Hiking or running to Indian Flats Falls via the Middle Prong Trail is one of the absolute best waterfall hikes in all of Great Smoky National Park. It also provides a fascinating look into Smoky Mountain lumber history. Hikers will enjoy passing three major waterfalls, as well as numerous smaller falls and cascades, not to mention a host of wildflowers, including trilliums, wood sorrel, violets, toothwort, and foamflower. The old community of Tremont can be seen in some areas. The buildings were part of a lumber operation, and the Middle Prong Trail itself actually used to be a railroad route to get supplies in and lumber out of the mountains. Remnants of this railroad (and other pieces of pre-National Park Tremont) will be pasted as you hike along.
What Makes It Great
The entire length of trail hiked to reach Indian Flats Falls follows the Lynn Camp Branch and gives hikers great mountain stream sights and sounds. Two main falls are passed before the Indian Flats Falls are reached - Lower Lynn Camp Falls and Lynn Camp Falls. These both provide great photo spots, but the Indian Camp Falls are far more scenic. As far as waterfalls in the Smokies go, you can't ask for much more than what is available on this hike.After about 3.5 miles, hikers will cross a wide wooden bridge that crosses the Lynn Camp Branch. It is the only bridge that crosses the creek (other than the one at the trailhead) so you cannot miss it. Once this crossing is made, the spur trail to reach the falls is within half a mile or so. The trail heads away from the water and begins up switchbacks. On the first switchback that turns sharply to the left, the spur trail can be found heading off from the turn. It is easy to overlook, so pay attention once the switchbacks have begun. The spur trail is well worn and easily followed to Indian Flats Falls.After a strenuous, and in some cases, technical hike or run, the falls are a wonderful return on investment, and there is a nice area to spread out, dip your feet in the icy water, and relax. Great Smoky Mountain National Park is the most visited national park in America, so especially during summer months, the trails can be very crowded. Fall is a beautiful time to hike or run here, and early morning is usually best if you're looking for solitude.
Who is Going to Love It
Hikers and trail runners will be majority users here, although several longer backpacking hikes are available from the same trailhead. If hikers continue past Indian Flats Falls, the Appalachian Trail can be found another 4 miles down. The incline of this trail is steady and small, so nobody will be prevented from reaching the falls.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Reaching the Middle Prong Trailhead is easy. Follow the main park roads towards Cades Cove and take the left towards the Great Smoky Mountain Institute at Tremont (this will be shortly past the Townsend entrance to the park). Once this turn is made, follow the road straight for several miles. It will turn to gravel and follow the Middle Fork of the Little River all the way to the trailhead at the end of the road. The Middle Fork trail is the one that is wide like an old road (used to have RR tracks).If you are looking to do a longer backpacking trip from this trailhead, you must get a permit for a backcountry site from a visitor center.