Do you like Waterfalls? Well the Middle Prong Trail is considered by many to be the premier waterfall and cascade hike in the Smokies.
For 4 glorious miles it follows Lynn Camp Prong and will pass 2 named waterfalls; Lower Lynn Camp falls and Lynn Camp Prong Falls and countless unnamed waterfalls and cascades. It ends with the 4 tier beauty Indian Flats Falls. Also with only an average grade of 250feet elevation gain per mile it makes it a very manageable trail by most people. If this isn’t enough to wet your appetite, the trail also provides historical artifacts from days past with 1920s model Cadillac left by the CCC workers. This Trail is also an outstanding fall foliage hike.
The trail starts by crossing a footbridge where Lynn Camp Prong and Thunderhead Prong meet to form Middle Prong. Once across the bridge is where the old lumber mill camp was set up. You may also notice from some of the….mmmm leftovers that this trail is very Horse friendly. That means it is not very shoe friendly if you know what i’m saying. So watch your step. Just about 20 or 30 yards past the bridge You will see the trail head sign and a split. At the split you need to take a left which is not very obvious. Taking a right will take you straight to purgatory…No not really but its not the route you want to go for this hike.
Once past the sign you are rewarded early and often. At just .3 mile you arrive at your first waterfall. Lower Lynn Camp Prong Falls. A Truly impressive 35ft Cascade. A bench is provided for viewing but you can bushwhack a little to get to the base of the falls but be careful as it can be steep and dangerous. A better view can be found just around the corner.
Like we said you are rewarded often and for the next .3 miles is cascade central. Be on the lookout for a small foot path to your left to see an impressive unnamed cascade hidden from the trail. At .7 miles from the trail head is Lynn Camp Prong Falls which is another multi Tier Waterfall.
Continue on and enjoy the many cascades and even some swimming opportunities. At 1.9 miles you will see a very well worn footpath marked by a stack of rocks on the Right. At only 50 yards form the main trail, it leads to the remains of a 1920s error cadillac. Owned by one of the CCC supervisors, one day it quit working so they just pushed it off the road and left it. Good car. Could use some new tires though. Also in the area you can find old artifacts left behind.
Once you are done in imagination land fantasizing about being back in the 20s behind the wheel of a brand new Cadillac, make your way back to the main trail. At 2.5 miles you will intersect the Panther Creek Trail on the Left. You will want to stay straight here. At about 3 miles is the remains of an old chimney and also other relics including some left over railroad tracks.
At 3.5 miles there will be 2 tributaries you need to cross. During periods of heavy rain you might get your feet wet but most days it is easily passable. Just beyond this at 3.7 miles is a large easy to cross bridge (no wet feet required) that goes over Indian Flats Prong. From here the trail gets a little rockier and steeper and goes through about 3 switch backs. At the 3rd switch back and roughly 4.0 miles the trail becomes extremely wide and you will see a Limestone wall right at the turn. Here if you look close enough you will see a trail that goes beside the granite wall back to the right. This is the .1 mile long spur trail that will take you to the upper tier of the 4 tier beauty Indian Flats Falls. Total the Falls drops 60 feet with the upper tier dropping 20 feet. While not the biggest falls in the park, it has some of the best Character and is Hoss’s personal favorite in the park.
Now is a good time to sit, relax and eat a bite but remember to pack out your trash. If you choose to explore the area and visit the other tiers, be careful because it requires some bushwacking and the rocks in this area are extremely slick. Just ask Hoss how he knows this.
Entrance to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park remains free to the public. But, as of March 1st, 2023 parking passes are required for stops longer than 15 minutes inside the park. Please follow the link below for all the latest information from the National Park Service on where to purchase parking passes, and pricing.