Fresh Tracks: Hiking the Trillium Gap Trail in Gatlinburg, TN

Trillium Gap Trail taken by Jon Ives

Trillium Gap Trail taken by Jon Ives

The Great Smoky Mountains have finally turned brilliant green, and every local I know has been itching to get outside and enjoy the lushness of it all.  In that spirit, my husband, Jon, decided to spend his day off Tuesday hiking. 

 The Trillium Gap Trail off the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail in downtown Gatlinburg is a natural choice because it is so close to town. Luckily for us, he took along his camera and documented a few of the sites along the way.

Trillium Grandiflorum

 Trillium Gap Trail meanders through an old-growth hemlock forest and actually runs behind the twenty-five foot high Grotto Falls.  For more information on local waterfalls, click here.  

Grotto Falls by Jon Ives

The cool, moist environment near the falls is ideal for salamanders and summer hikers. The hike is 3 miles roundtrip and considered moderate in difficulty. The trail is named for the white trillium flowers (Trillium Grandiflorum pictured right) that bloom in the area.  The first half of the hike is approximately 1.5 miles and takes you to Grotto Falls (pictured left), “and I always enjoy sharing the path with families with kids,” says Jon.   

Path to Grotto Falls by Jon Ives

Ferns by Jon Ives

“The path is wide, smooth and not too steep (pictured right) so I usually see kids of every age on this trail.”  With lots of places to rest and sites to see, this moderate path is a great for families or casual hobbyists.

Moss by Jon Ives

 “I couldn’t believe how beautiful the moss and ferns (pictured left)were there,” said Jon.   “The cool green lushness of the Spring forest was almost bright enough to hurt your eyes.”  

Path past Grotto Falls by Jon Ives“Once I took a few pictures and rested a while, I decide to keep hiking the Trillium Gap Trail for a bit longer,” said Jon.  The path past Grotto Falls gets significantly steeper, narrower, and rougher.  “I realized after just a few minutes that I was on the path completely alone which was refreshing…until I started seeing fresh bear tracks.”  

Pigeon Forge in the Distance by Jon Ives

The steeper rougher trail can be worth the view if you are patient.  Many hikers are startled by how significant the elevation can get in a short period of time.  There are areas where the view extends all the way to Pigeon Forge and beyond (pictured right).

 Jon hiked approximately 1.5 miles past the falls to the next trail intersection.  The trip up (approx. 3 miles) took him 2 hours, and the trip back down took about 1 hour travelling at a fairly brisk pace and stopping to take an occasional picture.  Of course the trail continues thereby allowing you to cater your trip to the amount of time you have and your personal ability.   See the Great Smoky Mountains Trail Map for complete details.
 To get to the Trillium Gap Trailhead from downtown Gatlinburg, turn at traffic light #8 and follow Historic Nature Trail into Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Take Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail (no RVs; closed in winter ) to stop #5. There is a large parking area.






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