TO THE TRAILHEAD: Upon entering Cades Cove, go 5 miles on the one-way road around the Cades Cove loop. There will be a turnoff to the right onto a gravel road that will lead you a half-mile to the Abrams falls parking area.
THE HIKE: Abrams Falls is one of the most popular hikes in the Smoky Mountains and perhaps the best waterfall inside the park’s boundary. The hike itself is not difficult, covering only 2.5 miles to reach the falls. It is buried deep inside the heart of Cades Cove near the city of Townsend. Given the popularity of this hike, it is best to do this hike either very early in the morning or during non-peak weekdays. However, the best time to to visit this hike is early on a Wednesday or Saturday. The reason for this is simply that the Cades Cove loop road is closed to vehicles until 10 a.m. on those days. If you are a runner or cyclist, this is one of the few times to have peace and quiet on the trail.
The trail itself is not particularly difficult. The elevation change is only 200 feet. The only thing that makes this trail difficult is that the trail goes up and down several times. None of the ascents or descents are memorable. It is the continuous up and down and that might leave you slightly winded or give you sore legs. This trail is enjoyable, however, as long as it is not too busy. The scenery in this trail along the way does not offer the spectacular views or massive old growth forests of some other hikes. That being said, the end is well worth it. Especially after a good rain, the falls are a great sight.
Abrams Falls are about 100 feet wide with a 20 foot plunge into the massive pool of water below. During the summer, this can be a great place to swim and wade (and many, many people do). If you decide to get in the water, please be smart. Do not jump off the rocks and use caution. It is not a backyard pool and should not be treated as such. Injuries or worse are reported every year from foolish people who show no respect to the powerful falls. I would assume respect is earned as they are being treated for their injuries.
These falls are some of the best in the national park. It is better than Laurel, Indian Creek, Grotto, and Toms Branch. The largest problem with this trail is simply getting to and departing from the trailhead. The five miles to the trailhead from the start of the loop and six miles back to the end of the loop may not seem like much, but with a single lane, one way road, these few miles can literally take hours. People will often move very slowly along this road to take in the scenery and even stop in the middle of the road if they see something interesting. This causes major traffic jams along this road quite frequently. Do not expect to do more than 10 miles per hour at any time and less if the road is busy. As previously stated, this trail is well worth the drive, but definitely plan to visit during a non-peak time.