RootsRated

A Guide to 15 of the South’s Best Places to Paddle

Thursday, June 15th, 2017

Southern author Eugene F. Walter once wrote, “summer in the deep South is not only a season, a climate, it’s a dimension. Floating in it, one must be either proud or submerged.” Perhaps this explains why the waters here are so well-explored and appreciated by paddlers from all over the United States. Despite the fact that proud locals would likely prefer their rivers uncrowded, the word is out: the South has epic rivers.

The rivers and creeks of this region have a very distinctive character. Most of the waterways originate from the Southernmost reaches of the old Appalachian Mountains and plateaus, moving towards the east or the west with rushing speed. Starting off as small streams beneath a canopy of lush deciduous forests, round boulders and well-worn bedrock shape their rapids and hidden waterfalls. They join together and course through gorges, until the gradient subsides as they drop closer to sea level, flattening their waters and encouraging a variety of paddle sports.

With so many options, mild year-round temperatures, and generous annual rainfall, the South is a coveted destination for paddlers of all abilities and passions. In this guide, we’ll work our way through the absolute best Southern rivers for paddling, from beginner to expert level.

The Easiest: Flatwater to Beginner Whitewater (Class I-II+)

Great day on the river with quality people. Highly recommend taking a two man kayak! #GoPro

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1.Chipola River, Florida

Starting down in Florida, a novice paddler can find many opportunities to explore freshwater springs and riverside caves while viewing swamp wildlife and historical artifacts. The enchanting Chipola River in Western Florida is a great way to see the best of what the area has to offer. As part of the Dead Lakes State Recreation Area, there are two sections: the 51-mile Chipola River Designated Paddling Trail and the 4.5-mile Upper Chipola River Designated Paddling Trail, separated where the river disappears underground. Fed by 63 springs, the Chipola has a set of small rapids and is also home to the unique shoal bass.

2. Wateree River Blue Trail, North and South Carolina

Weaving 75 miles through the Carolina countryside, the Wateree River Blue Trail has several sections of gentle rapids and flatwater that are both accessible and worthy of interest. Draining a natural wooded floodplain, the waterway is a haven for wildlife such as bald eagles, otters, and kingfishers. This river basin is one of the few precious places that remain in the Southeast where populations of white shoals spider-lily thrive in decent numbers.

3. Hiwassee River Blueway, Tennessee

Heading West to Tennessee’s Hiwassee River Blueway** **gives you the option to step up to class II if desired. The upper section of the river in the mountains of the Cherokee National Forest is where you’ll find these rapids, and while they appear steep, they are not overwhelmingly difficult. Once you get past the town of Reliance, the river mellows, and floating peacefully past the trees can be a serene experience. The cool water flows year round, downstream of the TVA Apalachia powerhouse.

4. Nantahala River, North Carolina

The Nantahala Gorge is nestled between the North Carolina mountains just outside Bryson City. The walls are so steep here that the sunlight can only make it to the valley floor at high noon, hence the name Nantahala, which is Cherokee for “land of the noonday sun.” At the bottom of the gorge, you’ll find eight miles of mostly class II (+) rapids, with a finale of the class III Nantahala Falls, an optional portage. Cold, reliable water flows year round from a nearby powerhouse, making this a very popular and accessible river.

5. Clear Creek, Tennessee

From a solid perch high on the Cumberland Plateau, the upper stretches of Clear Creek meander downhill through numerous shoals and class II rapids that require precise maneuvering. Adventurous, overnight paddlers will pass caves and unique rock formations along the 20-mile waterway before encountering a class III rapid towards the end. Portage is certainly an easy option for those who aren’t up for the challenge.

The In-Between: Intermediate to Advanced (Class III-IV)

6. Obed Wild and Scenic River, Tennessee

Following Clear Creek downstream will eventually lead to the unspoiled, rugged terrain of the Obed Wild and Scenic River near Wartburg, Tennessee. The longest free-flowing, roadless river in Tennessee looks mostly the same today as it did to settlers in the 1700s. The bottom 10 miles from Obed Junction to Nemo are cradled between 500-foot tall canyon walls and are full of class II-III, with some light class IV rapids. Both the Obed and Clear Creek are remote and will be flowing mostly in the winter and spring, so be sure to dress accordingly.

