The Essentials

Grotto Falls

G Rating 5.5
WOW Factor 3

Plumb Rating 

Height: 25'


Distance: 2.8 mi (RT)



GPS and Map Details
Latitude:   35° 40.434' N
Longitude: 83° 26.976' W
Elevation:   3,680 ft
Face:         ~340° (NNW)

Maps:  Topozone

          Hike Topo

Nearby Waterfalls


Grotto Falls in GSMNP


View of Grotto Falls after crossing behind the falls


Lower Grotto Falls, seen just before reaching the main falls


Photo Tips


Waterfall Posters



New Hampshire



Grotto Falls

Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee

Visit my personal gallery at Gardner Photography for larger high resolution waterfall photos

Grotto Falls on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

Grotto Falls (04/16/2005, 30 mm, f/25, 2 sec, ISO 100)


This waterfall located on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is a popular destination and notable mostly because one can walk behind the waterfall.  Kids love it because of that.


It is a nice waterfall but nothing spectacular, having a small watershed and only a 25' drop.  The waterfall ratings are average as a result.


It is a good hike for the family if you want something easier than a stroll but not so hard that your wife swears off hiking with you.


As a bonus there is a picturesque cascade just before you reach the main falls.  I'm calling it Lower Grotto Falls and I've posted a picture of it to the left.


Getting There

The hiking trail is located on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail just out of Gatlinburg, TN.  Parking is 1.5 miles past the first trailhead for Baskins Falls (more detailed directions here) or 1.7 miles past the official beginning of the motor nature trail.

Hike Details


The hike is on the Trillium Gap Trail.  Official park information lists the hike at 2.6 miles roundtrip while my topographic software shows 2.8 miles.  Anyway, it's not a bad hike with a total elevation gain around 600 feet.


Elevation profile of hike to Grotto Falls


To see more detail on the hike, check out the Grotto Falls hike topo.


Photo Tips

A polarizing filter will definitely help here and a neutral density filter would be a nice addition as well to help slow the shutter speed.  Water flow is not high so I recommend a small aperture setting (high f-stop) and slow film speed to assist with obtaining a long shutter speed. 


Having said that, a tripod is a must for a decent picture of the falls.  The picture above had a 2 second exposure and I would have preferred about a 6-10 second exposure.


From a composition standpoint, the left or left-center worked best for me.  Be patient and wait for people to get out of the picture.  Rocks are about the only foreground option.


You will be close to the falls so a wide angle zoom or standard lens should take care of most potential compositions.


Return to top of Grotto Falls

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.

By Randy Gardner, All content Copyright© 2006-2016, All rights reserved.

No unauthorized reproduction is allowed.

Pictures may be used for private use only with permission from author.  Contact Us