The Sinks and Upper Meigs Falls, Meigs Creek Trailhead, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
The Sinks and Upper Meigs Falls - 3.0 miles
Meigs Creek Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||3.0 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||1,582' - 1,905' (1,960' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||+323' net elevation gain (+752' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
The Sinks and Upper Meigs Falls - 3.0 Miles Round-Trip
Meigs Creek Trailhead is located 11.4 miles west of the Sugarlands Visitor Center in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Sinks is a turbulent waterfall along Little River that plunges into a deep gorge and suddenly slows, forming large pools ideal for swimming and recreation.
While the gorge area teems with visitors throughout the year, few venture out on the Meigs Creek Trail to Upper Meigs Falls.
Upper Meigs Falls sit just beneath the confluence of Curry Prong, Henderson Prong, Bunch Prong, and Bloody Branch on Meigs Creek. This secluded fall drops 15' into a small pool shaded by thick rhododendron and a tall hardwood canopy.
Though only 1.5 miles away, two hill climbs make this a moderately difficult hike. Visitors will enjoy access to The Sinks, varied terrain and light crowds en route to Upper Meigs Falls:
The trail drops from The Sinks viewing area into a quiet forest and begins the first of two climbs. Look for bear in the thin understory of this second-growth cove. The trail climbs steadily west to a hairpin at .7 miles (1,939'), where it turns sharply east and crests (1,960') with views of Lumber Ridge and Meigs Mountain (4,004').
Note white pine, table mountain pitch, and various oak in this Pine Oak forest, a contrast to the poplar, tulip, and maple that dominated the north-facing slope just behind you.
The trail drops into a narrow valley and crosses three consecutive streams on the ravine floor (1.25 - 1.4 miles : 1,725' - 1,765'). Maintain navigational vigilance on these sparingly marked crossings and through this notably cluttered forest.
After the crossings the trail turns up beside Meigs Creek, where you'll soon see Upper Meigs Falls through a small chute on your right (1.5 miles : 1,920'). Scramble down to reach the falls.
The falls spill down a slick rock face into a small pool ringed by boulders and debris. Space is limited, but there's enough room to maneuver for additional perspective and look for salamanders, which are abundant in this area.
The Meigs Creek Trail continues 2 miles up to Buckhorn Gap at the Lumber Ridge Trail junction.
- N35 40.149 W83 39.728 — 0.0 miles : Meigs Creek Trailhead and The Sinks
- N35 40.036 W83 39.995 — .5 miles : Steady climb in shady forest on north slope
- N35 39.944 W83 39.852 — 1.0 miles : Begin descent from crest to ravine floor
- N35 39.791 W83 39.808 — 1.25 miles : 1st of several faint creek crossings
- N35 39.774 W83 39.736 — 1.3 miles : Cross creek
- N35 39.708 W83 39.630 — 1.4 miles : Cross creek
- N35 39.586 W83 39.587 — 1.5 miles : Upper Meigs Falls
- The Sinks swimming area and additional viewpoints are accessible by social trails. Take extreme caution when maneuvering about the gorge walls, and do not attempt cliff diving, as water levels cannot be accurately gauged. While possible to reach the waterfall itself, doing so is strongly discouraged. Enjoy waterfalls from a safe distance, and never attempt to climb falls. Deaths have occurred at waterfalls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and The Sinks can be particularly dangerous.
- The Sinks are one of the most popular river recreation areas in the Park, and spaces fill up quickly. Arrive early to secure parking and avoid crowds.
- Thick, leafy ground cover produces brilliant autumn colors on the first .5 miles of the trail.
Camping and Backpacking Information
BACKPACKING IN THE SMOKIES
Great Smoky Mountains National Park requires a permit and advance reservations for all backcountry camping in the park. Before planning your backcountry trip, please read through this important information about reservations and permits, regulations, bear safety, trail closures, and more.
Reserve your Backcountry or Thru Hike permits here: https://smokiespermits.nps.gov/
Please direct questions concerning backpacking trip planning to the Backcountry Information Office at (865) 436-1297. Phone calls are the preferred method of contact. The information office is open daily from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time). In addition to answering your backpacking questions, the experienced backpackers in the Backcountry Information Office can provide you with tips to make your trip safe and enjoyable.
Backpackers and hikers are subject to all Backcountry Rules and Regulations. Failure to abide by park regulations may subject you to a fine under Title 36, Code of Federal Regulations. Maximum fine for each violation is $5,000 and/or 6 months in jail.
