10 of the Best Smoky Mountain Hikes for Kids

March 29, 2019

It’s no secret Gatlinburg, Tennessee is home to a plethora of outdoor activities. One of the most popular things to do at this vacation destination is to hit the trails. 

Bringing younger children with you? No problem.  There are several Gatlinburg hikes perfect for families, especially as there are a total over 800 miles in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to explore.  Escape from the every day and spend time in the outdoors creating memories with your loved on one of the 10 best Smoky Mountain hikes for kids.

1) Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail

Distance: .5 mile
A short, enjoyable paved trail located near the Sugarlands Visitor Center.  Features include a waterfall and the short distance makes it easy for all skill levels.

2) Fighting Creek Nature Trail

Distance: 1.2 miles
Hike through the open forests of a hillside that leads to the historic John Ownby Cabin, one of the oldest pre-park cabins.  Access to the trail is directly behind the Sugarlands Visitor Center.

3) Elkmont Nature Trail

Distance: .8 mile
Take the kiddos one this short loop to learn about the naturally changing forest landscapes of the Smoky Mountains.  Pick up a brochure for the trailhead for a nominal fee, then follow the 13 distinct interpretive markers which correspond to an educational brochure providing an explanation for each one.

4) Cosby Nature Trail

Distance: .75 mile
Located just before the Cosby Campground, this short loop hike meanders through the woods and along Cosby Creek.

5) Cove Hardwood Nature Trail

Distance: .75 mile
The trailhead for this hike is at the Chimneys Picnic Area on Newfound Gap Road.  Looping through a picture-perfect forest, visitors will see moss-covered boulders, lush foliage and wonderful wildflowers (in season).

6) Spruce-Fir Nature Trail

Distance: .5 mile
Short and easy, this hike is through a spruce-fir forest. It's actually really unique, too, as these forests are found at the park’s highest elevations.  The trailhead for this walk is a little over 2.5 miles from Clingmans Dome. Most of the trail follows a wooden boardwalk, making it easy to navigate.

7) Clingmans Dome Trail

Distance: 1.0 mile
Even though this hike is only 1-mile roundtrip, the trek to the summit of Clingmans Dome is steep.  The trail is paved, however, and there are benches to rest at every tenth of a mile.  The observation tower at the top features spectacular panoramic views, with visibility up to 100 miles on a clear day.

8) The Three Waterfalls Loop

Distance: 2.4 miles
Head to the Deep Creek Campground to conquer this trail, which features three impressive waterfalls – Tom Branch Falls, Juneywhank Falls, and Indian Creek Falls.  It’s one of the most rewarding waterfall hikes in the Smoky Mountains.

9) Abrams Falls

Distance: 5 miles
Start this hike on Cades Cove Loop Road.  Considered moderately strenuous, the terrain of climbs up and down ridges, which follows Abrams Creek, before reaching the amazing beauty of Abrams Falls.  Even though the falls is only 20 feet high, the volume of water rushing over the cliffside makes it a must-see.  In fact, Abrams Falls is the most voluminous waterfall in the park.

10) Oconaluftee River Trail

Distance: 3 miles
Educational yet invigorating, the Oconaluftee River Trail starts at the visitor center of the same name.  The trail follows the river into the town of Cherokee, with signs along the way telling Cherokee Indian stories.

Get Outside!

There you have it--these are the best Smoky Mountain hikes for kids. From super short treks to more lengthy trails, these outdoor excursions are ideal for visiting families. Which will you go on during your Gatlinburg vacation? Let us know in the comments!

michaela smiling holding magazine with body of water in background

Written By Michaela

Michaela is a journalist who views every story she writes as an adventure, leading her to explore new places and meet new people. She is based in the Midwest ...

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