Abrams Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park isn't the tallest of waterfalls, but it's powerful and in a beautiful setting. But it's a popular hike, so we recommend going early.
Knowing how popular the hike is, I wanted to get an early start. Plus I was hoping we might see some wildlife in the morning hours. Well, we got started later than I hoped, but we arrived at Cades Cover around 8:30.
We saw some wild turkeys and several deer ....
but no bears. The Abrams Falls spur is about five miles into the Cades Cove Loop, and then it's about a half mile gravel road to the trailhead parking area. We arrived there at 9:00 and there were very few cars in the parking lot.
Soon, we were ready for the 2.5-mile hike to the falls.
We crossed the bridge over Abrams Creek ....
which is wide and well-known as a one of the better fly-fishing streams in the park.
The trail would run along the creek for awhile and then it would climb up the ridge above the creek.
The path was quite muddy at lower levels and dried out as it went up. It went up and down gently most of the way. We crossed a footbridge over a side stream ....
and eventually crossed over a rocky ridge ....
as the creek continued on and made a big horseshoe turn before re-appearing in the gorge below us.
We admired the view ....
as well as the wildflowers along the way.
There were also more mountain laurels still in bloom than on other trails we've been on.
The trail once again descended down to creek level ....
Another footbridge before the next little climb.
The trail climbed up to where we were above the falls. We could hear them and barely see them through the trees. There was a sign above some unofficial paths warning of the danger of dropping down there.
The last part of the trail descended back to the creek where there were two more footbridges.
The last sign warned of undercurrents in the pool below the falls and indicated four people had drowned here.
Our early start paid off as we saw no one else on the trail and there was only one other couple at the falls when we arrived. Linda claimed a comfortable spot with a great view of the impressive waterfall.
Abrams Falls isn't very tall, but it has one of the highest flow volumes of any waterfall in the park, and it's very pretty the way it's framed by the greenery and rocks around it.
It didn't take long for others to join us, but we had a little over an hour when there were only 2 or 3 other couples there. And we met a young couple vacationing from .... Louisville. They live in the area of our first house and very near where my parents now live. Small world moment for today.
While Linda relaxed ....
I did my typical wandering and rock scrambling looking for different photo angles of the falls.
We enjoyed our time at Abrams Falls, but after a little over an hour, the crowds began to arrive. It didn't take long for what seemed like a large amphitheater to close in. So we vacated the rocks where we were sitting and headed back.
Along the way, this Eastern Fence Lizard posed for a picture.
And Linda spotted a couple of photogenic bugs.
On the way back, there was a steady stream of people making their way toward the falls. Getting on the trail fairly early was looking better and better all the time. We found an overflowing parking lot by the time we got back to the Jeep around 12:30.
The other thing we must note is that there was more toilet tissue along this trail than any trail we've been on in a long time. Linda commented "How hard is it to take a little baggie and carry it out?". We pick up our share of trash on hikes, but we draw the line there - we don't carry disposable gloves and trash pickers in our backpacks.
Anyway, we still highly recommend this fairly easy 5-mile hike. It's an enjoyable walk along and above the flowing stream, and the falls are very pretty. But go early.
Back in the Jeep, we continued on around the Cades Cove Loop and saw several more deer.
Rather than going back to Pigeon Forge the way we came in, we got back on the Cades Cove Loop and started looking for the Rich Mountain Road. Before we got there, we saw a traffic jam, but it wasn't for a bear. It was for coyotes. One trotted across the road in front of us and then quickly disappeared into the woods.
Just past that point, we found Rich Mountain Road. It's a one-way gravel road that goes up over a mountain and eventually comes out west of Townsend. It's just a less-traveled alternative route out of Cades Cove.
The road was quite curvy, but it was in much better shape than I expected. There were a few rough spots, but the gravel was good and any passenger vehicle could have made the trip .... at least today.
About a mile in, there was a pull-off and a good view of Cades Cove below.
It was a slow, quiet drive through the wilderness although we didn't see any wildlife along the way.
That was a nice morning in the park.