Abrams Falls - Rabbit Creek Loop, Cades Cove - Abrams Falls Trailhead, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
Abrams Falls - Rabbit Creek Loop - 11.2 miles
Cades Cove - Abrams Falls Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||11.2 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||1,710' - 1,710' (2,375' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+665' net elevation gain (+2,087' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Abrams Falls - Rabbit Creek Loop - 11.2 Miles Round-Trip
The Abrams Creek Trail joins the Hannah Mountain Trail and Rabbit Creek Trail to form a diverse and challenging loop through the Smoky Mountains backcountry. While Abrams Falls is one of the Park's most popular waterfalls, few explore the area's extensive trail network.
The route follows Abrams Creek to a wide unaided crossing (4.2 miles), where the Hannah Mountain Trail climbs in a hardwood-pine forest to the Rabbit Creek Trail (1.85 miles). The Rabbit Creek Trail undulates steeply (5.15 miles) back to Abrams Creek to complete the 11.2 mile loop.
The following description travels counter-clockwise, preferable for lighter morning crowds at Abrams Falls:
The Abrams Creek Trail begins along the creek before leaning away on the first of two climbs around major bends in the river. It crests (1.0 miles : 1,795') and tilts down through an area thinned by a tornado in May 2011.
The trail levels beside the creek with access to wide, lazy sections ideal for fishing and spotting otter (1.6 miles : 1,634'). It climbs another bend, crests (2.1 miles : 1,695'), and drops back to the creek.
The trail shifts quickly in a tangled forest over consecutive bridges to Abrams Falls (2.45 miles : 1,493'). The falls tumble from a wide, 20' wall into a large pool that's naturally dammed by rock and deadfall. Though relatively short, Abrams Falls is among the most voluminous in the Park.
Travel eases past the falls before bending north and away on a rapid descent (3.0 miles : 1510'). It crosses a tributary (3.45 miles : 1,362') and levels back to the creek on a path enveloped by rhododendron and laurel. Note large hemlock in the area, which favor riparian corridors in the Smokies.
Despite close proximity the creek is difficult to access until reaching the Hannah Mountain Trail (4.2 miles : 1,257'), where you must cross a wide, swift section of Abrams Creek to resume travel. This ford can be challenging after heavy rain.
Once over, the Hannah Mountain Trail bends southwest and climbs steadily through an area hit hard by the 2011 tornado (4.2 miles - 4.8 miles). Still, many trees were unaffected by the storm's selective path, and a thinned forest creates good viewing lanes for seeing woodpecker and bear.
Travel moderates into a healthy forest highlighted by prolific laurel and a thick understory (5.45 miles : 1,683'). You'll reach the Rabbit Creek Trail (6.05 miles : 1,768') and turn east around the contours of a deep cove that houses some notably tall hemlock and hardwoods.
At 6.5 miles the trail drops through a rugged, unkempt corridor to Rabbit Creek (7.0 miles : 1,522'), which you'll cross (unaided) to Backcountry Camp #15, a neatly manicured site by the water (7.05 miles : 1,550').
Here you'll begin a strenuous climb over relatively dry, unremarkable swaths of forest. Enjoy a brief reprieve at 7.9 miles (2,050') before a series of demanding undulations. There's little of note on this stretch, however a high vantage and thin understory are ideal for seeing wildlife.
Grades relax around the loop's max elevation (9.25 miles : 2,335'), a good chance to break and survey a noticeably richer forest composition.
The trail rolls gently before dropping sharply (9.9 miles : 2,180') through a contrastingly wet forest to a fork in Abrams Creek (11.1 miles : 1,710'). The trailhead is now in sight, but you must first cross the creek to reach it and complete the loop (11.2 miles : 1,710').
