|Trail Features:||Waterfalls, Old growth forests|
|Roundtrip Length:||8.0 Miles|
|Total Elevation Gain:||2375 Feet|
|Avg. Elev Gain / Mile:||594 Feet|
|Highest Elevation:||4400 Feet|
|Trail Difficulty Rating:||12.75 (strenuous)|
|Parking Lot Latitude||35.70267|
|Parking Lot Longitude||-83.3572|
Directions to Trailhead:
At the junction of 441 and 321 in Gatlinburg (Light 3), turn
to travel eastbound on 321. Drive 6 miles and turn right into Greenbrier (look
for the Great Smoky Mountain National Park entrance sign on the right). This road
will turn into a gravel road after a short distance. Drive 3.1 miles to the
fork in the road. Turn left here and cross the bridge, and then drive another 1.5 miles to reach the
Ramsey Cascades Trailhead.
This waterfall in the Greenbrier area has gone by two different spellings. Historically, the park used to spell the name as "Ramsay". However, in more recent publications, and on their website, the park is now spelling it as "Ramsey". The revised version properly reflects the correct spelling, since the cascades are named after the Ramsey family that once lived in this area.
The Ramsey Cascades Trail gains 2375 feet in elevation over its 4-mile course, and is considered to be a moderately strenuous hike. Despite this, however, the trail is still very popular and you should expect to see a fair amount of hikers along the trail and at the falls during peak tourist seasons.
The beginning of the Ramsey Cascades Trail follows the remnants of an old gravel road. Roughly 1.5 miles from the trailhead you'll reach an old traffic circle, which marks the end of the old roadway you've been following to this point. This location also marks the junction with the old Greenbrier Pinnacle Trail, which used to lead hikers to the top of Greenbrier Pinnacle where an old fire tower once stood. However, the trail is now overgrown and is no longer maintained by the park. From here the Ramsey Cascades Trail continues towards the east as a narrow footpath.
Soon hikers will enter the largest old-growth forest remaining in the national park. One of the primary reasons the park was created was in response to the damage being done to the ancient forests by the logging industry. This forest was one of the few to remain mostly unscathed. Some of the trees along the trail are among the largest known in the park. Over the last 2 miles hikers will pass through an old-growth hardwood forest that includes large tuliptrees, eastern hemlock, basswoods, silverbells, and yellow birches.
The trail follows the Ramsey Prong of the Little Pigeon River, which drains off of 6621-foot high Mount Guyot, the second highest mountain in the Great Smoky Mountains. There are countless waterfalls and rapids that line the stream, which are intermittingly interrupted by cool clear pools of water.
Ramsey Cascades is the tallest waterfall in the park, as well as one of the most spectacular. Water drops 100 feet over rock outcroppings and collects in a small pool where numerous salamanders can often be found.
The park website warns that you shouldn't attempt to climb to the top of the falls as several people have been killed trying to do so. One other caution for hikers during the summer months: watch out for hornets' nests hanging over the trail at roughly eye level, and looking like large gray paper balls.