7. Big South Fork, Tennessee

The northeastern edge of the Cumberland Plateau opens up to the towering cliffs and massive boulders of the Big South Fork, yet another remote Tennessee classic. In the vicinity of O’Neida, this river is the centerpiece of a national recreation area, with class III & IV rapids that significantly step up in difficulty with rising water levels. The waters here are elusive to summer, so cold weather gear is again required.

8. Chattooga River, Georgia

Known as the filming site of the movie Deliverance, the Chattooga River is located near the Georgia town of Clayton, near the Georgia/South Carolina border. Whether paddling the Narrows (class III) or the Five Falls (class IV), the Chattooga is a Deep South Appalachian wilderness classic with year-round water. Summer on the Chattooga is a welcome introduction to running tight lines and slots with precision, a pool/drop contrast to the fluffy, continuous higher flows of winter and spring. Beware of the dangerous siphons that exist within the pot-hole strewn rocks native to this wild and scenic river.

9. Tellico River, Tennessee

The place where the Cherokee once gathered in great numbers is known today as the Tellico River. Just off the Cherohala Skyway in southeastern Tennessee, a small, paved road to a trout hatchery follows the river closely and offers easy access to the scattered waterfalls (from 5-14 feet tall) and continuous rapids along the way. After any decent rainfall, the Tellico will be teeming with paddlers boofing (and plopping) their way down the class III and IV drops. It’s by far the most popular and appropriate place to run a waterfall for the first time.

Getting Tougher: Advanced to Expert (Class IV-V)

Fall Rafting

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10. Watauga River, North Carolina

Most of the solid class IV rapids and drops of the Watauga River lie in North Carolina, but the class V Stateline Falls marks the border of Tennessee. While once regarded as some of the most difficult whitewater in the South, the Watauga remains a classic due to the quality of it’s distinctive rapids. For five glorious miles, paddlers will boof and punch their way downstream, finding clean vertical lines and honing their skills to move forward in creek boating expertise.

11. Little River Canyon, Alabama

You might not expect to find a massive canyon in the corner of Alabama, yet high atop Lookout Mountain near Fort Payne is exactly what skilled paddlers descend into the depths of. At Little River Canyon, the put in is aesthetically marked with a wide cascade of 33 feet, most commonly run on the left, where it is divided into two tiers. It is also common to put in below, where the river begins a complicated route through boulder sieves and sluices known as the ‘Suicide Section.’ The scenery from the bottom is top-notch as Little River gains the volume of many side creeks that appear suddenly from both steep sides.

12. Tallulah Gorge, Georgia

The mighty Tallulah Gorge in Georgia was dry for a very long time before, in the 1990s, Georgia Power began releasing water every spring and fall from the upstream dam. Packing a big punch of 20 class IV-V rapids and no less than six waterfalls in a single mile, the Tallulah’s signature drop is a monster slide called Oceana. Set within an impressive gorge with limited access, the put in requires descending almost 600 steps with your boat while viewing (and bypassing) several large unrunnable waterfalls. Taking out requires paddling across Lake Tugaloo.

For Extreme Experts Only (Class V+)

13. Raven Fork, North Carolina

Once quietly hidden at the southern tip of the Smoky Mountains on the border of the Cherokee Reservation, a little stream called the Raven Fork demands attention. This creek, within its notorious gorge, yields no forgiveness to the ambitious experts who penetrate and plunge the numerous steep descending drops. Rapid names like ‘Mike Tyson’s Punchout’ should clarify this point. Dropping nearly 600 feet per mile, it’s a scary, mysterious place for paddling for most, but for the experienced paddlers out there, it’s a challenging favorite destination when the rain hits.

