Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Cataract Falls (Great Smoky Mountains NP)

Cataract Falls
Fighting Creek Nature Trail to Cove Mountain Trail in Great Smoky Mountains NP
Trailhead Elevation: 1,473 ft.
Distance: 1.30 mi.
Elevation Gain: 138 ft.
Start Time: 1:58pm
End Time: 2:43pm

Trip Report:
Looking for a good family-friendly hike near the Sugarlands Visitor Center, we talked to a nice ranger for good advice. He made two very close suggestions: Laurel Falls and Cataract Falls. Laurel Falls would be a drive down the road and something like a 1.3mi hike. Cataract Falls could be hit from the VC with perhaps just over a half mile hike. We settled on the latter. In the bathrooms area of the VC complex there is a sign for "nature trail" and the hiking began there. I noticed some map applications refer to it as "Fighting Creek Nature Trail". It was an easy walk to a well-marked junction where you have a decision to make. Left would be a loop for the Fighting Creek Nature Trail. Right is a connector trail over to the trailhead for Cove Mountain Trail, which is also the path to Cataract Falls. It was just a 1/10 of a mile to the Falls from here. It is also easy to see where the Cove Mountain trail continues onward. The falls weren't overly dramatic and we've certainly seen better but for a simple, short family hike it was great. The trail was workable for all the kids down to age three in our group. There was just a small amount of elevation gain. At the falls there was some steep dirt/tree root scrambling around the side of the falls to get above them which most of our group did. One gentleman in the area stirred up some yellow jackets and had 4 or 5 swarming him. There had been a sign near the trailhead warning of this possibility. It was a good warm-up hike for our trip and a nice family opportunity for everyone to join.

Trail sign with map

The girls playing in a big open tree stump on the way

Well maintained trail by the creek

Basic shot of Cataract Falls

I have a track and waypoints from the hike all contained in the embedded Google Map. Check it out and use at your own risk.

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