General Backcountry Regulations
1. Camping is permitted only at designated backcountry campsites and shelters.
2. You may not stay at any backcountry campsite for more than 3 consecutive nights. You may not stay consecutive nights at campsite 113 or at any shelter.
3. Maximum party size is 8. Two parties affiliated with the same group may not stay in the same campsite or at the same shelter on the same night(s). Special permits may be issued for a few sites that accommodate parties of up to 12.
4. Fires are only allowed at designated campsites and shelters and must be contained in a fire ring. Constructing new fire rings is prohibited. You may only burn wood that is dead and already on the ground. You may not cut any standing wood.
5. It is illegal to possess firewood originating from a location from which a federal or state firewood quarantine is in effect. Read information about this quarantine and the states affected.
6. Building a fire in the fireplace of any historic structure or removing any parts of a historic structure, including brick or rock, is illegal.
7. Backcountry permit holders may not use tents at shelters.
8. Hammocks may only be used within designated backcountry campsites. They may not be used inside shelters and may not be attached to shelters in any way.
9. All odorous items (e.g., food, trash, lip balm, toothpaste, stock feed, hay etc) must be hung on the bear cable system at each campsite or shelter.
10. Human waste must be disposed of at least 100 feet from any campsite, shelter, water source or trail and must be buried in a hole at least 6 inches deep.
11. All food, trash, clothing, equipment or personal items must be packed out.
12. Burning food, trash or anything other than dead wood is prohibited.
13. Carving into or defacing trees, signs, shelters or other backcountry features is illegal.
14. Soap, even biodegradable soap, may not be used in any water sources. Bathing and washing dishes should be done well away from water sources and campsites.
15. No dogs or other pets are allowed on any park trails except the Gatlinburg Trail and the Oconaluftee River Trail. No dogs or other pets may be carried into the backcountry.
16. No motorized vehicles are allowed in the backcountry.
17. No hunting is allowed anywhere in the park
18. Feeding, touching or teasing wildlife is prohibited. You may not willfully approach within 50 yards (150 feet) of elk or bears.
- Fishing is permitted year-round, from 30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset.
- The park allows fishing in all streams except Bear Creek at its junction with Forney Creek, and Lynn Camp Prong upstream of its confluence with Thunderhead Prong.
- A valid fishing license from Tennessee or North Carolina is required to fish in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Either state license is valid throughout the park and no trout stamp is required. Fishing licenses and permits are not available in the park, but may be purchased in nearby towns or online.
- Daily Possession Limits: Five (5) brook, rainbow or brown trout, smallmouth bass, or a combination of these, each day or in possession, regardless of whether they are fresh, stored in an ice chest, or otherwise preserved. The combined total must not exceed five fish. Twenty (20) rock bass may be kept in addition to the above limit. A person must stop fishing immediately after obtaining the limit.
- Size Limits: Brook, rainbow, and brown trout: 7 inch minimum. Smallmouth bass: 7 inch minimum. Rockbass: no minimum. Trout or smallmouth bass caught less than the legal length shall be immediately returned to the water from which it was taken.
- Lures, Bait, and Equipment: Fishing is permitted only by the use of one hand-held rod. Only artificial flies or lures with a single hook may be used. Dropper flies may be used, with up to two flies on a leader.
Rules and Regulations
- Horses are not permitted on the Meigs Creek Trail.
- There is no entrance fee to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
- Pets, motorized vehicles, and bicycles are not permitted on backcountry trails in GSMNP.
- Leashed pets are allowed in developed areas and along roads, but are not allowed on park trails.
Directions to Trailhead
The Meigs Creek Trailhead is located 11.4 miles west of the Sugarlands Visitor Center on Little River Road.
This section of Little River Road is curvy, and the trailhead is tucked away on the south side of the road after a sharp bend. Parking is limited and fills quickly.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
107 Park Headquarters Road
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
Visitor Information - Recorded Message
Backcountry Office - Camping and Reservations
The Backcountry Reservation Office is open from 8 am - 6 pm daily (EST)
Backcountry Information Office - Trip Planning Questions
The information office is open daily 9 am - 12n (EST)
Sugarlands Visitor Center (Tennessee side - north entrance)
Oconaluftee Visitor Center (North Carolina side - south entrance)