Date Explored: July 31, 2013
Written by: Shawn Dunnaway
Elevation: Around 1600'
Weather: Sunny, 72°
Cataract Falls GPS: 35.68938, -83.53887
Although it isn't one of the most popular falls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, we enjoyed our short hike to Cataract Falls. Located just a half mile behind the Sugarlands Visitor Center, Cataract Falls is an easy hike with virtually no climbing, except for a small set of stairs near the falls.
The first part of the trail was flat and featured a stroll along Ash Hopper Branch. We got to a small foot bridge that crossed the creek next to a tree that had some very interesting features (photo below). The base of the large tree was hollowed out so large that a kid could easily get inside.
After crossing Ash Hopper Branch, the trail switched the other direction briefly and soon the small creek merged with the larger Fighting Creek. The trail followed the creek underneath a road bridge and then we went up a flight of stairs. I noticed that there is a drop-off point on this road for those seeking to make the hike even shorter (at this point we were about a tenth of a mile from the falls).
We walked alongside Fighting Creek until we came up to Cataract Falls. It had two stages of falls which totaled about 25 feet. I would consider it a low-flow stream, similar to a wetter Place of a Thousand Drips. We took a few photos and begun the trip back.
I would recommend the trail to Cataract Falls for beginners in hiking. It's easy, scenic and only takes fifteen minutes to get there. However, if youre looking for a hike or a waterfall that is quiet and serene, this isn't one of them. For just about the entire hike you'll see cars, parking lots, buildings or some other signs of civilization along the way.
Even though the hike to Cataract Falls was surrounded by development, it was a nice easy hike to take to stretch out the ol' legs after driving for most of the day.
The trail winds under a highway bridge.
This odd-looking tree, which has to been centuries old, featured a hole big enough for someone to get inside.