Forney Creek Cascade, Clingman's Dome - Forney Ridge Trailhead, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
Forney Creek Cascade - 6.1 Miles
Clingman's Dome - Forney Ridge Trailhead
Forney Creek Cascade
|Round-Trip Length:||6.1 Miles|
|Start-End Elevation:||6,315' - 4,117' (6,315' max elevation)|
|Elevation Change:||-2,198' net elevation loss (+2,256' total roundtrip elevation gain)|
Forney Creek Cascade is located 3.1 miles from the Clingman's Dome - Forney Ridge Trailhead in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This long, two-tier cascade slides down wide rock slabs in the upper reaches of a northern hardwood forest.
While the falls are understandably overshadowed by others in the Park, visitors will enjoy views from the Smokies' highest elevations, pleasant summer temperatures, distinct forest types, and access to Clingman's Dome from the trailhead:
Begin on the Forney Ridge Trail, which drops steeply past the Clingman's Dome Bypass Trail (.15 mile) through dense bands of Fraser fir and red spruce. Though swaths of forest exhibit extensive beetle damage, the trail corridor itself appears healthy and verdant.
Forney Ridge drops in rugged stages to the Forney Creek Trail (1.0 miles : 5,736'), which narrows on a variously steep and sloppy descent. Notable along the way are open grassy hillsides - a relative rarity in the Park - which are good places to find bear and turkey.
The trail reaches the top of Forney Creek and turns down beside it (2.15 miles : 4,825'), leaving the vestiges of spruce and fir for an upper-hardwood forest. Birch and rhododendron appear as you head downstream to the first of two Backcountry Campsite #68 spurs (2.65 miles : 4,445').
This is potentially confusing, as the falls and 2nd site are still .4 miles away, and the two are not depicted separately on most maps. Continue through a steep hairpin turn down to the second site #68 at the base of Forney Creek Cascade (3.05 miles : 4,156').
While the drop pool is narrow and limiting, the manicured campsite beside the falls - along with social trails between the two sites and upper tier - offer plenty of room to explore. Grades moderate past the cascade, and those with time can continue a bit further downstream to partially hidden falls along Forney Creek.
GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84View these GPS points on a Google Map
- N35 33.416 W83 29.775 — 0.0 miles : Clingman's Dome - Forney Ridge Trailhead
- N35 33.172 W83 29.680 — .5 miles : Steep drop on stone stairs
- N35 32.874 W83 29.510 — 1.0 miles : Forney Creek Trail split
- N35 32.972 W83 29.993 — 1.5 miles : Steep, uneven descent
- N35 32.789 W83 30.001 — 2.15 miles : Trail meets Forney Creek
- N35 32.705 W83 30.451 — 2.55 miles : Cross small tributary
- N35 32.623 W83 30.460 — 2.7 miles : Spur to Camp #68 - site 1
- N35 32.441 W83 30.704 — 3.1 miles : Forney Creek Cascade - Camp #68
- Backcountry Campsite #68 at Forney Creek Cascade is in high demand due to its location at the falls and proximity to Clingman's Dome. Note the site is occasionally closed due to bear activity, attributable in part to berries in the immediate vicinity. Plan ahead to secure this site.
- Remember that you have a challenging 2,200' climb back to the trailhead from Forney Creek Cascade, upper portions of which are exposed to storms. Manage travel time wisely and make your return before storms develop.
- Clingman's Dome Road is closed December 1 - March 31, and occasionally outside these dates due to weather. Call ahead for road closure information.
- Much of the Forney Creek drainange was logged up to Clingman's Dome. You will find rail-grade evidence at the falls, but none that detract from the aesthetic.
Camping and Backpacking Information
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park requires a permit for all backcountry camping in the park. Backcountry permits are free and available at 14 visitor centers, campgrounds, and park office locations.
- Permit registration facilities are open 24 hours a day. Permits must be picked up in the park at designated locations. They are not available on the internet or through email.
- Advance reservations are required to camp at all Shelters and Backcountry Campsites 9, 10, 13, 17, 20, 21, 23, 24, 29, 36, 37, 38, 46, 47, 50, 55, 57, 60, 61, 71, 83, 86, 90, 113.
- Reservations for backcountry campsites may be obtained only by calling the Backcountry Office (865.436.1231). They are not available online or through email.
- If you do not plan to camp at a shelter or reserved campsite, then you only need to complete a permit.
- There is a 3 consecutive night stay maximum at any given campsite, and 1 night maximum at any shelter. The use of tents at shelters is prohibited. The maximum group size is 8 persons for sites and shelters.
- Open fires are prohibited except at designated sites and in established fire rings.
- All food and trash must be suspended at least 10' off the ground and 4' from the nearest limb or trunk, or stored as otherwise designated (e.g. bear box).
- The Backcountry Reservation Office is open from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. daily.
- 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 not on any Park trails.
The Clingman's Dome - Forney Ridge Trailhead is located 19.6 miles from the Sugarlands Visitor Center in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The trailhead is located in the main Clingman's Dome parking lot, 7 miles west of Newfound Gap Road (441).
From Sugarlands, head 12.6 miles south on Newfound Gap Road to Clingman's Dome Road. Turn right (west) and continue 7 miles to the main parking area and trailhead.
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)