This is a difficult out and back trail to Ramsey Cascades in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The Ramsey Cascade trail is one of the most popular and rewarding hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The 4-mile trail follows along the beautiful Ramsey Prong through a mature old-growth forest and ends at the 100-foot-high Ramsey Cascades, the tallest waterfall in the park. It is a difficult hike gaining 2,200 ft in elevation. The trail ends at the cascades and does not connect to any other areas, therefore it is one of the few dead-end trails in the park.
The trailhead is located at the parking area at the end of the gravel Ramsey Prong Road, 4.7 miles from the Greenbrier entrance to the park off U.S. 321.
The trail begins with a gradual climb up an old road immediately after crossing the Middle Prong of the Little Pigeon River on a foot bridge. The Middle Prong, known locally as just “Greenbrier”, is a steep gradient, freestone stream. It is the largest stream in the park that holds the native Brook Trout. There are also Rainbow Trout in this lower section. If you fish upstream from here, be prepared to be in the river for quite some time as it will be far below the trail. This is a good area to spot black bears too, so keep any eye out for them.
At 1.5 miles, the road ends at an old turnaround at the confluence of Ramsey Prong with Middle Prong. This is also the old trailhead for the Greenbrier Pinnacle and the Cat Stairs which is no longer maintained by the Park Service. The trail narrows down here and turns up the north bank of Ramsey Prong which drains off Mount Guyot (6621 ft) the 2nd highest mountain in the Smokies. Fly fishermen can get in Ramsey Prong here and catch Brook Trout, but they will be committed for a very step and rough half-mile of wading until the next bridge crossing. If you go down to the creek be especially careful to watch for copperheads!
The trail crosses Ramsey Prong on a relatively high foot log at 2.2 miles. From here the trail will get considerably steeper and will enter the largest old-growth forest in the park. This area escaped much of the logging, and therefore has some very large trees of record size. A little further up the trail is a grove of extremely large tulip poplars. The trail crosses the stream several more times and becomes much more steep and rocky. After a strenuous climb over the last 0.5 mile, the trail ends at the base of Ramsey Cascades.
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