Spruce Flats Falls is located in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park (GSMNP) near the Great Smoky Mountain Institute at Tremont, Townsend, Tennessee. Or "Tremont" as us locals refer to it. Finding Tremont Road sounds easy but be on the look out for the turn onto Tremont Road. If you are not paying attention you will end up in Cades Cove, aka, a parking lot that never ends.
The hike to Spruce Flats Falls is an easy hike but does gain elevation quick within the first half mile or so. It is a two mile round trip and the hike back is super easy and goes fast. Park across the road from the entrance to the Tremont office. You will walk up the hill toward the sleeping quarters and start your hike. It is well marked. Watch out along the way for rattlesnakes. I almost stepped on a four footer while instantly jumping in the air ten feet.
As hikes go, I would classify this one as one of the more easy hikes in the park. After all, my six year old son accomplished this hike without any issue. People tend to come and go at a leisurely pace. They don't show up and leave. A lot of people park it and enjoy the view. Walking downstream a small bit gives a great view of the falls. Earlier in the day the better would be my motto for this water fall. If you disagree with this by all means let me know.
I photographed the waterfall with my Sony a7ii and Sony 16-35/4 lens. I also used the Lee Filters 100mm Lee Big Stopper ND filter. The Lee Big Stopper was too powerful in my opinion. I would suggest using the Lee Filters Little Stopper.
Lee Big Stopper
The low amount of water you will encounter at the base of the falls makes little visible mist. Unless it has recently rained, mist should not be a concern. Once you set up your tripod and camera. Be patient and don't allow anyone to rush you. People are going to be in your shot. You are going to have to blend several exposures to get one without people in it. I want to encourage you once again to walk 100' down stream and get a nice shot of the Spruce Flats Falls with another small fall in the foreground. Will be totally worth it and is missed by many (including me!).
Waterall location: Townsend, Tennessee - GPS Coordinates 35°38'4" N 83°40'55" W
Full frame recommended focal length: 21mm or wider (18mm or wider may be wiser)
Do's: Pack a lunch (and pack out your trash) and make a nice stay at the falls. Be ready to take a really long exposure with normal photos. You will need to blend in at least one extra photo to get the people out. Everyone wants their photograph taken behind the falls. You will most likely need several photos to blend the people out. Look out for snakes along the path and at the falls. They like to sunbath on the rocks.
Don'ts: Sunscreen isn't a concern as the hike is mostly shaded. It is a crowded falls but downstream is less crowded and may provide some rest. Do not be in a hurry.
GPX File: I have attached my track log of the hike for you to use. I use Minimalist GPS Tracker on my iPhone to track my hikes and later geotag my photos in Adobe Lightroom.
Lee Big Stopper
Location: 35°38'3" N 83°40'53" W