Place of a Thousand Drips, Tennessee

Just outside of Gaitlinburg, Tennessee, you can easily enter Great Smoky Mountain National Park and take a drive along the one-way Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. It’s a fascinating drive, and there are a number of waterfalls that can be accessed from the motor trail. Some of them require medium length hikes to view the falls, and on the day I was there, there was moderately consistent thunder, so I decided against those hikes.

There are a few waterfalls that can be easily viewed from the trail, though. One of them is unnamed, and is discussed here. The other, better advertised waterfall, is the Place of a Thousand Drips, which happens to be an amazingly cool name for a waterfall. I would assume it gets its name from the way it seems to split into many different drops, recombine, split again, and so on. It’s a rather fascinating view.

Directions:

  1. Head into Gaitlinburg along US-441/TN-71. (You should notice signs for the Motor Trail, but if you don’t….)
  2. If headed north into Gaitlinburg, you would turn right onto Historic Nature Trail/Cherokee Orchard Road, and essentially continue southeast along the road. The road turns into the Motor Trail inside of the park.
  3. Look for this falls on your left. It’s pretty clearly marked.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 30′
Length of Hike: roadside

The Place of a Thousand Drips in April 2013

Where in the World is the Place of a Thousand Drips?

Waterfall on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Tennessee

A waterfall along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail (April 2013)

Great Smoky Mountain National Park is a great place to find waterfalls, and in the short time I visited, I wasn’t able to see very many of them. (It gives me a good reason to go back!) If you take the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, which is very close to Gaitlinburg (a surprisingly commercialized town), you will have the chance to visit a number of waterfalls such as Grotto and Rainbow Falls. Just plan more time!

On the day I visited, I had stopped to see Mingo Falls and Laurel Falls. The hike to Mingo Falls was shorter, Laurel Falls somewhat longer. I then stopped went into Gaitlinburg and ended up taking way more time than planned to find dinner! So once I got to the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, I didn’t have a huge amount of time left to hike to some of the falls, which clock in at 5+ miles round trip. There was also some thunder around, and my brain does not particularly like thunder. So let’s just say I stuck to the main road.

You can only go one way on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, and I was paying attention for the Place of a Thousand Drips. Before I got to my planned destination, I noticed this other waterfall to my left. Luckily, the road wasn’t busy at that time (in late April), and I had the chance to stop and photograph the falls. I didn’t stay for a long time, just enough to capture the falls. I’d say it’s about 30′ tall or so (?), and I don’t know if it’s named. If you have the chance, though, take the time to enjoy this unexpected waterfall!

Directions:

  1. Head into Gaitlinburg along US-441/TN-71. (You should notice signs for the Motor Trail, but if you don’t….)
  2. If headed north into Gaitlinburg, you would turn right onto Historic Nature Trail/Cherokee Orchard Road, and essentially continue southeast along the road. The road turns into the Motor Trail inside of the park.
  3. Look for this falls on your left. If you reach the Place of a Thousand Drips, you’ve passed it, and you have to circle around again if you want to see it.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 30′
Length of Hike: roadside

Where in the World is the Waterfall on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail?

Laurel Falls, Tennessee

Great Smoky Mountains National Park has a significant number of waterfalls. While not all might be roadside, the park does an outstanding job at making the waterfalls easily accessible. I’ve never seen a park with so many pullouts right near smaller, unnamed falls. Laurel Falls is one of the named falls. It may not always be the most exciting falls, but after the intense rainfall this weekend (2″+ in certain places in a short period of time), Laurel Falls was really spectacular.

The hike to the falls is consistently uphill, but not so steep that it makes one regret the hike! The hike is about 1.3 miles one-way. With the rain falling, it was an almost mystical journey. The green in the just-emerging leaves was really intense.

There are two separate drops of the falls, separated by 10 feet or so, but distinct enough that you can’t capture both falls in the same photo. The upper portion of the falls is very easily viewed from the bridge just over the creek. The lower portion can be seen just before the bridge, but is better viewed by taking a somewhat obvious path before you reach the bridge. The path is steeper, but not too difficult to hike.

Directions:

  1. The Sugarlands Visitors Center is located at the intersection of US-441 and Little River Road (which might now be named Fighting Creek Gap Road). Turn onto Little River Road and drive to the signed parking area for Laurel Falls.
  2. From the parking area, follow the trail to the falls.

Accessibility: 5/10 (moderate)
Height: 55′
Length of Hike: 2.6 miles round-trip

The lower portion of Laurel Falls (in April 2013)

The upper portion of Laurel Falls

Where in the World is Laurel Falls?