14. Bear Creek, Georgia

Among the very best of Chattanooga’s steep creek offerings is the dramatic Bear Creek of Cloudland Canyon. ‘The Hair of the Bear’ flings itself from atop Lookout Mountain in Georgia, over many tall, distinctive bedrock drops—the most remarkable being a 50-foot, three-tiered hit called ‘Stairway to Heaven’. Towards the bottom, after merging with Daniel Creek, the ‘Boulder Garden’ begins it’s relentless and powerful tumble to the take out. Eddies and scouting are possible, but the best lines through this maze are behind those who already know the way. Being good enough to run this means you’ll be in the loop when it rains hard enough.

15. Horsepasture and Toxaway Rivers, North Carolina

The finale of this list is shared by the breathtaking Horsepasture and Toxaway Rivers, which could be called the Southern cousins of the Sierra Nevada. The incessant, plummeting gradient of the California-esque Toxaway is unmatched by any other Southern river, while the Horsepasture follows closely behind it. Both rivers are equally inviting, with a sizable picturesque drop starting off the day.

Toxaway is characterized by clean lines over fast slides cradled in smooth bedrock, while Horsepasture is all about linking clean waterfalls in succession. On both of these streams, there are sizable drops that result in nerve-wracking moments. In addition to maximizing the limits of runnable whitewater, paddlers must expect strenuous hike out access, persistent scouting on sketchy terrain, and steep portage routes. For a dose of adventure with quality paddling that demands fitness, experience, and confident class V skills, these rivers are the best practice platform for whitewater expedition paddling in more remote areas around the globe.

Originally written by RootsRated for Outdoor Sports Marketing.

Featured image provided by Angela Greenwell

7 Outdoor-Themed Southern Craft Brews Every Beer-Lover Should Drink

Thursday, June 15th, 2017

Local craft brewing is on the rise in the American Southeast, and the scene is geared especially towards those with a penchant for the outdoors. Because of the recent changes in Tennessee’s ABV restrictions, hospitable temperatures year-round, and a practically endless selection of outdoor activities, the Southeast is the place to spend some time in nature and enjoy a good beer. Whether it’s sipping a beer as you float down a river or getting a cold pint after a long day on the trails, the breweries here honor and exemplify the adventure seekers that support and sustain them. Here, we put together a list of seven beers that pair particularly well with outdoor pursuits.

1. 420 Extra Pale Ale from SweetWater Brewing Company

Happy Father's Day to everyone in Dadland. Hope you're sharing a coldie (or juice for you youngins) with the chips off your block

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This refreshing pale ale has been around for a few years and has collected a couple of awards in its time, including a silver medal at the 2002 Great American Beer Festival. You can swoop up the 420 EPA at SweetWater’s Atlanta brewery in sizes ranging from 16 oz. single cans to five-gallon torpedo kegs if you really want to get after it with some friends.

Best for: Because Sweetwater’s tagline is "Don’t Float the Mainstream," and the 420 is perfect for lazy river days, enjoying this brew from the languid, bobbing confines of an inner tube somewhere off the beaten path is necessary.

2. Devil's Harvest India Pale Ale from Southern Prohibition Brewing

Southern Prohibition (or SoPro for short) Brewing has plenty of delicious choices all year long, but one of the best is Devil’s Harvest Breakfast IPA. This IPA is lovely for those just acquiring the taste for hops—it’s got all the floral aroma, but much less of the typical bitterness that tends to turn people off. SoPro’s philosophy is all about evolution and exploration, which is in perfect alignment with the philosophy of those who revel in the outdoors.

Best for: Yep, you guessed it—camping mornings. This beer goes down really well with campfire oatmeal and scrambled eggs. It’s five o’clock somewhere, right?

3. Vienna Lager from Devils Backbone Brewing Company

Totally worth the trek through the fog this morning. Goshen Pass blanketed & it's gorgeous 👍

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Ever had hiking the Appalachian Trail on your mind? If so, Devils Backbone Brewing Company was made for you. They’re located so close to the trail that you can call them and get a shuttle to their place from Reeds Gap on the AT. Not only does this make it easy peasy to pick up their brews along the way, but they let thru-hikers stay the night in their backyard. The Vienna Lager is their award-winning (12 awards so far if anyone is counting) beer that’s been a tradition at the brewery since the very beginning.

