Ramsey Cascades is a difficult hike with an amazing destination.There are many waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountains and a personal favorite is Ramsey Cascades which covers the surrounding area with an ethereal spray of mist as it plunges some 100 ft. over tiers of massive rocks into a dark pool below.
Ramsey Cascades, located in Greenbrier is the park’s tallest waterfall and is often named as one of the 50 best hikes in the Smokies.
The trail to the falls follows the Ramsey Prong of the Little Pigeon River which is fed by streams from the 6,621 ft. Mt. Guyot, the Great SmokyMountains second highest peak.
The last two miles provides hikers an opportunity to enjoy an old growth cove hardwood forest. This is one of the few sections that escaped the logging industry which decimated much of the Smokies before the formation of the National Park. According to the Eastern Native Trees Society, the area includes the third tallest red maple in the park and the second tallest white oak along with a myriad of other native trees. HeySmokies’ favorite “The Twins,” are pair of giant tulip poplar trees which are only a few feet apart. A memorable photo opportunity for all hikers.
The 4-mile one way trail, which rises more than 2,200 feet in elevation, begins along an old gravel road before narrowing into a foot path some one-and-a-half miles later. Hikers will encounter extremely rugged terrain that includes several sections of steep rock steps and must maneuver around large roots and boulders and also traverse a narrow footbridge that crosses some 20-feet above the creek (perhaps not for the faint of heart.) The last one-third of the trail is extremely difficult. The eight-mile roundtrip, which takes from 5-7 hours to complete, is rated strenuous and is not recommended for novice hikers.
Ramsey Falls is one of the most spectacular and also the deadliest waterfalls in the park and visitors should be aware that a careless moment might prove fatal. A sign posted at Ramsey Cascade warns that four people have died trying to scale the falls – the latest victim slipped and fell to his death in May 2017.
If you plan to hike this trail wear appropriate recommended footwear with ankle supports. Portions of the trail are very rocky and sandals and flip flops are not advisable. Take plenty of drinking water and snacks or perhaps pack in a picnic to enjoy once you reach your destination. Weather in these mountains can change abruptly so a light-weight jacket and rain gear are also advised. For more detailed information on outfitting yourself for a hike visit our blog Hiking Essentials.
Directions to Ramsey Cascade Trailhead: Beginning at Light #3 in Gatlinburg, (the intersection of 441 and 321) travel eastbound on 321. Continue for six miles and turn right into Greenbrier (a Great Smoky National Parkentrance sign will be on your right.) The paved section quickly gives way to a gravel road. Turn left at the fork in the road, cross the bridge and continue for 1.5 miles to the trailhead.