This is an eight mile round trip and can take a little over four hours, depending on the hikers skill level. This is a very popular hike through the highly prized Greenbrier section of the Park. A hike on the Ramsays Cascades trail not only reveals what has been called the best falls in the Smokies, but also old growth forest that has never suffered from the logger's saw or the settler's ax.
From Wears Valley take Lyons Springs road into the national park. Once you cross the single traffic wooded bridge, turn left onto route 73 and follow that to Galinburg. From Gatlinburg, drive east along US 321 for 6 miles. Turn right on Greenbrier Road and continure 3.1 miles along the Little Pigeon River to Greenbrier Cove. Turn left at Ramsay Prong Road and go another 1.5 miles and stop at the parking area.
This is one of the most popular hiking trails in the Park system. The trail starts out with a slight upgrade in the beginning, then becomes more challenging as you near the Ramseays Cascades falls. The latter portion of the trail is where you will find the old growth forest.
The trail starts on the south side of the Middle Prong of the Little Pigeon River. At mile 1.5 mark the trail comes to a point where you can turnaround. From this point the Greenbrier Pinnacle Trail goes off to the left and the Ramsay Cascade Trail continues straight ahead. From here the climb becomes much more steep and challenging.
A winding passageway through huge boulders identifies the approach to Ramsay Cascades waterfalls. Two streams converge and tumble nearly one hundred feet over the eight ledges that stair step down creating the casecade. It's a marvelous place to spread out a lunch or relax and recover from the hike up the trail.
The graded trail ends at the cascades, but about a 1/2 mile above the Cascade you find your way through a growth of dense rhododendron as the trail approaches a creek and a great little area called the Drinkwater Pool. Drinkwater Pool is the largest of a succession of basins on the creek, where the water collects in pools before continuing on to the cascades. Drinkwater Pool is surrounded by ledges covered with overhanging rhododendron above which towers a stand of virgin birch. Although it is named the drinking pool, it is not recommended that you drink the water.
A little more than a 1/2 mile above Drinkwater Pool is a second cascade, which is higher than the Ramsay Cascades! On the face of a 200 foot cliff are more than a dozen small waterfalls. Each fall has a separate ledge where the water pools before falling to the next.
Should you want to continue another 1.5 miles the Appalachian Trail is located above these falls--
A word of wisdom. If you decide to hike this trail, be sure to pack some drinking water. Bring along some snack, but be sure to bear proof what you will be carrying them in (no, not likely, but you never know). Take along a pair of seasoned hiking boots. Not the time to break in a new pair. And allow plenty of time, check the weather forecast and plan accordingly before setting out!