The Porters Creek Road is currently (July 2020) closed to cars due to a huge hole. A foot bridge leading to the trail was also destroyed. Road closures due to weather conditions: https://twitter.com/smokiesroadsnps
The Porters Creek Trail is a 4-mile roundtrip hike that travels through a lush forest along the banks of Porters Creek (massive boulders in the creek). It is one of the most popular hikes during the spring because of all the gorgeous wildflowers (yellow trillium near the trailhead). You will see historic sites and structures, as well as Fern Branch Falls, a 60-foot waterfall.
There is limited parking at the trailhead, Hiking trail is mostly uphill from the trailhead. Trail is wide with gravel for the first mile to the old homestead then the next mile gets narrow, rough with roots, rocks and muddy to the falls. Exceptional views along the creek and spectacular creek crossing on a cut log with rails.
The old homestead is roughly two-thirds of a mile from the trailhead. Several old stone walls will appear on your right. These are remnants from the Elbert Cantrell farmstead, who settled in the Porters Creek community in the early 1900s. Also on your right, just past the stone walls, is the Ownby Cemetery, which also dates back to the early part of the 20th century.
Roughly one mile from the trailhead, after crossing over a footbridge, hikers will reach a fork in the road. The spur trail on the right leads to an historic farm site. A short hike of roughly 250 yards will take you to the John Messer farm site, which includes a cantilevered barn that was built by John Whaley around 1875. There’s also a cabin on this site that was built by the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club in the mid-1930s. Members of the club were permitted to use the cabin as an overnight facility until 1981.
To continue towards Fern Branch Falls you should veer left at this junction. Hikers will then walk another hundred feet or so to arrive at the Brushy Mountain Trail junction. To continue along the Porters Creek Trail hikers should turn left here as well.
At roughly 2 miles hikers will arrive at the 60-foot Fern Branch Falls, which drops off the ridge on the left side of the trail. During high water flows this can be a fairly spectacular waterfall. Although this particular hike ends at this point, the trail continues on for another 1.7 miles to reach Backcountry Campsite 31.
Porters Creek Trailhead is in Greenbrier. To reach the trailhead from the junction of 441 and 321 in Gatlinburg (Traffic Light #3), turn to travel eastbound on 321. Drive 6 miles and turn right into Greenbrier (look for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park entrance sign on the right). This road turns into a gravel road after a short distance. From Route 321 drive 3.1 miles to a fork in the road. Continue straight ahead at this junction to reach the Porters Creek Trailhead. The parking area for the trail will be almost another mile from this junction.