Spruce Flat Falls is one of the hidden gems of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The hike is about a mile each way, not too rugged, but with a bit of a climb. The trail passes through a thicket of mountain laurel, which will be in bloom the first week or two in May. It's also a wonderful spot for photography.
Spruce Flat is in the Tremont section of the Smokies. This area was first settled by Black Bill (William Marion) Walker in the 1850s. Walker was a legendary frontiersman who reportedly fathered 26 children and killed 100 bears in his lifetime.
The entire bottomland through which flows the picturesque Middle Prong of the Little River is known as Walker Valley. Walker Fields, Bill Walker's former homestead, is the setting for the current-day Smoky Mountains Institute, and the starting point for this hike. Bill Walker protected the area from the ravages of lumbering until, just short of his death, he finally sold out to the Little River Lumber Company in 1918.
To get to the trailhead, enter the Tremont section of the park, taking a left turn just west of the intersection of the road from Townsend (known as the 'Townsend Y'). Proceed up this road until you cross a bridge to the left, then park at the Smoky Mountains Institute.
Walk to the end of the buildings and just past the ranger's house you will see a small sign that simply says "Trail to the Falls." Unlike some of the more popular trails in the Smokies, you may have this one all to yourself.
The trail climbs up, then meanders along the side of a ridge, and then abruptly descends to the basin of Spruce Flat Falls. There are many possibilities for climbing around the falls to find special vantage points for photography.