Best for: Hiking the Appalachian Trail, or any other trail that calls for a break (i.e. all of them).

4. White Zombie from Catawba Brewing Company

Time to ice down the weekend beer. #cheers #catawbabeer #farmdinner

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From tap to can and much in between, there are plenty of ways to enjoy Catawba's lovely White Zombie. A while ale that started as a Halloween concoction and transitioned to a full-time member of the team, the White Zombie is a fruity and spicy delight, crafted by a brewing company uses eco-friendly containers for both their cans and kegs.

Best for: Since one of their locations is in a college town, White Zombie is best enjoyed while tailgating for the UNC Asheville team of your choice.

5. Freak of Nature from Wicked Weed

Talk about a beer for people who love to be outside—it’s got ‘nature’ right in the name. While the phrase is usually used to refer to something else, this Freak of Nature will be loved by those who are freaks for nature too. This double IPA is a hops explosion for those that seek a bitter beer and comes from another Ashville-based brewery.

Best for: Wicked Weed is dedicated to "letting the wildness of beer… lead," so we suggest taking a few swigs of this one on a hiking or camping trip in the middle of a wilderness for maximum wildness. Bring those hops back to their roots!

6. Dale's Pale Ale from Oskar Blues Brewery

A Dale's in its natural habitat. Where you drankin' this weekend?

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With a brewery near Pisgah National Forest in Brevard, North Carolina, and availability in bars and restaurants all over the Southeast, you can taste Oskar Blue’s Dale’s Pale Ale in plenty of places. This "assertive but balanced" brew is the first American craft brew to be canned in the mountains. You’ll practically be able to smell the mountain air.

Best for: Enjoying with your pals at a music festival or extreme sports event—Oskar Blues is all about getting amped in the outdoors. This one is drinkable all day long and pairs equally well with good music and healthy competition.

7. Shreddin’ Wheat from Coast Brewing Company

The name says it all: This beer was made for those who shred. Whether it’s the waves or the mountains, the Shreddin’ Wheat was made for those who love a board below their feet and the landscape flying by as they rip it up. Coast believes in keeping things organic and local—both good things for the environment we know and love and that gives us the thrills we seek.

Best for: Enjoying after a session on the slopes or at the ocean. After you’re all played out, this sweet wheat beer made with organic malt will taste so, so good.

Originally written by RootsRated for Outdoor Sports Marketing.

Featured image provided by Cody Myers Photography

8 Off the Beaten Path Festivals in the Southeast

Thursday, June 15th, 2017

Perhaps Coachella sold out before you could say Beyoncé, you just can’t imagine fighting the crowds at Bonnaroo for one more year, or maybe you’d rather hang out riverside than beachside. No matter what the reason, we understand your desire for an intimate (but still larger than life) music experience this summer, so we picked eight of our favorite festivals in the Southeast that make for the perfect weekend getaway. Many involve camping, some are by the water, a few encourage family attendance, and all are worth checking out.

Throw on your most comfortable pair of Chacos, pack your backpack with breathable clothes and sunscreen, stock up on water, and head to a music festival (or all eight, we won’t judge) for an unbeatable time in the great outdoors. These no-frills festivals might be a bit off the beaten path, but that’s all part of the fun. And don’t worry—we included a few traveling and packing tips to help you out along the way.

1. MerleFest

When: April 27-30, 2017** Where: Wilkesboro, NC**

Designed with a focus on music, moments, and memories, this North Carolina festival is one not to be missed. First-time visitors and seasoned festival goers groove alongside each other while some of the best acts in Southern music belt one out. Sounds of the Appalachian region and Americana, country, blues, and rock flood the four-day festival. Last year, outstanding performances were giving by Brandi Carlile, Jason Isbell, and John Prine—and this year’s lineup rivals that of years past. Make your way to the front of the crowds for The Avett Brothers, Sam Bush Band, Steep Canyon Rangers, and Chatham County Line.

