Spruce Flat Falls is one of the hidden gems of the Smoky Mountains. The hike is about a mile each way, not too rugged but with a bit of a climb. The trail passes through a thicket of Mountain Laurel, which will be in bloom the first week or two in May. It’s also a wonderful spot for photography.
Spruce Flat is in the Tremont section of the Smokies. This area was first settled by Black Bill (William Marion) Walker in the 1850s. Walker was a legendary frontiersman who reportedly fathered 26 children and killed 100 bears in his lifetime. The entire bottomland through which flows the picturesque Middle Prong of the Little River is known as Walker Valley. Walker Fields, Bill Walker’s former homestead, is the setting for the current day Smoky Mountains Institute, and the starting point for this hike. Bill Walker protected the area from the ravages of lumbering until, just short of his death, he finally sold out to the Little River Lumber Company in 1918.
To get to the trailhead, enter the Tremont section of the Smokies, taking a left turn just west of the intersection of the road from Townsend (known as the Townsend Y). Proceed up this road until you cross a bridge to the left, then park at the Smoky Mountains Institute. Walk to the end of the buildings, and just past the ranger’s house you will see a small sign that simply says “Trail to the Falls.” Unlike some of the more popular trails in the Smokies, you may have this one all to yourself. The trail climbs up, then meanders along the side of a ridge, and then abruptly descends to the basin of Spruce Flat Falls. There are many possibilities for climbing around the falls to find special vantage points for photography.
Spruce Flat is one of the Featured Photos of William Britten Photography.
Please stop in and visit me to see the complete display of Smoky Mountains Photography at the William Britten Gallery in Gatlinburg, TN. If you are a Facebook user, you can get my daily Smoky Mountains news and photos by becoming a fan of the William Britten Photography Facebook Page.
I HAVE ONLY BEEN IN TN 3 YEARS. DIDN’T KNOW THAT GREAT SMOKIES COULD BE SO BEAUTIFUL AND RADIANT. YOUR PHOTOS ILLUSTRATE THAT FEELING. WILL BE VISITING YOU SOMETIME SOON.
I AM LIVING IN OAK RIDGE NOW, HAVING LIVED IN UTAH FOR 9 YEARS. YOUR PHOTOS ARE AN INSPIRATION FOR ME.
I have been trying to find this location for a while. Just haven’t been able to run upon some good directions. I even went to the Institute and they were closed one afternoon. I didn’t have a clue which way to go. Thanks for the directions and the next time I visit the area I plan to see first hand. Love your work.
Glad to help, Onita … it’s a great hike to Spruceflat …
We hiked Spruce Flats trail last time we were there (Halloween), and it is high on our list of favorite trails. Love your work–I look forward to seeing new shots every day on Facebook!
Thanks Judy! I need to get back out to Spruce Flat … haven’t been there for a couple of years.
Uncle Bill, Jim and I hiked this trail in October and loved it! We plan on taking Drew on it this August.Hope to see you then.
We’ll look forward to seeing you all!
On my first visit to the Smokies, I made the hike to Spruce Flat Falls on 7/29/2011 based on your post. Although the temperature was north of 95 that day and very humid, it was worth the effort. The falls were beautiful and I spent about 2 hours photographing them. I only saw 2 other people while I was at the falls which was a welcome relief from the mass of humanity I encountered at Cades Cove. My wife and I plan to return about the 3rd week of October. I’ve learned a lot about the smokies from your posts and greatly appreciate you taking the time to do them.
Thanks for the feedback! The leaves usually peak here the last week of Oct.
is tihs a strenuous hike? going in april, and the fiance will be 6 months pregnant. could she make it or should we wait for this set of falls?
Chris … might be a bit much for 6 months pregnant.
We will be in the Smokies June 23-29. Will there be any flowers blooming along this hike at that time?
Seems like there’s always something blooming all summer long. The peak time is April-May.
I really enjoyed your website – It is an excellent site about Wildflowers found in Smokies.
We hiked to Spruce Flat falls in 2005 and we were surprised to find nobody there on a busy weekend! It is a lesser known gem. I shot this waterfall straight: