When visiting Gatlinburg, there several choices of entertainment to keep your family and friends occupied for days. One of the greatest attractions is the nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which offers an incredible range of hiking trails for the beginner to the experienced hiker. Whether you prefer long-range views, rushing waterfalls, gorgeous plant life or just a walk in the woods, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park trails offer something for everyone. Some favorite hikes for families include:
One: An ideal family friendly hike with a gorgeous view is the Andrew’s Bald trail. Offering panoramic views, this 3.5 mile round-trip hike is located in the Clingman’s Dome area, and is filled with creek beds, rain run-offs, rocks and small boulders. Kids will love exploring the natural surroundings.
Two: For a slightly more strenuous hike just outside light 8 in Gatlinburg, Rainbow Falls provides 5.4 miles of creeks, footbridges and an 80-foot high waterfall 2.7 miles from the trailhead. The highest single-drop waterfall in the Smokies, Rainbow Falls features great picnic spots along the way and continues on to Mt. LeConte for the more ambitious hikers.
Three: Families with younger kids or older family members might want to try Tom’s Branch Falls. This easy hike is under a mile and accessible from the Deep Creek Trail. Offering beautiful waterfalls in an easy-to-do hike, Tom’s Branch Falls includes benches to sit and admire the falls and continues onto Indian Creek Falls, for another easy 1.9-mile hike.
Four: Adventurous hikers will appreciate the Park’s wide availability of harder and more rewarding excursions. Rich Mountain Loop offers a challenging 7.7-mile hike with long steady climbs. The payoff is rewarding however, as the Rich Mountain Loop features gorgeous meadows of diverse, beautiful wildflowers, views of Tuckaleechee Cove and Townsend, and a walk by one of the oldest structures in the park, John Oliver’s cabin.
Five: A family favorite, the Clingman’s Dome Tower hike is perfect for families with strollers or wheelchairs, as it is a wide, paved course. This one-mile hike to the observation deck is steep, but reaches the second highest peak east of the mighty Mississippi river and includes rest rooms and benches along the way.
Six: Alum Cave Creek is one of the more popular trails and includes two parking lots to access the 4.4-mile hike on Newfound Gap Road. While hiking to the cave you’ll pass Inspiration Point, providing expansive views of Myrtle Point on Mount LeConte and Little Duck Hawk Ridge. After hiking 2.2 miles, the “cave” appears, which is actually a concave bluff approximately 80-feet high with stunning views.
Seven: Porters Creek Trail is also ideal for families seeking a moderate hike filled with history, waterfalls, streams and wildflowers. This four-mile hike begins down a gravel road off of the Greenbrier entrance to the Smoky Mountain National Park. Two-thirds of a mile into the hike are several old stone walls that are remnants of an old mountain community, and just pass the walls is an early 20th century cemetery. Further into the trail is the 19th century John Messer farm site and a cabin built by the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club over seventy years ago. Waterfalls and a myriad of wildflowers continue to accent the path as the trail continues.
The Great Smoky Mountain National Park includes short hikes for young ones, longer more challenging treks for experienced hikers and nice day trips for the entire family. Nature enthusiasts will not be disappointed as the Park’s trails include everything from historical landmarks to stunning waterfalls. Come see for yourself all the natural beauty in these mountains and discover a new favorite trail.