The drive could be upto 40 mins from Cades Cove depending on traffic though Gatlinburg, so give yourself time as you will be heading back to the other side of the park once you finish here too. So remember the timing.
This hike could be short or long depending on the state of the car park on Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, you may have to park on the road which adds at least another hour to the hike and another 2 miles in each direction, if that’s the case you will have the chance to see some wildflowers and deer along the tarmac road side (or the trail which sits to the right of the road) before getting the Grotto Falls trail head itself. Look out for the break in the tree line for an awesome view over the park, you may miss it if you are not on the tarmac road.
Grotto Falls serves as a route to the hotel and used by a Llama Train that takes linen to the resort beyond the trail 3 times a week (schedule is posted at the trail head). The feature of the falls is you can walk right behind it and make some fantastic images of the water from a different perspective also check out the approach to the falls as the framing is spectacular.
Watch out for the tree roots that poke up throughout the trail and I would highly recommend NOT carrying your camera mounted on a tripod for obvious reasons as you are likely to trip. There are a few sections where you will have to cross some streams or water logged parts of the trail so watch out for those.
Going in the late afternoon means you should be able to get some decent sky and light going through the waterfall onto the wall behind it. When you are done you have time to get back to your car before the golden hour kicks in depending on the time of year you go.
I loved this hike and easily one of my favorites during my time in the park and for this hike I took my favorite 90mm macro and 15-30mm.
Grotto Falls Parking on Google Maps