MerleFest does not offer an on-site camping experience, but you will still spend plenty of time strolling between the thirteen different spots to hear music. Keep your feet comfortable from all that walking in a pair of Chaco Fallons, and pack a blanket to set up shop at the different shows.

2. FloydFest

When: July 26-30, 2017** Where: Floyd, VA**

Floyd, a small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains in southwestern Virginia, comes to life in the spring. The mountain town becomes a listening room dedicate to an eclectic collection of music from groups like Thievery Corporation, Michael Franti & Spearhead, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Steel Pulse, and Leftover Salmon. Cure what ails you by breathing the fresh mountain air and enjoying five days of music.

Take advantage of FloydFest's surroundings by taking a dip in Little River, hopping on a mountain bike, playing a round of disc golf, or exploring the hiking trails. If you make the most of the weekend, you will be covering different terrain, so slide into a pair of Chaco's Z/2 Classic sandals but be sure to bring a pair of warm socks to keep your toes toasty at night.

3. Front Porch Fest

When: August 31 – September 3** Where: Patrick County, VA**

If you weren't able to make it to the Blue Ridge Mountains for FloydFest in July, or you need an excuse to return, The Front Porch Fest will welcome you to the mountain region with open arms. Front Porch is put on each year by a group of friends and family, which means the kiddos are welcome at this one. For the four days before Labor Day, the 130-acre Spirithaven Farm will become home to stand-out acts and music lovers. Check out groups like Big Daddy Love (a non-traditional string quartet) or Danger Muffin (known for breezy melodies). Let your life be enriched by art in this intimate setting, just as the founders of the festival intended.

The festival’s organizers encourage you to bring all of your friends, toilet paper, an open mind, and extra shoes. Consider easy-going friends, soft toilet paper, and a pair of Chaco’s ZX/3 Classics.

4. Aiken Bluegrass Festival

When: May 12-13, 2017** Where: Aiken, SC**

With nothing but a love of partying and a love of bluegrass, this festival was born. The two-day Aiken Bluegrass Festival may seem short compared to others of its kind, but the selection of bands is one not to miss, as differing styles and traditions of bluegrass music will take the stage each day. Whether you're a first-timer or a longtime ticket holder, everyone around you will feel like a close friend as you bond over the 10-band lineup. If you are a lover of bluegrass, Aiken Bluegrass Festival is the one for you.

Pups are welcomed, camping is preferred, and Chaco's Maya sandals are recommended.

5. Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival

When: September 23-24, 2017** Where: Franklin, TN**

New to the music fest scene, the Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival has quickly grown into a must-attend event. We’re not sure if it’s past performances from Willie Nelson and Grace Potter or hopeful sightings of Justin Timberlake, but this festival has piqued our interest. The Park at Harlinsdale is a century-old horse farm in Middle Tennessee and it makes for a stunning setting for music listening. The lineup is always packed with big names but the festival offers a small-town feel.

The festival-goers guest list includes everyone from fashionistas to kiddos to Franklin-natives. So don your best festival attire (including a pair of Chaco's Aubrey shoes) and plan to walk into the small town of Franklin to dine with the locals after the show.

6. River and Roots

When: June 23-25, 2017** Where: Berryville, VA**

Genres are not separated, but rather celebrated for their similarities and differences at River and Roots, where the lines between Americana, bluegrass, folk, and blues blur. The masses will not only flock to the main stage but also to the fiddle camp, band and pickin’ contests, and the nearby Shenandoah River during the weekend. The good people at River and Roots promise you great music and plenty of opportunities to join in on the fun of playing.

Pack your banjo for this one, show off your skills, and stroll from the campsite to the stage in a pair of Chaco’s Fallon sandals.

7. Shaky Knees Music Festival

When: May 12-14, 2017** Where: Atlanta, GA**

Who's ready to hang with Zeus again?! ⚡️🙋🏼 #shakykneesfest #shakyknees #atlanta #musicfestival

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Each year, Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta is transformed into music madness with more than 60 bands for Shaky Knees Music Festival. There is nary a quiet moment during the festival’s three-day run and the likes of LCD Soundsystem, Cage the Elephant, Pixies, The XX, Moon Taxi, Ryan Adams, and The Shins are sure to keep things interesting.

