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While many visitors to the Smoky Mountains know about Cades Cove loop, there’s another motor nature trail that’s worth exploring, the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. This beautiful trail is located just minutes from Gatlinburg! Plus, it’s full of history and exciting sights to see!
About the Trail
To reach Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, turn off the main parkway in Gatlinburg at traffic light #8. Follow Historic Nature Trail Road to the Cherokee Orchard entrance to the national park. Just beyond the Rainbow Falls trailhead you will follow the one-way sign for Roaring Fork. From there the trail is 5.5 miles long one-way. The motor nature trail got its name from the river it follows. This is one of the largest and fastest rivers in the park. After a hard rain, if you visit the area, you will quickly see how the Roaring Fork got its name.
Before the Trail Starts
Before the official motor nature trail starts you will pass by Noah “Bud” Ogle’s cabin. A self-guiding nature trail here takes visitors on a walking tour of the old homestead. You will find Bud Ogle’s cabin, a tubmill, and a handcrafted wooden flume plumbing system. Beyond the cabin and up the road you will pass by the trailhead for Rainbow Falls. The hike to the waterfall is 5.4 miles round trip. The waterfall is 80 foot tall and when sunlight hits the water just right you can see the misty rainbow that bounces of the cascading water.
Along the Trail
After turning on to the Roaring Fork Trail you will have opportunities to explore. The trail has two pull offs that show off views of the Smoky Mountains. Other pull-offs provide areas to access the river or to explore hiking trails.
~You will pass by Grotto Falls. This trail is 2.6 miles round trip. Grotto Falls is the only waterfall in the Smokies that you can walk behind!
~Although the Rainbow Falls Trail is difficult and will take 3-5 hours to hike, this is one of the most enjoyable and scenic hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains. Do not bring young children, but it highly recommended for those who are capable of hiking a moderately difficult 5+ mile trail.
~Later you will come by Baskins Creek Falls. This trail is 3.0 miles round trip. This is a beautiful 40 foot tall two-tiered waterfall.
~If you don’t like hiking, you can visit the Place of a Thousand Drips. Heavy rains cause this waterfall to split into multiple channels creating an incredibly mesmerizing look.
~Along the motor trail you will see and have the opportunity to explore old homesites, a watermill, and other historic areas.
And at last, you may see some wildlife like bears and deer! This beautiful and magical area is well worth the time to enjoy the Smokies!
You have many lodging choices while staying in the Smoky Mountains, but I think nothing is better than staying with me at My Bearfoot Cabins. Cabins provide your own personal space and home. Enjoy all the amenities while relaxing after a day in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, or keep the energy going with a game at the cabin.
Pat and Don Kirchhoefer, owners