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Nestled in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park draws millions of visitors each year, many of which are travelling families. Hikers of all ages and skill levels come to disconnect from the digital world and reconnect with nature through countless hikes that allow you to take in pristine natural landscapes that are home to an abundance of wildlife.

Offering over 800 miles of well-maintained trails, the park offers many family-friendly trail options. Whether you’re introducing your young child to their first ever national park hike or simply encouraging your teens to reduce their screentime and embrace outdoor exploration, the Smoky Mountains promise memorable family adventures for everyone.

Here are some of our top recommendations for family-friendly hiking trails to get you started with planning your next outdoor adventure in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Family-Friendly Hiking Trails in the Great Smoky Mountains: Adventure for All Ages

Laurel Falls Trail: A Stunning Waterfall and Paved Path

Laurel Falls Trail offers a perfect introduction to the Great Smoky Mountains NP. This round-trip trail is both paved and under 3 miles in length, making it short enough for beginner hikers or families with young children.

The trail is named for the colorful laurel shrubs that bloom each spring and for the impressive 80-foot double-tiered waterfall you’ll encounter along the trail. There’s also the chance to spot deer and black bears along the trail.

As an added bonus, Laurel Falls Trail is open year-round unlike many other trails in the park, allowing you to see the natural scenery change throughout the four seasons.

Grotto Falls Trail: Walking Behind a Waterfall Near Smoky Mountain Cabins

This is another short trail offering a lovely waterfall is the Grotto Falls Trail, except this trail provides a unique opportunity to walk behind the falls which the trail Is named after. This trail is actually a segment of the longer Trillium Gap Trail which was once used by early loggers, allowing you the ability to extend shorter hikes on Grotto Falls Trail to continue your hiking along the Trillium Gap Trail which will lead you to one of the park’s highest points which is the summit of Mount LeConte.

Like our previously mentioned trail, this round-trip hike comes in under 3 miles as well, making it a distance for families with children.  The well-marked and maintained trail is also conveniently located near Gatlinburg and the region’s lovely Smoky Mountain cabins that provide the perfect base for families to relax each night before venturing out each day to explore trails like the Grotto Fall hike along with the many of the park’s most popular natural landmarks.

Clingmans Dome Observation Tower: Views from the Highest Peak

Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, offers a short, yet steep hike to its observation tower. The round-trip paved trail may be just over a mile in length, but it can be a bit more challenging for little ones due to the steep incline. However, the reward is 360-degree views, where on clear days, you can see up to 100 miles across seven states from the observation tower.

Bring layers, as temperatures can be much cooler at this elevation since you’ll be at over 6,600 feet. Despite the climb, it’s an excellent trail for families wanting to experience the Smokies from a breathtaking vantage point.

The observation tower offers an accessible spiraling ramp as opposed to stairs which makes it convenient for those in wheelchairs, families with strollers, or people who have difficulty managing a lot of stairs.

Cades Cove Loop and Abrams Falls Trail: A Blend of Scenery and History

Cades Cove is a historic valley known for its scenic beauty and wildlife. The 11-mile loop road allows families to explore old churches and barns, old log cabins, and even a working grist mill. Families may want to choose to visit the Cades Cove Loop during the summer months where on certain days of the week the road is closed to vehicles which makes hiking or biking along the loop safer.

For a more adventurous hike suitable for older children, head to Abrams Falls Trail. This 5-mile round-trip trail leads to a picturesque waterfall cascading into a deep pool. While the hike requires some stamina, older kids will love the chance to spot deer, coyotes, or wild turkeys along the trail.

The waterfall provides a refreshing reward after the hike, though swimming is discouraged due to strong currents. Cades Cove combines natural beauty and historical exploration in one family-friendly package.

Elkmont Nature Trail: An Educational and Scenic Loop

Elkmont Nature Trail is a hidden gem offering a short, educational hike suitable for all ages. This one-mile loop trail takes families through the Elkmont Historic District, a former logging and vacation community.

Interpretive signs along the way explain the history of the area and its rich biodiversity. The gentle path meanders through the forest and past remains of old cabins and structures, giving families a glimpse into the past.

Kids will love learning about the history of Elkmont and the natural wonders surrounding them. The trail’s manageable length makes it ideal for young hikers and nature enthusiasts.

Kephart Prong Trail: Exploring the Forest with Four Stream Crossings

Kephart Prong Trail offers families a unique combination of history, nature, and gentle adventure. You’ll navigate your way through forests and along several log bridges that span sparkling streams. The trail is 4 miles round trip and follows the remnants of an old Civilian Conservation Corps camp.

Along the way, families can discover relics of the past, like stone chimneys and fish hatchery foundations. The gradual incline and stream crossings make it an exciting yet manageable adventure for kids. Encourage children to look for salamanders and wildflowers along the trail, as the forest is teeming with biodiversity.

Andrews Bald Trail: A Moderate Hike to a Scenic Meadow

For families seeking a slightly longer hike with rewarding views, Andrews Bald Trail is a fantastic option. This 3.6-mile round-trip trail begins at the Clingmans Dome parking area and leads to a picturesque meadow known as Andrews Bald.

The meadow provides stunning panoramic views and a perfect spot for a family picnic. While the trail includes some rocky and root-filled sections, older children will find it engaging and not too difficult. The scenic meadow is especially beautiful in spring and summer when wildflowers are in bloom. It’s a moderate hike that combines the beauty of the forest with sweeping vistas.

Alum Cave Trail to Arch Rock: Unique Geological Formations

Alum Cave Trail to Arch Rock is a 2.3-mile round-trip hike showcasing some of the Smokies’ most intriguing geological features. The trail leads through the forest and past Inspiration Point, providing stunning views of the mountains.

Hiking along Alum Cave Trail will literally have you walking in the footsteps of early Cherokee Indians and early Civil War Era American settlers who came to the area to mine alum, hence the name of the trail.

Arch Rock, a large natural arch, is a unique highlight where families can climb through using stone steps and a handrail. Beyond Arch Rock, the trail continues to Alum Cave Bluff, a massive overhang offering a cool respite.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park stands out as a premier hiking destination, offering an unparalleled blend of natural beauty, historical richness, and wide variety of trails that are suitable for traveling families.

Explore trials that pass through scenic valleys, along majestic peaks, venture deep into lush woodlands, and will have you encountering impressive waterfalls.

Whether your family is seeking a gentle park stroll or a more involved trek that leads to a breathtaking viewpoint, the Smokies promise memorable moments for adventurers of all ages, solidifying its reputation as a must-visit destination for nature loving families.

Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007.  Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 100+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.



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