During the festival, you will be strolling the streets of Atlanta, so wear something comfortable. Most people are not in your typical festival wear so ladies can kick things up a notch by pairing Chaco’s leather sandals with a stylish-but-breathable dress.

8. Tallulah Fest

When: March 31 – April 1, 2017** Where: Chattooga River Resort**

Although Tallulah Fest promises some of the best whiskey drinkin’ and one of the best boot-stompin’, hand-clappin’ lineups of handmade music anywhere in the Southeast, the festival offers more than just music. Thrill seekers can spend some time in their kayaks and outdoor enthusiasts can set up camp for a few days. Partake in the fun by enjoying the thrill of the class V paddling (if you’re up for that level rapid), or play it safe by setting up camp to catch stellar views of the action. You can also take advantage of the hiking and biking trails and fishing on the Wild and Scenic Chattanooga River.

Plan to get wet—and have a ball in the process. Don’t forget to pack a quick-drying towel, bathing suit, dry bag, and waterproof sandals.

Originally written by RootsRated for Outdoor Sports Marketing.

Featured image provided by Photo courtesy of Chaco

8 of the Best Waterfall Hikes in the Smokies

Thursday, June 15th, 2017

The Great Smoky Mountains may be known for their enchanting mist and spectacular views, but these rounded peaks have another claim to fame: they are home to waterfalls of all shapes and sizes. There’s nothing quite like kicking off your shoes and cooling down next to a beautiful waterfall in the heat of a Southeastern summer, and with more than 20 waterfalls in the park, the Smoky Mountains are the perfect place to do just that.

Whether you’re looking for a flowing cascade or an impressive chute, a drive-by photo opp or a strenuous all-day hike, the Smokies have something for you. We narrowed the full list down to eight of the best waterfall hikes in the Smokies to try out the next time you visit the Southeast.

1.Indian Creek and Tom Branch Falls

Distance: 1.6 miles **Difficulty: Easy

The hike to Tom Branch Falls is great for families.
The hike to Tom Branch Falls is great for families.

Bob Carr

This easy hike on Deep Creek Trail is a two for one: the 1.6-mile round trip gives you views of both Tom Branch Falls and Indian Creek Falls. After just one-third of a mile, you’ll come across the splendid 60-foot Tom Branch Falls, a perfect spot to stop for photos or rest on one of the many benches provided by the National Park Service. Just a bit farther down the path, hikers will catch a glimpse the 25-foot Indian Creek Falls, which cascades water slide-style into Deep Creek.

2. Mouse Creek Falls

Distance: 4.2 miles** Difficulty: Easy**

The hike to Mouse Creek Falls is easy, with a beautiful payoff.
The hike to Mouse Creek Falls is easy, with a beautiful payoff.

Bob Carr

Perfect for novice hikers, the trail to the lesser-known Mouse Creek Falls is wide and smooth, climbing gently over the first two miles. The 45-foot falls can be accessed from Big Creek Trail, which follows along an old logging railroad. After about a mile, the trail meets Big Creek, and a little farther, you’ll get a view of the emerald green waters of Midnight Hole and it’s six-foot waterfall. If you are visiting in the warmer months, expect to see plenty of wildflowers bursting into color as well. With a modest elevation gain of 600 feet and a round-trip distance of just over four miles, Mouse Creek Falls is the perfect destination for beginner hikers or those looking for a beautiful waterfall without too much hassle.

3. Baskins Creek Falls

Distance: 3 miles** Difficulty: Easy overall, but with a couple fun challenges**

Baskins Creek Falls is a short walk with a big reward.
Baskins Creek Falls is a short walk with a big reward.

Brian Greer

While the round trip to Baskins Creek Falls is only three miles, you’ll face your share of exciting obstacles in reaching this 40-foot waterfall. You may get your feet wet on the walk, especially after a heavy rain, as the trail crosses Falls Branch with no footbridge. The final stretch leading to the waterfall is a fairly steep descent that will become a fun, rugged scramble on the return trip. Whatever your experience level, the hike the beautiful two-tiered falls is well worth the challenges of getting there.

