Spruce Flats Falls may be one of the lesser-visited falls in the Great Smoky Mountains, yet if you take the time to hike up to it, you might be surprised. These falls are among the most picturesque falls in the area. The hike itself is approximately 2 miles round trip, but every step is more than worth it as the scenery leading up to the falls is nothing short of spectacular.
Your Starting Point
The trailhead for the trail that takes you up to Spruce Flats Falls can be found at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute in Tremont, TN. The trail itself is listed as being moderate in difficulty as there are some steep rocky spots in the trail, especially on the final stretch that leads to the falls. To access the trailhead, you need to park your car in the visitor’s center parking lot.
From here, take the gravel road marked “Restricted Access to Unrestricted Traffic.” As you walk up the road, you can see the sign that marks the trailhead on your left. Take the trail up into the woods following the trail as it turns left and goes uphill. When you get to the next trail junction, take the trail that goes to the right if you want to go on to the Spruce Flats Falls. (The path going straight takes you to the Lumber Ridge Trail.) As the trail starts to climb, you can enjoy a spectacular view of Thunderhead Mountain off to the right. Finally, the trail will start to descend rapidly as it takes you to Spruce Flats Falls.
Hikers Take Care
This is the part of the trail where you really need to put your best foot forward. The descent is filled with loose rocks, rocky outcroppings, and an endless supply of tree roots that can make getting down safely a bit of a challenge. But, with care and as long as you take your time, there is no reason you should not be able to get down and get back up the trail. The most important thing to keep in mind is that if you take your time, you can avoid injury and enjoy this splendid waterfall.
The falls themselves are only 30 feet tall, but they cascade over rocky outcroppings that break the stream up into multiple mini-streams going over the falls and ending in the pool at the bottom. (From here, the water feeds into the Spruce Flats Branch and then into the Middle Prong down in the valley below.) The falls consist of four tiers and there is ample room for you to walk around them to get better pictures, or just to enjoy the refreshing spray and intense beauty. However, keep in mind that many of the rocks are very slippery because they are wet.
While Spruce Flats Falls might be a bit of a hike for the inexperienced, the resulting view is more than worth the small amount of effort it takes to get here. Be sure to come early with a good camera and tripod. The falls remain in the dark until midday when the sun finally starts to shine its light on them and bring them to life.