Some say that the best view comes after the hardest climb. After this hike, I absolutely agree. While Austin and I were on our road trip to Kentucky from South Carolina, we planned to stop for a hike in the Smoky Mountains before spending the night in Knoxville, Tennessee. We didn’t anticipate having trouble finding the trailhead and not getting started on our hike until 7pm.
(Note: Access to Hen Wallow Falls is through the Gabes Mountain Trail. To reach the trailhead, park in the designated hiker parking at Cosby Picnic Area. Then backtrack on foot approximately 100 yards along the road until you read the sign marking the start of the Gabes Mountain Trail.)
Even though it was getting late, we decided to start hiking anyway with a promise to turn around before reaching the waterfall if it started getting dark. Chaco was amazing to send me a pair of their ZX/2 Sandals to try and review and I knew they would be perfect for short summer hikes. Since 1989, Chaco has been creating premium footwear and their simple, timeless sandals for the outdoor-minded because they believe life is enriched through adventure, travel, and community. Now that is a purpose and a mission I can get behind. After breaking my Chacos in for two weeks prior, I was excited and ready to take them out on their first hike.
I will be perfectly honest. This was a hard hike. Hard as in this-hike-kicked-my-butt. Even after hiking most weekends and training on inclines on the hotel treadmill, this was no easy climb for me. Albeit, I wasn’t feeling well and had been sitting in a car all day, but still. Even though this hike was one of the most beautiful I had been on, it was a huge test of my strength, endurance, and ability to put mind-over-matter.
Sometimes the happiest of pictures are just a bit blurry and happen right when you just crossed a creek. My first Chaco-Creek-Crossing was a success.
With our first creek behind us, we ventured onward. There wasn’t time to slow down as we raced the setting sun.
The hike to the falls was just over two miles and it was getting later. We had a set time to turn around to make it back by dark, but by the time it arrived, we were only 0.2 miles away. Could we come so close just to turn around right before reaching the waterfall? Absolutely not.
This glorious waterfall was worth every agonizing step it took to get there.
Even though the sun was setting and we still had a two mile hike back, we took some time to pause, rest, and take in the beauty of the moment at Hen Wallow Falls.
Chacos are shoes that truly are fit for adventure.
My Chacos have a fantastic tread that doesn’t slip and I love how the straps don’t allow the shoes to flop around on my feet. (I’m so glad I got the ones with the toe strap!) It’s amazing and life-changing and all sorts of wonderful to be able to walk through water and splash around in a waterfall without even a second thought. Even after two weeks of wearing them constantly before the hike, though, my feet still got pretty shredded and I developed some rather nasty blisters. Most people say that Chacos take about two months before they break in fully, though. Since Hen Wallow Falls, those blisters have turned into callouses and I can now wear my Chacos pain-free so I have high hopes for future blister-less hikes.
The hike back was primarily downhill so it was significantly easier and incredibly faster. Still, as dusk descended and our light faded, we felt like we had to race to make it down before the sun did. Our hike ended at 9pm right as the sun was dipping below the horizon and, even though there was nothing easy about this hike, finding such a stunning and secluded waterfall was the highlight of our road trip. My Chacos passed their first test and Austin and I completed our first Together Hike in the Smoky Mountains. I’d call that a success.
Do you have a favorite hike in the Smoky Mountains National Park?
Are you a Chacos-wearer too? Do you wear yours for hiking?