Abrams Falls, Cades Cove - Abrams Falls Trailhead, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
Abrams Falls - 4.9 miles
Cades Cove - Abrams Falls Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||4.9 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||1,710' - 1,493' (1,790' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||-217' net elevation loss (+702' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Abrams Falls - 4.9 Miles Round-Trip
Abrams Falls is accessible from the west side of Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The falls are named for Cherokee Chief Abram, whose village once thrived several miles downstream.
Though Abrams Falls stands only 20' high, it's one of the most voluminous in the Park. It fills a large pool along Abrams Creek, a wide stream with prolific rhododendron and exceptional fishing.
Abrams Creek is also a stronghold for river otters, which were extirpated in the 1920s and successfully reintroduced in the 1980s. Otters were so prevalent before European settlement that the Cherokees called Cades Cove Tsiyahi, which means Otter Place.
The Abrams Creek Trail follows Abrams Creek through pine-oak, hemlock, and rhododendron forests to the falls. Though it loses elevation, the trail scales two hills each way that make it moderate in difficulty:
The trail heads northwest from the parking area beside the creek. Level banks and a thin understory create good viewing lanes for wildlife, particularly deer, turkey and bear.
The trail gradually leans away from the creek on the first of two climbs around major bends in the river, reaching its highest point after just one mile (1.0 miles : 1,795').
Here the trail tilts downhill on a fast descent through an area thinned by a rare tornado in May 2011.
The trail soon levels by the creek with access to wide, lazy sections ideal for fishing (1.6 miles : 1,634'). After this brief reprieve it climbs another bend, crests (2.1 miles : 1,695'), and drops back to the creek.
The trail shifts quickly in a tangled forest across two bridges to Abrams Falls (2.45 miles : 1,493').
The falls tumble from a wide, 20' wall into a large pool that's naturally dammed by rock and deadfall. Tread carefully on slippery rocks, and be mindful of hidden rocks, snags, and deceptively strong currents in the water.
About Cades Cove
A Cove in Smoky Mountain speak refers to a wide, relatively flat valley bound by mountains or ridges on three sides. Cades Cove is one of the largest and richest such environments in southern Appalachia.
This unique topography and ecosystem attracts black bear, bobcat, turkey, coyote, fox, raccoon, skunk, otter, and snakes in abundance. Several plant and flower species are found only in Cades Coves including pear hawthorn, swamp dewberry, American bladdernut, and buttonbush. A number of grasses and orchids are also exclusive to Cades Cove.
Cherokee Indians hunted Cades Cove for hundreds of years, but archeologists have found little evidence of major settlements. They hunted elk, bison, deer, and bear, securing meats, pelts, and oils that sustained their tribes through long winters.
The first Europeans settled here sometime between 1818 and 1821, establishing homesteads, farms, mills, distilleries, and logging operations. Several dozen buildings from this era remain in pristine condition, and most are visible from Cades Cove Loop Road.
- N35 35.480 W83 51.179 — 0.0 miles : Cades Cove - Abrams Falls Trailhead
- N35 35.728 W83 51.569 — .5 miles : Wide, smooth path beside Abrams Creek
- N35 36.032 W83 51.924 — 1.0 miles : Crest on trail's highest point to falls
- N35 36.320 W83 52.278 — 1.6 miles : Trail relaxes by wide, lazy stretch of creek
- N35 36.499 W83 52.690 — 2.1 miles : Trail drops back to creek after crest #2
- N35 36.566 W83 52.781 — 2.45 miles : Abrams Falls
- Cades Cove and Abrams Falls are two of the most popular destinations in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and heavy traffic can be expected much of the year. Get a very early start to avoid traffic and crowds.
- The Abrams Falls Trail joins the Hannah Mountain Trail and Rabbit Creek Trail to form an 11.2 mile loop. Crowds thin considerably beyond Abrams Falls.
- Bears are active in the Cades Cove - Abrams Creek area. Be mindful of their presence, and follow proper protocols if encountered.
- Though coyote are not endemic to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, they did arrive here on their own. For this reason most scientists do not contest their status as part of the natural biological community.
- Enjoy waterfalls from a safe distance, and be mindful of slippery surfaces in the vicinity. Do not attempt to climb waterfalls. Deaths have occurred at numerous falls throughout the Park, including Abrams Falls.
Camping and Backpacking Information
There are no designated backcountry campsites on the Abrams Falls Trail. Campsites #15 and #16 are located nearby on the Rabbit Creek Trail and Hannah Mtn Trail, respectively.
BACKPACKING IN THE SMOKIES
Great Smoky Mountains National Park requires a permit and advance reservations for all backcountry camping in the park. Before planning your backcountry trip, please read through this important information about reservations and permits, regulations, bear safety, trail closures, and more.
Reserve your Backcountry or Thru Hike permits here: https://smokiespermits.nps.gov/
Please direct questions concerning backpacking trip planning to the Backcountry Information Office at (865) 436-1297. Phone calls are the preferred method of contact. The information office is open daily from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time). In addition to answering your backpacking questions, the experienced backpackers in the Backcountry Information Office can provide you with tips to make your trip safe and enjoyable.
