an…interesting continental breakfast situation at the hotel, we hopped in the Jeep and headed down the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, which is a narrow one-way 5.5-mi loop that winds throughout a portion of the Smoky Mountains and contains several trailheads and pull-outs for visitors to immerse themselves in the wilderness.

Mom and I pulled off the motorway at the trailhead for Grotto Falls via Trillium Gap.  At 2.6-mi (roundtrip) and less than 600-ft of climb, it seemed like the perfect start to easing in to our vacation.  The tiny parking lot next to the latrine was full, but Mom’s Jeep was easily able to join the other non-minivans on the side of the road.  Quick word of advice: toilet paper in latrines is hit or miss, especially on busy weekends.  I recommend coming prepared.

There’s something about hitting the trail in the Smokies that’s so incredibly refreshing and familiar: the particular destination may be foreign, but you quickly fall into a rhythm and start chatting with fellow hikers like you’re old friends.  The weather was cool and crisp, with the temperature in the low 50s.  That, in combination with a frequent gentle breeze floating in, made me glad that we had packed (and worn) appropriate layers.

The trail itself was lovely, but the jewel in the crown was definitely Grotto Falls, which is the only waterfall in the Smokies where the trail actually goes behind the falls, allowing for some really great photos.  There were over 20 people at the falls when Mom and I arrived, but everyone was very courteous in taking turns and letting each person get their money shot.

It’s possible to continue on from Grotto Falls further up Trillium Gap to the summit of Brushy Mountain and then on to Mt. LeConte, but we weren’t prepared for that kind of distance, elevation, or strenuousness, so we made the false our turnaround point and headed back.

Fun note: there are warning signs about Llama Trains on Trillium Gap because the llamas use that particular trail to bring supplies up to the Mt. Leconte lodge.  We didn’t see the llamas to or from Grotto Falls, but we did have a lot of fun speculating what it would be like to hike with them.


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