20 Best Family Hikes in the Smoky Mountains

Whether you want to soak in the soothing sights and sounds of nature, snap some stunning photos, or just make epic memories, these are the best family hikes in the Smoky Mountains to make it all happen.

With easy to moderate difficulty, these trails are perfect for all ages. But, don’t be fooled. Just because these trails are kid-friendly doesn’t mean they aren’t amazing!

The hikes below offer a variety of perks including sweeping mountain views, Instagram worthy photography spots, waterfalls, wildflowers, and more! Check out the descriptions below to find the perfect Smoky Mountain hiking trail for you!

Great Smoky Mountain Hikes

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Safety Tips for Family Hikes in the Smoky Mountains

Tick Borne Illness

While tick-borne illness is fairly rare, it can be very serious, sometimes even deadly. The best way to protect against ticks is by staying alert on the trail.

Several times I have seen a tick crawling on my child during a hike and have been able to pick it off before it bites.

Of course thoroughly check all hikers for ticks after you get home, especially in hard to reach places and throughout the hair and scalp.

Black Bear in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Mom Explores The Smokies

Wildlife Safety

While hiking, please keep a safe distance from bears, elk, and other wildlife.  This ensures not only your safety but the animals’ safety as well.

Many people don’t realize that when these wild animals become accustomed to humans, they are euthanized by the park service, in attempts to protect park visitors.

For your safety, it’s also a good idea to carry bear spray. Although attacks are rare, hikers frequently encounter bears in the Smokies, even on the more well-traveled trails.

If you do see a bear on your hike, never you fear! The park service made this great video to explain the steps you should take to avoid a catastrophe!

Easy Kid-Friendly Hikes

These first hiking trails are the easiest ones on our list. They are all fairly level trails without many difficult terrain features. Some are even paved.

If you are looking for a little bit more of a challenge, scroll down to our list of moderate hikes below.

Each family has its own unique needs. You know your family best and are ultimately responsible for discerning the safety and appropriateness of these hikes.

Little Brier Gap

Round Trip Length: 2.65 miles
Location: parking off of Wear Cove Gap Road, near Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area & Wears Valley

This is a short and easy hike, although there is a bit of a drop off in some spots.  The trail runs along a peaceful stream and leads to the historic Walker Sisters’ Place.

This primitive homestead is where the Walker Sisters continued to live after refusing to sell their land to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There are picnic areas at nearby Metcalf Bottoms.

Read more about Little Brier Gap Trail.

Metcalf Bottoms Trail

Round Trip length: 1.2 miles
Location: parking at Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area, near Wears Valley

This very short trail starts at Metcalf Bottoms picnic area and ends at the historic Greenbriar Schoolhouse. From the schoolhouse, you can either turn back or continue on to the Little Briar Gap trail (above).

This hike begins on a wide gravel trail, but the pathway changes over to dirt a short way into the hike.

Read more about Metcalf Bottoms Trail.

Look Rock Tower

Round Trip Length: .9 miles
Location: parking along Foothills Parkway, near Walland

This first half of this trail features a fairly moderate incline, but because the trail is so short, it levels out before you know it. As an added bonus, this trail is completely paved, but due to the incline, I do not recommend using a stroller.

Thankfully, there are no steep drop-offs on either side of the trail, so it’s a great choice for younger walkers.

The coolest part is that it leads to a  fire tower that offers stunning 360Β° views. You’ll be treated to sweeping views of the Smoky Mountains on one side and the gorgeous Tennessee Valley on the other.

This trail is located along the scenic Foothills Parkway, which offers stunning mountain views and plenty of pull-offs for photographs. There are restrooms at the nearby picnic area.

Read more about Look Rock Tower Trail.

Schoolhouse Gap

Round Trip Length: 3.8 miles
Location: parking along Laurel Creek Road, halfway between Cades Cove & Townsend

This wide kid-friendly trail follows a small stream and is great for viewing wildflowers in both spring and summer. There is a designated parking lot for this trail. If you are not in the parking lot, you are in the wrong place.

Read more about Schoolhouse Gap Trail.

Gatlinburg Trail

Round Trip Length: 4 miles
Location: parking on Park Headquarters Road behind Sugarlands Visitor Center, or parking on River Rd. in Gatlinburg

This fun dog-friendly trail is one of the easiest in the Smoky Mountains. It is also the closest hike to downtown Gatlinburg.

This trail runs along the little pigeon river and is relatively level, although not paved. There are also some historical sites along the trail.

The trail is close to the Sugarlands Visitor Center which offers an educational indoor museum, an informative park video, a gift shop, and restrooms.

Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail

Round Trip Length: .5 miles
Location: parking along US 441, near Sugarlands Visitor Center & Gatlinburg

This is by far the easiest trail in the entire national park and is the best for hiking with toddlers who like to walk. My 2 year old walked the entire way.

The trail is paved and is 100%, without question, stroller and handicap accessible.

Though short, it is heavily wooded and follows a neighboring stream, which makes for a very peaceful excursion.

Read more about the Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail

Elkmont Nature Trail

Round Trip Length: .8
Location: parking on Elkmont Road

This short but scenic loop trail features a variety of spring wildflowers and is convenient to the infamous and popular Elkmont Ghost Town.

Read more about the Elkmont Nature Trail.

