Spring has arrived early to the Smokies and we have been making the most of this mild weather. Early spring, in my opinion, is the best time of year for hiking. Humidity is low, temperatures are cool, the bugs are minimal, and nature is beginning to spread its fresh green blush over the woods.
Our most recent adventure took us to Alarka Falls. This is a less traveled hike and we only encountered one other person during our time there. The trailhead lies 10 miles down Alarka Road. As the pavement disappears and fades into a dirt road you begin to feel far away from everything, which, incidentally, is the best place to begin an adventure. This trail is not marked with signs, maps, and brochures. Rather, the road crosses a one lane bridge and you find yourself in gravel clearing where you can park. Although there is no signage the path is well worn and the trail is easy to follow.
The majority of the hike is fairly easy to traverse. However, the uphill trail is full of rocks and uneven ground so I recommend wearing hiking boots with good ankle support. The mild portion of the hike will bring you to the base of the falls. This alone makes the trip worthwhile. For the more daring hiker the best views lie closer to the top of the falls. The trail terrain drastically changes from a path to a staggered staircase of boulders. In this portion of the trail visitors are picking their way up the overflow creek bed. Pick your foot placement carefully and be prepared for the rocks to wobble some beneath your feet. There are several good stopping points along the way to snap a few photos or to sit and relax on a boulder while enjoying the view. Eventually you reach a point where you can no longer find footing along the rocky bank. To go further, which I recommend if you are able, you must climb up the bank and make your way further up the creek through the trees until that small path brings you back to the water’s edge. It will certainly help meet your fitness goals for the day as my fitness band recorded over twenty flights of stairs climbed after this exercise. No matter your motivation this is a great place to visit.
This uppermost vantage point is the most magnificent spot at Alarka Falls. Beyond, the falls cascade down a steep, smooth rock face 200 feet above. There are giant rocks and fallen trees that make a kind of island here. If you are careful you are able to walk to the middle, sit down, and enjoy the hard earned view. The sound of the water plunging down mixed with the lovely noises of the forest is magical; it is such an enchanting place to be. This is truly one of the most exquisite falls in the area. I love that you can get up close to it and experience this waterfall with all of your senses.
Although difficult at points it is not a long hike so guests to the area can fit this gem into most schedules. Since the beginning of the hike is less strenuous this trail is also a good fit for groups with varying fitness levels. Individuals that do not want as big of a challenge can stop and spend time enjoying the lower falls while others in the group head up to the higher elevations. Hikers return down the same path they entered so the group can reunite at the base and enjoy a picnic or head on their way to the next stop on the itinerary. We visited this site in spring, but I can imagine that summer and fall would bring their own unique splendor to the hike. I look forward to visiting this waterfall throughout the year to see how the wildflowers and full foliage, then autumn leaves transform the views. This uncrowded trail leading to an exceptional natural beauty would be a great addition to your trip. If you would like to add this adventure to your agenda you can find directions here.