Smoky Mountains: Roaring Fork Motor Trail

While in the Smoky Mountains, we usually stop at the Sugarland Visitors Center, located at the northern entrance just south of Gatlinburg. There, we buy jars of blueberry preserves, and freshen up before taking long drives through the mountains.

We also see what field guides are available. On this trip, we purchased Smoky Mountains: Auto Touring. This handy pamphlet contains information on five auto tours: two on the Tennessee side of the park, two in North Carolina, and one along Newfound Gap Road.

The Roaring Forks Motor Trail was today's target for two reasons: waterfalls and wildflowers. Trailheads for Grotto Falls and Rainbow Falls are located along the loop as is a creature called the Place of a Thousand Drips.

Now who can resist that?

Our first target was a trail called Trillium Gap. We passed signs for this hike during a visit to Grotto Falls years ago, and given the amount of trillium we'd spotted along the way to Cades Cove, we were bound to find more there. We were right.

At the last moment, we diverted to the Rainbow Falls trail. It's far more strenuous as it gains elevation, and while we didn't make it to the falls thanks to the lingering effects of bronchitis, we did enjoy wildflowers and cascades along the way.

For more photos of the flowers we found during this hike, go to my Roaring Fork post on Carolina in Bloom

The one-lane, one-way Roaring Fork Motor Trail winds through the woods, over creeks, and somewhere along the way, becomes more rocky for geological reasons I've yet to research. The result is sheer-rock faces in some places, and amazing cascades in others.

And combined, they create a place called the Place of a Thousand Drips. I've searched, I've yet to learn who named the falls. Cherokee, I assume. I'm almost sure there were more drips during that time, otherwise it would be called the Place of Twenty-Five Dribbles. Still, it's an interesting stop along the Roaring Fork Motor Trail.

Especially after a hard rain. For more information on the Place of a Thousand Drips, and incredible photos of the place, visit

After we left Roaring Fork, we headed back to the Sugarland Visitors Center. Behind the building is a short trail to Cataract Falls.

A fabulous day of hiking and touring to see waterfalls and wildflowers. All within miles of Gatlinburg.

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