There are lots of things to see and experience in Great Smoky Mountains National Park but one of the most unusual events there will definitely be seeing llamas walking behind a waterfall!
This will be especially a memorable experience with you have kids with you!
We really didn’t expect this to happen but we later realized this could be planned for!
So here you go: Here’s how you can see llamas walking behind Grotto Falls in Great Smoky Mountains State Park.
Grotto Falls Trail
Grotto Falls trail is part of Trillium Gap Trail on the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail which is one-way loop accessible by car. The Grotto Falls is a popular sight in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park because there’s a trail right behind it, so you can actually hike behind the waterfall!
Drive this road until you see signs for the Grotto Falls Trail parking. The parking lot will likely be packed full. The problem is, the road is one-way, so you will likely have to drive it again if you go past the designated parking area, so we sent one person down the road to see if there are available parking lots there. We were lucky, otherwise we would have had to wait until there’s a spot to park.
Once you park, head over to the trail. There’s some elevation, so take lots of water. Overall it is a 2.6-mile out-and-back trail which is considered of moderate difficulty because of the elevation. We had a 6-year old kid with us who had no problem walking it.
It takes about 2-3 hours to hike to the waterfall and back.
Planning Around Llamas’ Hikes
We hadn’t known that but llamas are regular hikers on that trail. These gorgeous creatures are used to deliver supplies to lodge at the summit of Mount LeConte, the third highest peak in the national park. The horses were used in the past but they were struggling with the rocky path.
Llamas can carry the third of their body weight, and they handle rocks and elevation much better.
Led by a wrangler, llamas use the Trillium Gap Trail to reach the summit lodge three times a week: Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The leave the bottom of the trail 7-8 am. It takes them about 4 hours to reach the summit, as they take breaks to drink water from creeks and take a rest.
The best way to meet them is on their way back. The leave the summit at about 1 pm, and reach the Grotto Falls at about 4 pm. I suggest packing some lunch and waiting them there. My kids very much enjoyed the place. You can easily spend an hour or more enjoying the waterfall and taking cool photos.