Kid-Friendly Hiking Trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Kid-Friendly Hiking Trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Nestled along the North Carolina and Tennessee borders, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a bustling wonderland with breathtaking beauty and diverse ecosystems. While it’s known for its rugged terrain and challenging trails, this park is also a fantastic destination for outdoorsy families with children.

With an array of kid-friendly hiking trails, the park allows young adventurers to experience the wonders of nature while fostering a love for the outdoors. This article will delve into some of the best kid-friendly hiking trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

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Look Rock Tower-1 mile (Round trip)

While some people think of the Look Rock Tower trail as more of a walk than a hike, it’s a fantastic choice for beginners of any age. A round-trip hike to Look Rock Tower typically takes around 45 minutes. At the end, there’s a cool observation tower with fantastic panoramic views of the Great Smoky Mountains.

The Look Rock Tower Trail offers one of the shortest hikes in the Smoky Mountains region. It gives you a 360-degree view of the Great Smoky Mountains and the nearby areas. There are only a handful of places in Great Smoky where you can get such sweeping views of the mountains without having to walk a long way! This trail is less crowded and somewhat hidden away.

Alum Cave Trail to Arch Rock-1.3 miles (One way)

The Alum Cave Trail is a family favorite because it offers a lovely walk by a creek, dense forests, scenic views, and bridges. It’s the most popular path to reach the famous Leconte Lodge, high up on Leconte Mountain.

The Alum Cave Trail is right off Newfound Gap Road, about 10 miles from Gatlinburg and about a mile from the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. Due to its popularity, there are two parking lots at the start of the trail, but they usually fill up quickly unless you arrive early.

Right at the start of your journey, you will cross two streams: Walker Camp Prong and Alum Cave Creek. Alum Cave Creek is next to the trail for the first 1.3 miles. This leg of the course goes through an old forest with tall hemlock and yellow birch trees.

After about 1.3 miles, you will come to Arch Rock. It’s a giant, flat, black rock that has slowly formed a natural arch over many years. It’s unique, and you can’t miss it. You can easily walk through this damp rock by taking the staircase and steel cables designed to support trail users.

Clingmans Dome-1 mile (Round trip)

If you’re searching for hikes that are great for kids near Gatlinburg, you should consider Clingman’s Dome in the Smoky Mountains. It’s not far from Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, making it a perfect day trip for visitors to the Smoky Mountains. This trail is just 1 mile long and paved, making it one of the best family activities in the Smoky Mountains.

Clingman’s Dome is the highest spot in the national park, at 6,643 feet. It’s also the highest point in Tennessee and the third-highest mountain in the eastern part of the United States!

Clingman’s Dome offers some of the most breathtaking scenery in the Great Smoky, so it’s a must-see for adventurous families. The trail is paved, so it’s easier to watch over your entourage. The course is stroller-friendly, but we recommend you use a lighter one. There are also benches where you can take a break, rest, and have snacks.

Laurel Falls-2.3 miles (Round trip)

The Laurel Falls trail is a 2.3-mile round trip known as one of the highest waterfall hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains! The path is paved but can be rocky and uneven, with some steep parts as you get closer to the falls.

Wear good shoes and keep little kids nearby. When you reach the 80-foot waterfall, there’s a bridge perfect for family photos. For the best pictures, go to Laurel Falls in the morning or late afternoon when natural lighting is at its optimal best.

The Gatlinburg Trail-3.9 miles (Round trip)

The Gatlinburg Trail is an excellent choice for outdoorsy families. The hiking trail is relatively easy, paved and bike and pet-friendly. So you can even bring your furry friend along. The trail starts at the Sugarlands Visitor Center, runs along the Little Pigeon River for about 2 miles, and ends near Gatlinburg.

During your walk, you will see a small waterfall, a lovely footbridge, and rustic parts of old homes. Because it’s easy to get to, the Gatlinburg Trail is the perfect outdoor jaunt for families relatively new to hiking.

Porter’s Creek Trail-4 miles (Round trip)

The Porters Creek trail starts in Greenbrier Cove and is an excellent kid-friendly path, thanks to its moderate elevation. This trail is mostly flat and has lovely wildflowers, two wooden bridges to walk over, a river, historical remnants, and even a waterfall at the end!

For the first mile, you will walk on an old gravel road that weaves through a thick forest. After about two-thirds of a mile, you will encounter old stone walls and parts of the Elbert Cantrell farmstead. A small path on the right leads to the Ownby Cemetery, which goes back to the early 1900s.

About a mile in, you will cross a footbridge and reach a fork in the road. You can take the right; the detour leads to the historic John Messer farm, which has a cool barn built in the 1870s. Going left will keep you on the Porters Creek Trail. There is a section where this trail intersects with the Brushy Mountain Trail, but continue on your path to get to Fern Branch Falls.

You’ll find Fern Branch Falls about 2 miles into the trail. This 60-foot waterfall drops from the ridge of the track and is a beautiful spot for family pictures. No matter which season you pick, this trail is an excellent choice because it always offers something special.

Cataract Falls-1 mile (Round trip)

The trailhead is right next to the Sugarlands Visitor Center in Gatlinburg. It’s a great place to begin if you visit the Great Smoky Mountains for the first time. The visitor center has an excellent museum and a short movie you can watch. You can also get maps and talk to a park ranger about what to expect along the trail.

Walking on the Fighting Creek Nature Trail is easy and short. The trail is also a learning opportunity, with several markers giving detailed information on the native plants found along the route. The course is an excellent option if you want to sneak one short hike into a busy itinerary. Keep in mind that it can get crowded sometimes, so plan your visit accordingly!

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has a range of hiking experiences perfect for families with children. From easy, stroller-friendly trails to more challenging hikes suitable for older kids, there’s a trail for every family’s hiking ability.

These trails provide opportunities to connect with nature and create lasting memories that will inspire a lifelong love for the outdoors in your children. So, pack your hiking gear and embark on a family adventure in one of the most beautiful natural settings in the United States.

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