Cherokee National Forest—Benton Falls - Hiking

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The 65-foot waterfall, for which the trail is aptly named, is truly a sight to behold when the rainfall is high. Hikers can sit at the bottom and relax to the sound of the roaring water while kids and pets explore.

Written by

Beth Miller


3.0 miles

The Benton Falls Trail is three miles, but if that isn’t enough, there are 25 total miles of trails to explore in the Chilhowee Recreation Area.

Destination Distance From Downtown

67.8 miles


1 of 5 diamonds

With the exception of a long series of steps down to the base of Benton Falls, the remainder of the trail is a smooth, sandy path that allows hikers to view the beautiful foliage around them.

Time To Complete

2 hours

1 - 2 hours.


All Seasons

Due to the sandy nature of the soil, the trail dries out rapidly following a rainstorm making it ideal for any time of year.

Dog Friendly

On Leash Only

Fees Permits


$3 Day Use fee



“Ocoee” comes from the Cherokee word “U-wa-go-hi,” meaning “apricot place” and referring to the wild passion flower that once grew in fields and along roadsides. Positioned north of Lake Ocoee/Parksville Lake, the Chilhowee Recreation Area is one of the most highly trafficked trail systems in the Cherokee National Forest due to its many natural attractions. The numerous overlooks on the drive up the mountain reveal a wide-angle view of the lake below, Sugarloaf Mountain and beautiful farmland. McKamy Lake, the mountain top beach, is unique and draws a huge crowd every summer to enjoy the surrounding lake trail, picnic area, and fishing.

What Makes It Great

Benton Falls is worth the trip, even in summer when the water is low. It might not take you long to get up there, but plan to spend some time enjoying all that nature has to offer. This 65-foot waterfall is a good place for kids to play and learn about nature, adults to relax and take photos, and pets to rehydrate and rest.

The trail is about three miles roundtrip, and is pretty easy. It’s a smooth, sandy path that will be easy on anyone’s feet (human or four-legged). The falls are accessible from the top and the bottom from path made of beautiful stone steps. Keep an eye on kids near the top of the falls.

The Benton Falls Trail is the main artery running through the Chilhowee trail system delivering everyone from hikers to trail runners to mountain bikers to their desired destination. Every trail in the system links to the Benton Falls and Clemmer trails making it easy to create a loop or series of loops, that said, it is also easy to get lost or turned around. Be sure and grab a map before hitting the trails.

Who is Going to Love It

Everyone! Small children enjoy the McKamy Lake and Forest Walk trails as well as the longer trek to Benton Falls. They will love looking at the different wildflowers, checking out the various types of berries (just don’t eat them!), and playing on the beach.

This trail is also a good connector or cool down after a longer trail run at Chilhowee. The refreshing falls will feel great on your feet after exploring the area for an hour or two.

The picnic area and bathroom facility at the main parking area is wheelchair accessible with paved walkways leading to both. Picnickers can sit and enjoy the view of McKamy Lake from their table.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

The road leading up to the Chilhowee Recreation Area is just off of US-64 so it is easily accessible from the Cleveland and Chattanooga areas.

From Chattanooga: Take I-75 N to Cleveland exit 20 and go right onto US-74 E. Continue on US-74 E to US-64 E. Take the Ocoee exit heading east toward Ducktown/Copperhill/Murphy, NC. Stay on US-64 E for 15 miles to the Ocoee Ranger Station on the left. The road leading up to Chilhowee Recreation Area is on the left just past the entrance to the Ranger Station.

The campground and bathhouses close in November, but a winter camping area is available with limited facilities.

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Chilhowee Recreation Area

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