- N35 35.480 W83 51.179 — 0.0 miles : Cades Cove - Abrams Falls Trailhead
- N35 36.032 W83 51.924 — 1.0 miles : Crest on high point to falls
- N35 36.499 W83 52.690 — 2.1 miles : Trail drops back to creek after crest #2
- N35 36.566 W83 52.781 — 2.45 miles : Abrams Falls
- N35 36.674 W83 53.097 — 3.0 miles : Level travel beside creek
- N35 36.657 W83 53.409 — 3.45 miles : Cross tributary on steady descent
- N35 36.309 W83 53.903 — 4.2 miles : Hannah Mtn Trail split - cross creek
- N35 36.112 W83 54.247 — 4.8 miles : Climb through storm-damaged forest
- N35 35.930 W83 54.602 — 5.45 miles : Travel moderates in unaffected forest
- N35 35.702 W83 54.954 — 6.0 miles : Rabbit Creek Trail split
- N35 35.668 W83 54.599 — 6.5 miles : Descent through unkept corridor
- N35 35.613 W83 54.342 — 7.0 miles : Cross Rabbit Creek
- N35 35.651 W83 54.319 — 7.05 miles : Backcountry Campsite #15
- N35 35.392 W83 53.730 — 7.75 miles : Steep, rolling travel
- N35 35.047 W83 53.106 — 8.5 miles : Net climb on steep undulations
- N35 35.186 W83 52.518 — 9.25 miles : Grade moderates near Loop's high point
- N35 35.180 W83 52.007 — 9.9 miles : Begin steep descent
- N35 35.240 W83 51.540 — 10.5 miles : Transition thru damp lower forest
- N35 35.487 W83 51.171 — 11.2 miles : Cross creek to Abrams Falls Trailhead
- Cades Cove and Abrams Falls are two of the most popular destinations in the Park. Get an early start to avoid traffic on the Cades Cove Loop Road and avoid crowds at the falls.
- Bugs and mosquitoes are prevalent on this loop. Long sleeves and repellants are advisable.
- Bears are active in the Cades Cove - Abrams Creek area. Be mindful of their presence, and follow proper protocols if encountered.
- Abrams Creek is a stronghold for river otters, which were extirpated in the 1920s and successfully reintroduced in the 1980s. Otters were so prevalent before European settlement that the Cherokees called Cades Cove Tsiyahi, which means Otter Place.
- Abrams Falls were named for Cherokee Chief Abram, whose village once thrived several miles downstream.
Camping and Backpacking Information
Campsite #15 is located along Rabbit Creek, 4.15 miles or 7.05 miles from the Abrams Falls Trailhead, depending on direction of travel.
BACKPACKING IN THE SMOKIES
Great Smoky Mountains National Park requires a permit and advance reservations for all backcountry camping in the park. Before planning your backcountry trip, please read through this important information about reservations and permits, regulations, bear safety, trail closures, and more.
Reserve your Backcountry or Thru Hike permits here: https://smokiespermits.nps.gov/
Please direct questions concerning backpacking trip planning to the Backcountry Information Office at (865) 436-1297. Phone calls are the preferred method of contact. The information office is open daily from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time). In addition to answering your backpacking questions, the experienced backpackers in the Backcountry Information Office can provide you with tips to make your trip safe and enjoyable.
Backpackers and hikers are subject to all Backcountry Rules and Regulations. Failure to abide by park regulations may subject you to a fine under Title 36, Code of Federal Regulations. Maximum fine for each violation is $5,000 and/or 6 months in jail.
General Backcountry Regulations
1. Camping is permitted only at designated backcountry campsites and shelters.
2. You may not stay at any backcountry campsite for more than 3 consecutive nights. You may not stay consecutive nights at campsite 113 or at any shelter.
3. Maximum party size is 8. Two parties affiliated with the same group may not stay in the same campsite or at the same shelter on the same night(s). Special permits may be issued for a few sites that accommodate parties of up to 12.
4. Fires are only allowed at designated campsites and shelters and must be contained in a fire ring. Constructing new fire rings is prohibited. You may only burn wood that is dead and already on the ground. You may not cut any standing wood.
5. It is illegal to possess firewood originating from a location from which a federal or state firewood quarantine is in effect. Read information about this quarantine and the states affected.
