- 4 miles in length – 1.3 miles to Laurel Falls
- Starting Points – On Little River Road between Sugarlands Visitors Center and Elkmont
- Points of Interest – Laurel Falls
- Difficulty – 1 to the falls – 3 to the finish of the trail
This might be the most popular and most hiked trail in the national park. The first section, the 1.3 miles to Laurel Falls is paved and wide. This trail was cut in by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1935 and since that time and the opening of the park, people have flocked to it. Now, that being said, the first part of the trail, the section that leads to the falls, is the popular part. After that point, the trail gets a lot steeper and rougher to hike.
When you hike the first 1.3 miles to the falls you will be greeted by a wonderful waterfall that is highly photographable and beautiful. The falls plunges 75 feet from its apex. There is a new cement bridge that allows you to safely cross to the other side of the falls and then down to the base where you can splash in the crisp mountain water, picnic or just take advantage of a place to rest before you start up the trail again.
After you have had a rest at the base of the falls, you will start your climb to the end of the trail. The paving stops at this point and the trail narrows so that you are going to need to walk single file most of the time. The final 2.7 miles climbs from around 2600 feet to almost 4000 feet. The trail becomes a lot more strenuous and you will find the need to take breaks from time to time. There is one good thing about the rougher terrain though – the fires in the park and logging didn’t reach this area. You will hike through Old Growth Forest! You will see some of the largest trees in the national park. If you are up for the hike, make sure to hike the full 4 miles.
If you are planning on hiking the whole trail you are going to want to get an early start and due to the parking area and the popularity of this trail, you will need to get there early to find a place to park. Especially on the weekends, parking is a premium at Laurel Falls. Also, keep in mind this is not a loop trail. So the full length of the trail is 8 miles, not just 4, you have to hike back out.