Backpackers and hikers are subject to all Backcountry Rules and Regulations. Failure to abide by park regulations may subject you to a fine under Title 36, Code of Federal Regulations. Maximum fine for each violation is $5,000 and/or 6 months in jail.
General Backcountry Regulations
1. Camping is permitted only at designated backcountry campsites and shelters.
2. You may not stay at any backcountry campsite for more than 3 consecutive nights. You may not stay consecutive nights at campsite 113 or at any shelter.
3. Maximum party size is 8. Two parties affiliated with the same group may not stay in the same campsite or at the same shelter on the same night(s). Special permits may be issued for a few sites that accommodate parties of up to 12.
4. Fires are only allowed at designated campsites and shelters and must be contained in a fire ring. Constructing new fire rings is prohibited. You may only burn wood that is dead and already on the ground. You may not cut any standing wood.
5. It is illegal to possess firewood originating from a location from which a federal or state firewood quarantine is in effect. Read information about this quarantine and the states affected.
6. Building a fire in the fireplace of any historic structure or removing any parts of a historic structure, including brick or rock, is illegal.
7. Backcountry permit holders may not use tents at shelters.
8. Hammocks may only be used within designated backcountry campsites. They may not be used inside shelters and may not be attached to shelters in any way.
9. All odorous items (e.g., food, trash, lip balm, toothpaste, stock feed, hay etc) must be hung on the bear cable system at each campsite or shelter.
10. Human waste must be disposed of at least 100 feet from any campsite, shelter, water source or trail and must be buried in a hole at least 6 inches deep.
11. All food, trash, clothing, equipment or personal items must be packed out.
12. Burning food, trash or anything other than dead wood is prohibited.
13. Carving into or defacing trees, signs, shelters or other backcountry features is illegal.
14. Soap, even biodegradable soap, may not be used in any water sources. Bathing and washing dishes should be done well away from water sources and campsites.
15. No dogs or other pets are allowed on any park trails except the Gatlinburg Trail and the Oconaluftee River Trail. No dogs or other pets may be carried into the backcountry.
16. No motorized vehicles are allowed in the backcountry.
17. No hunting is allowed anywhere in the park
18. Feeding, touching or teasing wildlife is prohibited. You may not willfully approach within 50 yards (150 feet) of elk or bears.
- Fishing is permitted year-round, from 30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset.
- The park allows fishing in all streams except Bear Creek at its junction with Forney Creek, and Lynn Camp Prong upstream of its confluence with Thunderhead Prong.
- A valid fishing license from Tennessee or North Carolina is required to fish in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Either state license is valid throughout the park and no trout stamp is required. Fishing licenses and permits are not available in the park, but may be purchased in nearby towns or online.
- Daily Possession Limits: Five (5) brook, rainbow or brown trout, smallmouth bass, or a combination of these, each day or in possession, regardless of whether they are fresh, stored in an ice chest, or otherwise preserved. The combined total must not exceed five fish. Twenty (20) rock bass may be kept in addition to the above limit. A person must stop fishing immediately after obtaining the limit.
- Size Limits: Brook, rainbow, and brown trout: 7 inch minimum. Smallmouth bass: 7 inch minimum. Rockbass: no minimum. Trout or smallmouth bass caught less than the legal length shall be immediately returned to the water from which it was taken.
- Lures, Bait, and Equipment: Fishing is permitted only by the use of one hand-held rod. Only artificial flies or lures with a single hook may be used. Dropper flies may be used, with up to two flies on a leader.
Rules and Regulations
- Horses and stock are not permitted on the Abrams Falls Trail.
- There is no entrance fee to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
- Pets, motorized vehicles, and bicycles are not permitted on backcountry trails in GSMNP.
- Leashed pets are allowed in developed areas and along roads, but are not allowed on park trails.
Directions to Trailhead
The Abrams Falls Trailhead is located 30.5 miles from the Sugarlands Visitor Center on the far-west side of Cades Cove Loop Road.
From Sugarlands Visitor Center, head west on Little River Road, which becomes Laurel Creek Road after passing the Tremont Road split. Follow Laurel Creek Road all the way to Cades Cove, and merge right onto Cades Cove Loop Road (do not pull into the campgrounds). Follow Cades Cove Loop Road to the marked split for Abrams Falls. Turn right into the parking lot.
Note that Cades Cove Loop Road is closed to cars every Wednesday and Saturday morning until 10 am, May - September. Cades Cove Loop Road is a one-way scenic auto tour road. Anticipate heavy traffic and slow travel throughout the day, everyday. Get a very early start to avoid crowds.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
107 Park Headquarters Road
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
Visitor Information - Recorded Message
Backcountry Office - Camping and Reservations
The Backcountry Reservation Office is open from 8 am - 6 pm daily (EST)
Backcountry Information Office - Trip Planning Questions
The information office is open daily 9 am - 12n (EST)
Sugarlands Visitor Center (Tennessee side - north entrance)
Oconaluftee Visitor Center (North Carolina side - south entrance)