Juney Whank Falls

Round Trip Length: .5 miles
Location: parking in Deep Creek, near the Deep Creek Picnic Area and Bryson City

Although short, this fun trail features a gorgeous waterfall and scenic footbridge. You can extend your visit, by packing a picnic lunch and getting your feet wet in the creek. You can also explore one of the other great trails in the area, like the Deep Creek Loop trail, on our moderate list below!

Read more about Juney Whank Falls.

Tom Branch Falls

Round Trip Length: .6 miles
Location: parking in Deep Creek, near the Deep Creek Picnic Area and Bryson City

Just a stone’s throw way from Juney Whank Falls (above), this pleasant trail is short enough that you could hike both trails back-to-back. There are benches near the falls for a relaxed viewing experience.

Oconaluftee River Trail

Round Trip Length: 3 miles
Location: parking at the Oconaluftee Visitors Center near Cherokee

This is one of only 2 trails to allow dogs in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and one of only 3 to allow bicycling.

Many families report that jogging strollers do well on this peaceful scenic trail.

In the spring the trail features a nice variety of wildflowers. You can also visit the adjacent (and FREE) Mountain Farm Museum, any time of year.

Read more about the Oconaluftee River Trail.

Moderate Family-Friendly Hikes

Though far from strenuous, these trails are for families who want a little more of a challenge. They may feature more changes in elevation and/or rockier terrain.

Andrews Bald

Round trip length: 3.5 miles
Location: parking at Clingman’s Dome Visitor Center, near Newfound Gap

Andrews Bald, which is located at the end of this trail, offers spectacular mountain views year-round and is a popular photography spot.

This is also an especially excellent hike for viewing wildflowers in late spring and early summer. The trail is accessible from the Clingman’s Dome parking lot, which has restrooms, a picnic area, and a small gift shop.

Read more about Andrew’s Bald Trail.

Clingman’s Dome Trail

Round Trip Length: .5 miles
Location: parking at Clingman’s Dome Visitor Center, near Newfound Gap

Though short this trail is extremely steep. Thankfully, there are many rest benches along the way.

At the top, the observation tower offers spectacular 360-degree mountain views and wonderful photography opportunities.

Although the trail is paved, due to the incline, it is NOT stroller accessible.

Read more about Clingmans Dome Trail.

Cove Hardwood Nature Trail

Round Trip Length: .7 miles
Location: parking at Chimney Tops Picnic Area

This short and sweet hike provides excellent views of wildflowers in March and April. It’s also is a looped hiking trail, which means there is no need for backtracking.  

There are restrooms at the nearby Chimney Tops picnic area.

Fighting Creek Nature Trail

Round Trip Length: 1.25 miles
Location: parking at Sugarlands Valley Visitor Center, near Gatlinburg

This fun and educational trail features informational plaques that teach about the native flora and fauna.

There is also a historical cabin located on the trail, which makes a great opportunity for family photos.  

Though not strenuous, there are a few spots with moderate inclines and/or a steep drop off to one side. This trail also connects to Cataract Falls.

Read more about Fighting Creek Nature Trail.

Grotto Falls 

Round Trip Length: 2.6 miles
Location: parking along Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Gatlinburg

Although mostly uphill, the incline of this family-friendly smoky mountain hike is gradual and manageable.

One of the best features of this trail is, once you reach the waterfall, you can actually walk behind it. Talk about great photos!

Read more about Grotto Falls Hiking Trail.

Kephart Prong

Round Trip Length: 4.2 miles
Location: parking along US 441 , near Oconaluftee Visitors Center

This trail follows a picturesque stream and features historical landmarks including the remnants of old barracks, an old log cabin, and the remnants of an old fish hatchery.

Read more about Kephart Prong Trail.

Laurel Falls

Round Trip Length: 2.3 miles
Location: parking at Fighting Creek Gap Road, near Elkmont & Sugarlands Visitor Center

Laurel Falls is the MOST popular hiking trail in all of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and boasts an 80 foot tall, multi-tiered waterfall. 

Once you reach the waterfall, there are small natural pools for wading, which makes this an excellent summer choice.

Due to the popularity of this trail, it tends to be very busy, but there is plenty of parking available along the road. Although paved, this trail is NOT stroller accessible.

Read more about Laurel Falls Trail.

Little River Trail

Round Trip Length: 4.9 miles
Location: parking on Elkmont road, just past the campground

This trail is wide and spacious and follows the path of the Little River. It’s an excellent spot for wildflower viewing in March and April. There are historic landmarks along this trail, and picnic areas are located at nearby Elkmont.

Porters Creek Trail

Round Trip Length: 4 miles
Location: Parking along Greenbriar Road, near Greenbriar Picnic Area and Cosby

Follow the creek as you enjoy spectacular views of the forest. In March and April, the first 1.5 miles of this hike offers stunning views of wildflowers. There are also a few historical buildings located along the trail. Picnic areas are available at nearby Greenbrier.

Rainbow Falls

Round Trip Length: 5.4 miles
Location: parking along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, near Gatlinburg

While still classified as moderate, Rainbow Falls is the most difficult hike on our list and does at times have a strenuous incline. While not the best trail for families with small children, it is fine for older kids.

The trail gets its name from an impressive 80-foot waterfall that casts a radiant canvas of colors onto the surrounding rocks.

Read more about Rainbow Falls Trail.

More East TN Family Fun

Happy hiking, y’all!

9 thoughts on “20 Best Family Hikes in the Smoky Mountains”

  1. Your kid friendly hiking list is amazing! Thank you so much for sharing! We are headed there for the first time in April and can’t wait to get our little people outside!

    Reply

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