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Improvements Coming to Laurel Falls Trail in the National Park

One of the most popular trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is getting upgraded! The Laurel Falls Trail has received the go-ahead from the National Parks Service for an improvement plan expected to begin sometime in 2024. Here is everything you need to know about the improvements planned for the Laurel Falls Trail:

What to Know

laurel fallsThe improvement plan is aimed to elevate the visitor experience, address parking and safety concerns and rehabilitate the 1.3-mile trail famous for its 80-foot-tall waterfall! The trail is expected to close for at least 18 months, beginning at some point in 2024, in order to implement changes.

The plan was developed with input from community members and after an environmental assessment on the area was completed. The construction project will be paid for using revenue from the park’s parking tag program that began in March.

What Improvement Plans Include

The approved proposal includes:

  • Resurface and widen the paved trail
  • Build a new viewing platform
  • Install new signs at the trailhead and along the trail
  • Build a wider bridge at the upper falls
  • Expand and improve designated parking spaces
  • Include a shuttle service and timed-entry parking reservation system for the trailhead

A timeline for the trailhead’s timed-entry parking reservation system will be announced by the National Park Service at a later date.

About Laurel Falls Trail

laurel falls trail signLaurel Falls, an 80-foot-tall waterfall split into an upper and lower section by a small footbridge, is an ultimate bucket-list attraction along the trail! The Laurel Falls Trail is a 2.6-mile roundtrip hike located near Sugarlands Visitor Center.

The trail is paved and of easy to moderate difficulty level, making it a favorite among families who visit the Smokies! It gains about 314 feet of elevation at a steady and manageable pace so you won’t be fully tuckered out by the end of your hike, allowing for more fun in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to follow. If you do bring along little ones, make sure to keep a close eye on them as some edges of the trail feature steep drop-offs.
Once you reach Laurel Falls at the end of the path, you’ll be blown away by the two-tiered waterfall that cascades over rock formations. Cross to the opposite side of the waterfall on the footbridge and snap some photos that you’ll cherish forever!

It will take you about 2 hours to complete the trail out to Laurel Falls and back. Make sure to bring drinking water with you, especially if you’re visiting on a hot day. Pets and bikes are prohibited on the trail. As one of the most popular trails in the park, we recommend visiting early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid bigger crowds.

We can’t wait to experience these new improvements coming to Laurel Falls Trail in 2024! Laurel Falls is just 1 of several waterfalls in the Smoky Mountains that are stunning no matter when you visit! Check out several more hiking trails with waterfalls that are perfect for families to enjoy!