SMOKY MOUNTAIN WATERPARKS AND WATERFALLS
Fun flows in Sevierville, Tennessee.
Splash some water onto your summer vacation plans and the whole family will be happily refreshed. Whether your goal is to get drenched or stay dry, experience thrills or commune with nature, the waterparks and waterfalls of Sevierville, Tennessee never disappoint.
Soaky Mountain Waterpark a massive, 50-acre outdoor waterpark with more than 19 attractions that opened mid-summer in 2020—officially opens for the 2021 season on May 15 and 16, then daily starting May 22. Adventures include “Avalaunch,” a first-of-its-kind watercoaster with a drop-and-dive sensation, curved wave wall, and a whitewater finish; “Soaky Surge,” a massive wave pool with six-foot tall waves; the “Whoop & Holler” body slide with a drop-away floor for a plummet into the splash zone; “Hang 10essee,” a double FlowRider surfing simulator; “Blue Mountain Mayhem,” a raft waterslide with two gravity-challenging walls for a feeling of weightlessness; and “Rainbow Revenge,” a raft waterslide with dazzling effects, among many more options for fun-seekers of all ages. Kiddie options include “The Hive,” a play-and-spray feature, and “Boomers Bay,” a pool area with smaller versions of some of the park’s towering slides. New this year, Yukon Frozen Yogurt in the Candy Cabin building offers refreshing, build-your-own frozen treats. New Summit Snacks food carts in the main plaza area sell nachos, pretzels, popcorn, hot dogs, novelty ice cream, cookies, fresh-squeezed lemonade, beer, bottled water, Icees, and fountain drinks. Frozen margaritas, daiquiris, piña coladas, and other adult beverages are now available at two bars. Twelve new mini cabanas big enough for two are now available for rent.
Wilderness at the Smokies
—a full-service resort with 713 rooms, suites, and villas—is home to Tennessee’s largest indoor waterpark plus
two outdoor waterparks for abundant thrills year-round. Slide 55 feet down a dark tunnel before dropping
through a zero-gravity swirling funnel. Experience a body-surfing simulator with five-foot waves. Speed
through various tube slides. Ride a raft through the five-story “Runaway Canyon.” Get wet in the multi-level
“Washout Mountain.” Outside, race down the Southeast’s only near-vertical translucent looping body waterslide.
Swoosh down the state’s largest waterslide and rush through water curtains, tunnels, and loops.
Entertain young children in “Treehouse Springs” with a zero-depth wading pool dotted with sprinklers,
bubblers, geyser jets, waterfall splashes, dump buckets, and a treehouse tower with three slides. Towel
off and try the three-story ropes course with cargo nets, balance beams, and mid-air lily pads. There’s
also a 23-foot rock climbing wall, a nine-hole mini golf course with black lights, six lanes of miniature
bowling, a laser tag maze, the region’s largest interactive playhouse, more than 100 arcade games,
multi-level laser tag, and much more.
The Resort at Governor's Crossing offers indoor and outdoor waterparks at its family-oriented resort. The outdoor area, which opened for the 2021 season on March 5, offers an 80-foot water slide, 250-foot lazy river, supersized swimming pool, children’s pool with interactive water features, log roll, outdoor whirlpool, and sun deck. “Adventure Springs,” has a large play structure that pumps over 1,500 gallons of water a minute. There’s a dual racing slide, enclosed slide, 300-gallon dump bucket, and over 30 interactive play features. Indoors, slip down two big water speed slides, wade into the zero-entry pool, or play water basketball and water volleyball. Watch your little ones interact in the toddler splash and play zone. Soak in the 20-person hot tub. Relax in the Finnish dry sauna where temperatures can approach 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Swim or jog against the jet-propulsion current in the Badu SwimJet. Beyond the water, “Firefly Cove” offers fire pits with comfortable seating, a playground, hammock relaxation zone, and picnic grounds with grills. The Resort also offers a new nine-hole mini golf course, pirate ship playground, two arcades, and a walking trail. New this year, “Popsicle Patrol” offers free frozen treats around the waterparks between 2:45 and 3:15 p.m. daily. Daily activities are also hosted.
Foxfire Mountain Adventure Park is home to 150 acres of excitement including a climbing wall, swinging bridge, and zip-line course. There’s also a one-mile trail to a waterfall, a photogenic reward on this easy, out-and-back hike.
Looming adjacent to Sevierville, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers hundreds of miles of trails in old-growth forests with abundant waterfalls Large waterfalls draw crowds, but smaller cascades can be found on nearly every river and stream in the park. For details and trail maps, stop by one of the park’s four visitor centers (Sugarlands, Oconaluftee, Cades Cove, or Clingmans Dome). Among our favorite waterfalls within the park’s Tennessee borders near Sevierville:
- Rainbow Falls is an 80-foot waterfall that in winter occasionally freezes into an hourglass shape. The namesake trail reaches the falls in 2.7 miles; turn around after snapping photos or continue up to the summit of Mount Le Conte for a total of 6.7 miles before turning back.
- The Hen Wallow Falls trail (a short side-trail off Gabes Mountain Trail) is a moderate trek to a 95-foot waterfall that fans out to 20 feet wide across the bottom. At 4.4 miles roundtrip, the trail meanders through old-growth forest thick with hemlock and rhododendron.
- The Middle Prong Trail follows the route of an old logging railroad. The 8.3-mile roundtrip trek passes multiple waterfalls, including Indian Flats Falls and Lower Lynn Camp Falls, a 35-foot, multi-tiered cascade, plus several small cascades. Seasonal clumps of violets, crested dwarf iris, wood sorrel, trilliums and other wildflowers bloom near the trail.
- Abrams Falls is one of the park’s most voluminous waterfalls with a 20-foot drop over a rocky cliff into a long, deep pool at its base. The well-worn trail is a moderate five-miles round-trip and follows alongside Abrams Creek much of the way while passing through pine, hemlock, and rhododendron forest.
- Grotto Falls is a 25-foot-high cascade on the Trillium Gap Trail that meanders through old-growth hemlock forest. Seasonal wildflowers flank the three-mile route. Rated moderate, this hike offers the park’s only opportunity to walk behind a waterfall, but step with caution since the ground is always wet and slick.
- Laurel Falls is a gorgeous 80-foot-high cascade with an upper and lower section divided by a walkway over a stream. One of the park’s most popular hikes, this 2.6-mile trail climbs 314 feet in elevation.
- Dropping 100 feet over rock outcroppings, Ramsey Cascades is the park’s tallest waterfall. The 4-mile trail follows rushing rivers and streams most of the way. Its last two miles pass through some of the park’s largest old-growth forest with large tuliptrees, basswoods, silverbells, and yellow birches. The area houses some of the park’s largest trees including the third-tallest red maple (141 feet), the second-tallest white oak (123 feet), and the tallest black cherry (146 feet).
- Hike or drive to Upper Meigs Falls, which is nestled on the far side of Little River. A pull-off is located along Little River Road between Sugarlands Visitor Center and the Townsend Wye. The 15-foot waterfall sits on Meigs Creek and drops into a small pool shaded by rhododendron. Nearby is The Sinks, a small but powerful cascade that falls into swirling water, creating the visual impression that water is draining as if from a sink.
Hike smart and stay safe. Grab a trail guide at a Visitor Center, follow trail makers, and stay on the trails. Plan ahead and wear clothing and footwear appropriate for hiking. Be sure to bring water.