Monday, February 28, 2011

Ramsey Cascades Trail - Big Trees and Waterfalls

We hiked to Ramsey Cascades in the Greenbriar section of the GSMNP yesterday. The trail is 4.0 miles long resulting in an even 8 mile round trip. We had rain showers on and off for the entire day but fortunately it was seasonably warm for the end of February with temps in the 60's.

The first 1-1/2 miles of the trail follows a gentle climb and smooth foot path along side the Middle Prong of the Little Pigeon River. The remaining 2-1/2 miles of trail climbs along the Ramsey Prong. Here is where the slippery roots and rocks join with a more aggressive elevation gain making the hike a little more challenging.
Several old growth giants line the trail, including some massive tulip poplars and eastern hemlocks. The trail is in good shape with lots of stone steps and a couple of  long creek crossing foot bridges. It's evident that a lot of work has been done on this trail over the years.

At the top of the trail is the beautiful Ramsey Cascades. It is a 90 foot cascading waterfall and according to the little brown guidebook, Hiking Trails Of The Smokies Ramsey Cascades is the highest waterfall in the park accessible by trail. It really is a spectacular sight and I'm sure that it gets crowded in the summer. There is a huge flat rock in front of the falls positioned perfectly for viewing. We didn't eat lunch there because of the cool spray and wind coming off the falls but I'll bet in sunnier weather that would be the spot.

This trail gains around 2200' in 4 miles. Black Betty rated it difficult. I would give it 2-3 Snickers bars using Nimblewill Nomad's  rating system. The rain did make the roots slippery and Black Betty fell on the way down spraining her knee. She was able to walk out so lucky for her I didn't have to tote her like a sack of potatoes.