Family-Friendly Hiking Trails in the Smoky Mountains
Whether you're exploring the great outdoors with young adventurers or seeking thrilling escapades with older kids, the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee offer an abundance of family-friendly hiking trails suitable for every age. From serene strolls by picturesque rivers to rewarding hikes leading to magnificent waterfalls, the region has something for everyone. Let's take a closer look at some of the best family-friendly trails to explore in this natural wonderland.
1. Laurel Falls Trail
Ideal for families with young children, the Laurel Falls Trail is a popular and easily accessible choice. The 2.4-mile round trip leads to the spectacular 80-foot-high Laurel Falls. The trail is paved and gently inclined, making it manageable for little legs to conquer. Keep an eye out for bears, as they occasionally make appearances in this area. Due to its popularity, it's recommended to arrive early to avoid crowds.
2. Gatlinburg Trail
For a leisurely stroll with the whole family, the Gatlinburg Trail is a delightful option. This 3.8-mile round-trip trail runs alongside the river and offers beautiful views along the way. Kids can walk or even ride bikes on the level pavement, making it an excellent choice for families with strollers. The trail connects the Sugarlands Visitor Center to downtown Gatlinburg, providing easy access to both nature and amenities.
3. Cataract Falls Trail
Starting at the Sugarlands Visitor Center's parking lot, the Cataract Falls Trail is a great choice for a short adventure with restrooms and exhibits nearby. The three-quarter-mile round trip features bridges over Fighting Creek and can be navigated by most strollers, making it convenient for families with young children.
4. Metcalf Bottoms Trail
Offering a glimpse into history, the Metcalf Bottoms Trail stretches for 1.5 miles round trip and passes by rustic, split-log bridges and remnants of old settlements. Explore the 1882 Little Greenbrier Schoolhouse and the Walker Sisters cabin, which showcases a bygone era of self-sufficiency. Keep in mind that this trail is not recommended for strollers due to its terrain.
5. Little Brier Gap Trail
The Little Brier Gap Trail, spanning 2.6 miles round trip, promises an enchanting experience with spring wildflowers and the occasional bear sighting. The highlight of the hike is the Walker homestead, where five self-sufficient sisters lived for decades as the national park formed around them. Kids can explore the cabin, springhouse, and corn crib, gaining insight into a self-reliant way of life.
Elkmont Hiking Trails
Elkmont, with its historic structures and scenic charm, offers excellent hiking opportunities for families seeking a touch of history along their nature walks. Here are two must-visit trails in the Elkmont area:
6. Little River Trail
At 5 miles, the Little River Trail is a relatively easy hike, following an old logging road. Along the trail, you can explore Millionaires Row, an assembly of old homes from the pre-park era. The trail runs along the Little River, providing several opportunities for a refreshing swim and the chance to spot river otters.
7. Jakes Creek Trail to the Avent Cabin
This 2.4-mile round trip hike takes you to the Avent Cabin, a relic from the 1850s that holds historical significance. Along the trail, discover more of Elkmont's old resort community, including the Owenby and Avent cabins.
The House of Fairies
For a magical adventure, venture to the House of Fairies on Twin Creeks Trail. This 4.5-mile out-and-back trail offers a glimpse of the Voorheis Estate and the Natural Resources Center of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Follow a small path from Twin Creeks Trail to discover the whimsical House of Fairies, a stone springhouse that captures the imagination.
With such an array of family-friendly trails in the Smoky Mountains, every outdoor enthusiast, young or old, can experience the wonders of nature in this enchanting region. So gather your loved ones, pack your hiking gear, and embark on an unforgettable family adventure amidst the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.