6. Building a fire in the fireplace of any historic structure or removing any parts of a historic structure, including brick or rock, is illegal.
7. Backcountry permit holders may not use tents at shelters.
8. Hammocks may only be used within designated backcountry campsites. They may not be used inside shelters and may not be attached to shelters in any way.
9. All odorous items (e.g., food, trash, lip balm, toothpaste, stock feed, hay etc) must be hung on the bear cable system at each campsite or shelter.
10. Human waste must be disposed of at least 100 feet from any campsite, shelter, water source or trail and must be buried in a hole at least 6 inches deep.
11. All food, trash, clothing, equipment or personal items must be packed out.
12. Burning food, trash or anything other than dead wood is prohibited.
13. Carving into or defacing trees, signs, shelters or other backcountry features is illegal.
14. Soap, even biodegradable soap, may not be used in any water sources. Bathing and washing dishes should be done well away from water sources and campsites.
15. No dogs or other pets are allowed on any park trails except the Gatlinburg Trail and the Oconaluftee River Trail. No dogs or other pets may be carried into the backcountry.
16. No motorized vehicles are allowed in the backcountry.
17. No hunting is allowed anywhere in the park
18. Feeding, touching or teasing wildlife is prohibited. You may not willfully approach within 50 yards (150 feet) of elk or bears.
- Fishing is permitted year-round, from 30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset.
- The park allows fishing in all streams except Bear Creek at its junction with Forney Creek, and Lynn Camp Prong upstream of its confluence with Thunderhead Prong.
- A valid fishing license from Tennessee or North Carolina is required to fish in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Either state license is valid throughout the park and no trout stamp is required. Fishing licenses and permits are not available in the park, but may be purchased in nearby towns or online.
- Daily Possession Limits: Five (5) brook, rainbow or brown trout, smallmouth bass, or a combination of these, each day or in possession, regardless of whether they are fresh, stored in an ice chest, or otherwise preserved. The combined total must not exceed five fish. Twenty (20) rock bass may be kept in addition to the above limit. A person must stop fishing immediately after obtaining the limit.
- Size Limits: Brook, rainbow, and brown trout: 7 inch minimum. Smallmouth bass: 7 inch minimum. Rockbass: no minimum. Trout or smallmouth bass caught less than the legal length shall be immediately returned to the water from which it was taken.
- Lures, Bait, and Equipment: Fishing is permitted only by the use of one hand-held rod. Only artificial flies or lures with a single hook may be used. Dropper flies may be used, with up to two flies on a leader.
Rules and Regulations
- Horses and stock are not permitted on the Abrams Falls Trail or Rabbit Creek Trail.
- There is no entrance fee to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
- Pets, motorized vehicles, and bicycles are not permitted on backcountry trails in GSMNP.
- Leashed pets are allowed in developed areas and along roads, but are not allowed on park trails.
Directions to Trailhead
The Abrams Falls Trailhead is located 30.5 miles from the Sugarlands Visitor Center on the far-west side of Cades Cove Loop Road.
From Sugarlands Visitor Center, head west on Little River Road, which becomes Laurel Creek Road after passing the Tremont Road split. Follow Laurel Creek Road all the way to Cades Cove, and merge right onto Cades Cove Loop Road (do not pull into the campgrounds). Follow Cades Cove Loop Road to the marked split for Abrams Falls. Turn right into the parking lot.
Note that Cades Cove Loop Road is closed to cars every Wednesday and Saturday morning until 10 am, May - September. Cades Cove Loop Road is a one-way scenic auto tour road. Anticipate heavy traffic and slow travel throughout the day, everyday. Get a very early start to avoid crowds.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
107 Park Headquarters Road
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
Visitor Information - Recorded Message
Backcountry Office - Camping and Reservations
The Backcountry Reservation Office is open from 8 am - 6 pm daily (EST)
Backcountry Information Office - Trip Planning Questions
The information office is open daily 9 am - 12n (EST)
Oconaluftee Visitor Center (North Carolina side - south entrance)
Sugarlands Visitor Center (Tennessee side - north entrance)