4. Hen Wallow Falls

Distance: 4.4 miles** Difficulty: Moderate**

Look carefully for salamanders at the base of Hen Wallow Falls.
Look carefully for salamanders at the base of Hen Wallow Falls.

Cody Myers Photography

At a towering 90 feet, this waterfall will have you craning your neck to see its sky-high origins. Only two feet wide at the top, the waterfall broadens to nearly 20 feet on its lengthy descent. The 4.4-mile round-trip hike can be accessed from Gabes Mountain Trail. On a steady climb, the rugged trail winds through a lush forest before descending steeply to the falls. If you brave the hike in cold winter weather, you could be rewarded with a view of Hen Wallow Falls frozen into an impressive icy column.

5. Abrams Falls

Distance: 5.2 miles** Difficulty: Moderate**

Abrams Falls is a popular hike in the Cades Cove area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Abrams Falls is a popular hike in the Cades Cove area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Bob Carr

The trail to Abrams Falls is well-traveled, and for good reason. At roughly five miles out-and-back, this hike is the perfect place to stop and stretch your legs on a scenic drive through Cades Cove. The immense volume of water rushing over Abrams Falls will make you forget that it’s only 20 feet tall. The trail is considered moderately difficult and runs parallel to Abrams Creek. The base of the falls offers plenty of room for a riverside picnic or a shady rest before the return hike.

6. Rainbow Falls

Distance: 5.4 miles** Difficulty: Moderate**

Rainbow Falls is known for misty rainbows on a sunny afternoon.
Rainbow Falls is known for misty rainbows on a sunny afternoon.

Ed Ogle

Visit this waterfall on a sunny afternoon to catch glimpses of the misty rainbows for which the falls is named. Best viewed after heavy rain, the 80-foot falls has the longest single drop waterfall in the Smokies and is great for a day hike. The trail gains 1,500 feet in elevation en route to the falls, while offering plenty of rest spots along the way. If you’re looking for a heftier challenge, you can tack on another four miles by going all the way to the summit of Mt. LeConte.

7. The Sinks and Meigs Creek Cascades

Distance: 7 miles** Difficulty: Moderate**

This waterfall is especially pretty in the fall.
This waterfall is especially pretty in the fall.

Kevin Stewart Photography

For a fantastic view of the Sinks, a short but powerful waterfall, you need not walk more than twenty steps from your car. Named for the swirling motion of the water as it pools at the base of the 15-foot falls, the Sinks is a popular roadside attraction in the Smokies.

But if you want to go beyond the parking lot, jump on the Meigs Creek Trail, which you can follow to a variety of destinations. The trail is aptly named: it follows the creek all the way to its headwaters at Meigs Mountain. On your way up, you’ll get to practice your rock hopping skills as you cross Meigs Creek multiple times (with no footbridges). There are several small waterfalls on the trail, including the 18-foot Meigs Creek Cascades. This trail is best hiked in the summer and fall months, as there can be dangerously high water at other times of the year.

8. Ramsey Cascades

Distance: 8 miles** Difficulty: Strenuous**

Ramsey Cascades is a frequently photographed waterfall in the Smokies.
Ramsey Cascades is a frequently photographed waterfall in the Smokies.

Peter Ciro

If you want to take a gander at the tallest waterfall in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you’ll have to work for it. At 100 feet tall, Ramsey Cascades is a picturesque and popular destination for day hikers. Gaining 2,200 feet over four miles, this trail is considered strenuous and has some pretty rugged terrain just before reaching the falls. With a round-trip distance of eight miles, Ramsey Cascades Trail meanders through the largest old growth forest in the Smokies while offering views of countless mini-waterfalls in the Little Pigeon River.

Note: The trail to Ramsey Cascades is temporarily closed due to storm damage.

Originally written by RootsRated for Outdoor Sports Marketing.

Featured image provided by Cody Myers Photography