Family Activities:

Roaring Fork


Roaring Fork

Rte. 441, Gatlinburg, 70068, TN

This mostly one-way, nine-mile drive (closed in winter) is shorter and more wooded than Cades Cove, but also has plenty of historic structures from houses to gristmills to explore along the way. Not counting stops, it will take you about an hour to drive, depending on traffic, starting from where you turn at traffic light #8 in Gatlinburg onto Historic Nature Trail/Airport Road and then Cherokee Orchard Road (which leads to the formal entrance of the nature trail).

Along this route, you’ll pass the Noah “Bud” Ogle Self-Guiding Nature Trail, a 0.75-mile mile path through a preserved mountain farmstead well worth a diversion. You’ll also pass the trailhead for the popular Rainbow Falls Trail, a 5.4-mile roundtrip hike that’s moderate to difficult — strictly for older kids or exceptionally hike-hardy younger kids. Further on the drive, you’ll come upon the trailhead for the Trillium Gap Trail, which leads to Grotto Falls (a 2.4-mile moderate hike if you just go as far as the falls and back — doable for most children if you adjust the pace to match their ability). Grotto Falls is one of the most popular waterfall hikes in the park because the trail allows you to walk behinds the falls for an unusual — and fun — perspective.
Near the end of motor trail on the left side of the road is a rocky cliff called Place of a Thousand Drips, which has anywhere from a trickle of water running down its face during dry spells to a series of pretty cascading rivulets during rainy weather.

Vault toilets are available at the trailheads for the Rainbow Falls and Trillium Gap trails, but otherwise there are not restrooms along this route.