“A one-mile trail from the Tremont Institute to the base of Spruce Flats Falls.”
— David Hitchcock
Fall Colors · River/Creek · Views · Waterfall
The trail to Spruce Flat Falls is open year round, unless Laurel Creek Road or the Tremont Road are closed due to snow/ice, rock slides, or other weather related incidents.
The trail to Spruce Flat Falls allows you to see a beautiful waterfall, without all of the crowds that are common at the other waterfalls in the park. While not highly publicized, it's not a secret either so you might not be the only one on the trail. The trailhead is found at the Tremont Institute, where you can park by the office or in one of the other parking areas along the road.
Departing the parking lot, follow the gravel trail up a service road to one of the dormitories, and follow the signs to the left. The trail narrows and becomes a dirt track that immediately climbs up behind the dorm. The trail goes to the right and runs along the hill above the dorm. It is eroded in several places, so watch your step. The trail comes to a fork, where going straight leads back to the road and going to the left will lead to the falls. The trail is rock and root strewn as it climbs above a water tank before it comes to a scenic overlook that lies along the Little Greenbriar Fault Line.
The trail continues to climb, although less steeply at times. The trail crosses a rocky section where Small Branch crosses the trail, which could be muddy. Certain areas of the trail let you see obstructed views of the Middle Prong of the Little River. Continuing to climb, the trail comes to Bull Branch, which crosses the trail through a rock field. Around .65 miles, the trail reaches its high point and begins to descend toward the falls.
The trail can be steep in places, with rocks and roots throughout. The trail cuts to the right and comes to a set of log steps that descends through an area of the trail that is badly eroded. After a short distance, the trail comes around a bend, and you get your first view of the falls through the trees, especially in the fall and winter. The trail descends to an area below the falls, where there are a few rocks to sit on and enjoy the views. You can see the road if you look back to the right. You can scramble over a couple of rocks up to the pool below the falls to get a better view of the falls. You can also rock hop over to the other side for better views of the falls. You might be alone as you enjoy the view, or have a couple of fellow hikers to share it with, but once you have enjoyed the views, or dipped your feet in the water, you can return to your car via the trail you followed to the falls.
Flora & Fauna
The trail works its way through a young forest, so there are opportunities to see a variety of trees, ferns, and other plants on the way to the falls.