Accessibility – Moderate+
Height – 50′ (numerous drops)
Distance – 7.4 (out and back)
Beauty – 5
Photo rating – 5
Solitude – 6
GPS Info: LAT 35.61808 LONG -83.38079
Last Updated – 08-06-2019
Sweat Heifer Cascades is not going to make it onto your top 10 list but if you’re looking for a nice hike in the Smoky Mountains, you might enjoy this one. The cascades cross the trail above and below so they are easy to access and with a little deft footwork you can work your way into position to get some nice shots. The overall height it hard to judge since there is a ton of small drops and slides. The part below the trail is more scenic than the part above.
The trailhead is located on the side of US441 in the Smoky Mountain National Park. From where the Blue Ridge Parkway ends at US441, head North on US441 for 7.7 miles. Along the way you will pass the visitors center (0.6 miles from Parkway), Mingus Mill and the entrance to the Smokemont Campground. The parking is on the right and left sides of the road. The trailhead crosses the creek on a wide bridge.
Begin across the bridge and head upstream following the Kephart Prong Trail. The trail is open and easy to hike, albeit rocky in places as it ascends moderately for around 2.0 miles to the Kephard Shelter. Along this section you will have to cross several log bridges. The shelter is at the junction of the Sweat Heifer Trail and the Brushy Creek Trail. The Sweat Heifer Trail goes to the left and almost immediately crosses Kephart Prong as the ascent resumes. After Kephart Prong the Trail will cross an unnamed branch on a foot bridge before swinging away from the small stream.
The trail will then follow around a long ridge and begin climbing into the Sweat Heifer drainage as it parallels the creek. When the trail first enters the drainage it is high above the creek but as it heads further upstream the creek will be visible even with the leaves on. I could easily see the main portions of the cascades below the trail crossing. As far as getting into place to take a picture, I climbed down the cascades to the base of the biggest drop but I prefer to walk the creek and climb on rocks versus plowing through the overgrown banks. You’ll have to decide how you want to proceed at this point.
While not high the cascades do present a nice photo subject and the fact the entire hike is on maintained and marked trails is also a bonus. Don’t treat this one as a waterfall hike. Treat it as a nice 7.5 mile hike in the woods with a cascade to cool off in at the turn around point.