The Big Meadows
visitor center, bathrooms and camp store are conveniently nearby, but this also means the area is very busy, especially on weekends. Drive in past the gas station and follow signs to the picnic area and amphitheatre. Fork to the left towards the picnic area just before the ranger station at the campground entrance.
This loop hike starts from the AT access trailhead to the left of the Amphitheater at the back of the Big Meadows
picnic area, where there is plenty of parking. Turn left on the AT, then immediately fork to the right on to Lewis Falls Trail
. This begins a long descent, first on dirt/gravel trail, but becoming more and more rocky as you approach the Lewis Falls area. Carefully climb over several rocks (could be slippery/dangerous if wet) before reaching a post marking the junction with the Lewis Spring Falls Spur Trail
. Note the return route to the left to be taken later, but for now continue straight to the Lewis Falls viewing area at the top of the falls, marked by a large warning sign. From here you can only see the stream coming into the top of the falls. But there's more!
To the left of the sign, go upstream a few steps, cross the stream past a post with a sign warning not to drink the water, and head down a short, steep, rocky trail notable for a sturdy steel pipe railing, hanging on to prevent falling. At the end of the steel pipe you reach the lower viewing area. This observation area is bounded by a circular stone wall, where you can start to get a decent view of the falls. You cannot see all the way to the bottom of the falls due to overgrowth, but the view of the upper portion is worth the effort. This is a good spot to relax and have a snack before beginning the uphill journey back.
Retrace your way back up the spur trail to the first post noted above, and take the sharp right turn on the Lewis Falls Trail
, heading up the hill. After several switchbacks, there is a fake left turn, but head up to the right, then turn left on the AT. Follow the AT back to the access trail, going uphill past a spectacular viewpoint, then downhill, passing the beginning of the Lewis Falls Trail
on the left, then turning right on the access trail back to the parking lot by the Amphitheatre.
Lewis Falls has a reputation for not having much flow during dry seasons.
All the usual AT flora.