Laurel Falls to Cove Mountain Fire Tower
ElevationAscent: 1,781' 543 m
Descent: -1,781' -543 m
High: 4,055' 1,236 m
Low: 2,291' 698 m
GradeAvg Grade: 8% (5°)
Max Grade: 24% (13°)
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“A great hike past a popular waterfall followed by a peaceful climb to a remote fire tower.”— David Hitchcock
Family Friendly The first 1.1 miles of the trail are paved, with a moderate climb. An out and back to Laurel Falls is a hike that the whole family can enjoy while older kids might enjoy venturing further.
As you start from the parking lot, follow the paved trail to Laurel Falls, an 80-foot waterfall that offers great photo opportunities, despite the number of people who will probably be there. The first portion of the Laurel Falls Trail is one of the most popular trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park due to it being paved, having only 300 feet of elevation gain, and a rewarding view of 80-foot Laurel Falls about 1.1 miles into the trail.
Once you have taken all of your photos, continue on the trail up the hill. This is the beginning of your 2.9-mile climb to the top of Cove Mountain, and once you pass the falls, you'll have a relatively quiet hike in the woods to the top of Cove Mountain. At Cove Mountain there is an old fire tower that now serves as an air quality monitoring station with limited views into Wears Valley, an area outside of the park.
You'll wind through a quiet forest, some areas which were not heavily logged by the various lumber companies in the early 1900s. About three miles into the trail, you'll find the intersection of the Little Greenbrier Trail, which you can take down to the Little Greenbrier School and Metcalf Bottoms via the Little Brier Gap Trail.
Continuing on the Laurel Falls Trail for another 0.9 miles, you end up at the intersection of the Cove Mountain Trail. Turn left up the hill to the Cove Mountain Fire Tower. This is a great place to grab a snack or have lunch before returning to your car via the path you came.
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Land Manager: NPS - Great Smoky Mountains National Park