A springtime hike to Hen Wallow Falls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park definitely makes the list of great hikes to waterfalls in the Smokies. We enjoyed Hen Wallow Falls Trail in late April when the water is running fast and wildflowers are in bloom everywhere.
You are in for a beautiful shaded hike through old growth trees. Occasionally you’ll round a bend and find an opening in the trees that gives you an unbelievable view of mountains and valleys in the distance. The hike culminates looking over a majestic 90 foot waterfall.
About the Trail to Hen Wallow Falls
We took off from Cosby Campground where we had an amazing Smoky Mountain National Park camping experience. There the trail head is tucked in loop A behind site 64. Most non-campers pick up the Hen Wallow Falls trail from the nearby Cosby Picnic Area where you’ll find the falls on the Gabes Mountain Trail.
One of my favorite features of this 4.4 mile (round trip) hike are the rustic log bridges. At first it’s a little scary to cross the water on such a narrow path, but once you get moving you’ll realize it’s not that difficult.
Along the trail we enjoyed the spring wildflowers and many of the trees coming into bloom. We happened to be visiting during the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage so we passed several guided wildflower tours on the trail. If you visit in the late spring or early summer you are also likely to see the huge rhododendron that line much of the trail in full glory.
My second favorite part of this hike was the lack of crowds. The Cosby area of Great Smoky Mountain National Park is a little out of the way so less visitors find this piece of paradise. We relaxed at the falls for over an hour and there was never more than a handful of other people there at the same time.
Video of Hen Wallow Falls
Here, Brad shot a quick video of the falls that really show them off. Hen Wallow Falls is fed by Hen Wallow Creek. It is interesting in that at the top, it’s only a couple feet wide. As it falls over the large smooth boulders it fans out and creates a 20 foot wide wall of water. You’ll be able to get some great photos looking up the falls. Looking down from the trail isn’t quite so interesting as the boulders break up.
Hen Wallow Falls Trail Difficulty Level
This hike is rated as a moderately difficult hike. There is a 900 foot elevation gain over the course of the hike, but we found that to be a fairly steady rise making it not very difficult to manage. My personal view is that this hike is only difficult because of the large tree roots that weave through the trail. The hike to Hen Wallow Falls could definitely be an ankle twister. For that reason, make sure you have good thick soles so you don’t feel every bump. And boots with ankle support would be a great asset.
To put the difficulty level into perspective, most hikers we passed on this trail were families and they were sailing along. We crossed paths several times with a mid-70s lady. So I’d say almost anyone of average health and fitness will find the trail to Hen Wallow Falls very doable.
The last little bit of the trail is a little tougher as it drops quickly with large boulders to traverse to see the waterfall. Once you pass that short corridor you arrive at a beautiful spot to enjoy the falls. We spread out on a large boulder to eat our lunch and enjoy the amazing view.
When is the Best Time to Visit Hen Wallow Falls?
The falls are fed by Hen Wallow Creek, which will slow down considerably during dry periods. The best time to see the falls are in the spring or right after a good rain. Hen Wallow Falls can also be a great winter hike because the falls often freeze after a week of cold. The sun glistening off the frozen wall would be worth the hike.
How to Get to Hen Wallow Falls Trail Head
GPS Coordinates: Latitude: 35° 45′ 11.9999″ N Longitude: 83° 12′ 31.0000″ W
This hike is just outside Cosby Campground in the far North East corner of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. From the town of Cosby, TN, proceed south on TN 32 about 1.5 miles south of the junction with US 321. Turn right at Cosby sign. Campground is another 2 miles. You’ll find the trail head just before the campground.
Wildlife You Will Find in the Cosby Area
According the the Smoky Mountains Park Service black bears are very common in this area so make sure you have reviewed their bear safety guide written specifically for smoky mountain hikes. Also salamanders are often found near the falls delighting children as the play in the water.
Keep Your Family Safe
The rocks in the waterfalls of Smoky Mountains National Park present a serious safety hazard. Due to the high moisture levels, algae builds up on the rocks creating a high risk of slipping.
We hope you enjoy your hike to Hen Wallow Falls as much as we did. It’s a great opportunity to enjoy one of the beautiful Smoky Mountain waterfalls without navigating through large crowds.