Located in the Greenbrier area of the Smoky Mountains, just past the Ramsey Cascade trail head, Porters Creek trail is just a few minutes drive outside of downtown Gatlinburg. The trail is known for it's wildflowers and beautiful waterfall.
As you make your way to the trailhead, the roadway and bridges are a little tight in some areas and can only accommodate one car at a time. Use caution in this area. Once you arrive, there is a sizable parking lot as well as plenty of parking along the road if necessary.
Insider Tip: While there are no restrooms at the trail head, you will pass a small restroom on your drive in.
Exploring Porters Creek Trail
The first part of the trail is along a wide gravel path and you'll see plenty of trees, rock formations and moss covering the area. We took our hike during the spring time, which provided us with many blooming flowers, which just add to the beauty of the hike.
Within the first mile of your hike, you will start to see portions of stone walls off to your right-hand side. These rock walls were part of an old farm settlement in the early 1900’s. We recommend taking some time to explore this area and reflect on the history that this portion of the park had on settlers.
Continuing along the path, which continues to be wide and easy to maneuver, even across the footbridges. Currently, the you are high above the river edge, but the sounds of the flowing water are still very much part of the landscape. You will eventually come to a fork in the road. If you want to continue onward to Porters Creek, you will want to take the trail on the left.
Once you reach this point and continue your journey, you will start to notice a change in the scenery. The gravel road changes over to a more traditional dirt path. The forest continues to get denser with the old growth trees, rocks formations and moss-covered landscape. You will eventually make your way over a second bridge and shortly afterward, the floor of the forest becomes covered in a blanket of wildflowers.
Again, since our hike was during the early part of spring, the wildflowers were out in full bloom. After enjoying the beauty of the wildflowers, you will continue your way over the final approximate half mile to Fern Branch Falls. These falls are located on the left-hand side of your hike and you can not miss them.
While the actual falls are located just off the path, you can make your way a little closer to the falls for that perfect photo opportunity. Use caution, as the park services do not encourage visitors to climb up on the rocks.
At this point, the Porters Creek Hike ends at the falls, but the trail does continue. If you are open to continue your journey, you can continue along the trail and make your way up to Campsite 31. This is about another 1.6-mile hike to the campground. The trail is clearly marked and provides equally stunning views of the old growth portion of the park. We were told that the campsite is a prime spot for visitors to have an afternoon picnic and just enjoy the tranquil peace of the park before making your way back.
Porters Creek is a great trail for all ages and offers spectacular views of the park. While the wildflowers are only in full bloom seasonally, we strongly recommend this hike anytime during the year, so enjoy!
Porters Creek Trail Quick Guide
Total Distance: 4 miles out and back
Elevation Change: 699 Feet Gain, with an average of 350 feet gain per mile
Difficulty Rating: 5.4, which is considered a moderate hike
Restrooms Available: No restrooms directly at the trailhead. However, you will pass a restroom / campsite on your right hand side just before you reach the parking lot.
Directions & Parking: From Gatlinburg, head eastbound for roughly 6 miles on 321 and turn right onto Greenbrier (you will find a Great Smoky Mountain National Park sign to clearly indicate this road). This road turns into a gravel road after a short distance, where you will continue to follow the signs.
Interested in finding more fantastic hiking opportunities within the Great Smoky Mountains, check out our picks for the best Smoky Mountains Hiking Trails.