We love to hike on our vacations. Usually park entrances are low cost or in the case of the Smoke Mountain National Park there is no entrance fee at all.
I had one hike I wanted to do in the Cades Cove area and that was Abrams Fall. The hike is five miles round trip and will take three to four hours to complete.
There is ample parking at the trail head with primitive bathrooms and a trash container. The road to the trail head is a small gravel road that veers to the right after the Elijah Oliver Cabin. We took some breaks along the river and it took us a little over three hours round trip.
The trail follows the rhododendron lined river for most of the beginning of the trail. I was really surprised how many rhododendrons there were, it would be been very beautiful had we visited a week earlier.
We saw many butterflies on the hike.
Then you head over a few hills and one rocky peak.
Lots of scenic little stream crossings and log bridges at the larger crossings.
And then it is back into the valley for the falls.
Abrams Falls is twenty foot high but has a volume flow, do not swim at the base.
We were in no hurry that day and enjoyed the trail in the sometimes light rain. Mostly we were protected from the rain by the trees and it make the heat of the day bearable.
Now to my public service announcement… PLEASE do not wear flip flops on this hike. I was amazed to run into a couple of families all wearing Old Navy type $3 flip flops. I was sliding a bit in my trail shoes, I could not imagine doing this in flip flops. Also carry water with you, we saw people make it almost half way to the falls to give up and go back since they were not prepared.
We carry a cheap back pack with bottles of water or Gatorade depending on the heat. I also have a zip lock bag with some snacks, wrappers go in the zip lock bag when you are done. Carry it in, carry it out. Do not litter! (You do not want to encourage bears to visit the trail looking for food.) I also have band-aids and a few little first aid items mostly for treating a blister in the front pocket.
I enjoyed Abrams Falls, husband still jokes that he thought we would see something bigger on our hike for the time it took. Of all the hikes we took this one did take the longest of our trip at a little over three hours.
More information here: https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/abrams-falls.htm