Porters Creek Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN
DURATION 2 hours
There And
Back Again
Porters Creek

Venture to the north side of the Smokies for this quiet, easy hike along Porters Creek to Fern Branch Falls. While you definitely will not be alone, you will find this area less crowded than other sections of the park.

Parking is at the end of the loop on Loop Road at the end of Greenbrier Road. There’s enough parking for 25 – 30 cars, but make sure to get there early on weekends. The trail begins along the wide gravel path behind the gate. The Porter’s Creek trail stays close to the named creek the entire hike, only leaving it briefly and never out of earshot of the roaring water.

All along this first section, numerous short side trails take you closer to the beautiful Porter’s Creek. At the 1.0 mile mark, the trail splits twice in short succession. Stay to the left at both intersections, following the creek. At this point, the trail has climbed above the creek and more side trails allow views down below. This is also where the gravel path ends and the more common narrow, dirt, root, and rock trail continues. Even as the trail stays well above the water, moss-covered boulders and fern covered hills still make this trail scenic and peaceful.

At 1.5 miles from the trailhead, a long, narrow log bridge takes you over Porter’s Creek. The bridge consists of three pieces of log, supported by rocks and topped with a layer of asphalt. A low handrail helps you across. If you are afraid of heights, you may want to turn around here.

At mile 2.0 the trail crosses a small stream. At this point, look up and to the left and you will see Fern Branch Falls high above the trail. A steep side trail exists just after crossing the stream that will lead you up for a better view from the base of the falls. Although Fern Branch Falls is nothing spectacular, the thick moss growing on the exposed rock face alongside the falling water is interesting enough to make this steep final climb worthwhile. This description ends here, but the trail does continue for a while before ending at a campsite.

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Elevation Map Length (miles) by Elevation (feet)
Terrain Map Click to control map
length3.7 miles
difficulty4.3 Easy
duration2 hours
features River/Stream  Waterfall 
trail typeThere And Back Again
elevation gain660 ft.
state Tennessee 
park/forestGreat Smoky Mountains National Park
ranger districtGreat Smoky Mountain National Park
107 Park Headquarters Road
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
865-436-1200 (dial 0 for the Visitor's Center)
parking feeNone
trailhead coordinates 35.696728, -83.388272 (Degree Decimal, DegDec)
N 35°41.8, W 83°23.3 (Degree Minutes, MinDec)
N 35°41'48'', N 35°41'48'' (Degree Minutes Seconds, DMS)
Trailhead Directions
35.696728, -83.388272 (Degree Decimal, DegDec)
N 35°41.8, W 83°23.3 most GPS units use this one
N 35°41'48'', N 35°41'48'' (Degree Minutes Seconds, DMS)
Google Map It
Greenbrier Road becomes Loop Road at the very end. Park at the end of Loop Road.
For up to date park and road closures, visit GSMNP Alerts or follow @SmokiesRoadsNPS on Twitter.
The only minor challenge is crossing Porters Creek along a log bridge. A low handrail is available and the logs are topped with asphalt; however, those afraid of heights may not want to continue on.
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Reviews / Comments
Average Review Rating
4 (1)
hikethesouth-6 years ago
Relaxed Smoky Mountain Hike
This is a really nice relaxed hike. The waterfall at the end certainly isn't super impressive, but this hike keeps close the sights and sounds of Porter's Creek. If you're not looking for a challenge and want to avoid some of the crowds, this is a great option.
Easy | Hiked Spring 2013
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