Deep Creek Loop Trail: Tom Branch and Indian Creek Falls, Deep Creek Trailhead, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
Deep Creek Loop Trail: Tom Branch and Indian Creek Falls - 4.4 miles
Deep Creek Trailhead
|Round-Trip Length:||4.4 miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||1,800' - 1,800'|
|Elevation Change:||moderate elevation gain during loop|
For park visitors who are short on time but want to see some of the Smokies' beautiful waterfalls, the Deep Creek Loop is a great option. This 4.4-mile lollipop loop trail showcases two waterfalls: Tom Branch Falls (also called Tom's Branch Falls) and Indian Creek Falls. The combination of a well-maintained trail and moderate elevation gain makes this hike accessible for people of many skill levels.
The trail begins at the Deep Creek trailhead. Park in the gravel parking lot and walk down the road about 200 hundred yards until you see a red gate and a small footpath. This is the Deep Creek trailhead and the beginning of the Deep Creek Trail. In general, this is a very popular trail so arrive early to secure a parking space.
At .2 miles, you will see Tom Branch Falls', a 60-80 foot cascading rocky waterfall. However, unless there has been a recent downpour, this waterfall is the less impressive of the two. Winter is the best season for viewing this waterfall as the water volume is much greater and the waterfall itself is not blocked by encroaching summer brush. There are also significantly fewer visitors to this trail in the winter.
Continue on the Deep Creek Trail for another .5 miles to the Indian Creek Falls Trail split. Turn right on the Indian Creek Trail and walk about 200 feet to another short side trail that will carry you down to Indian Creek Falls. This waterfall is striking. While only 30 feet in height, the volume of water that pours over the falls makes this one of the most scenic waterfalls in the entire Deep Creek area.
Backtrack to the Indian Creek Trail and continue north. At the 1.2-mile mark you will pass the Stone Pile Gap Trail intersection and shortly thereafter, the loop trail will split to the left. Turn left here to continue on the loop. There's a rise in elevation here as the trail switchbacks up a small drainage, passes by the Sunkota Ridge Trail Split at the 2-mile mark and then down again to the Deep Creek Trail. Turn left (south) onto the Deep Creek Trail and cross over the creek via a footbridge. At the 3.7-mile mark, you will hit the Indian Creek Trail split once again, but this time remain on the Deep Creek Trail for the final .7 miles back to the parking lot.
- Horses are also popular on this trail, so watch out for their large droppings.
- Bikes are allowed on the section from the parking lot to Indian Creek Falls.
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
- 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 Deep Creek Loop Trail is located at the Deep Creek Trailhead.
Directions to Trailhead: Unlike most trails in the Smokies, this trailhead is located in Bryson City, NOT off 441 between Gatlinburg and Cherokee. Take exit 67 off of Hwy 23/74 to Bryson City. Turn right at the first stop light, and left onto Everett Street. Follow Everett Street North through Bryson City. Turn right on Depot Street, which is just across the railroad tracks, with the Train Depot on your right. At the stop sign, turn left then take the immediate curve to the right putting you on West Deep Creek Road. Follow West Deep Creek Road (you will pass into the park) until it dead ends into the Deep Creek parking lot in about 2 miles. This is a very popular area so if you get lost, ask a local to put you back on the right track.
Great Smoky Mountain National Park Headquarters
Oconaluftee Visitor Center (North Carolina side)
Sugarlands Visitor Center (Tennessee side)
Backcountry Office: Reservations and Information
865-436-1297 for Backcountry Volunteer Office
865-436-1231 for Backcountry Camping Reservations