Does your trip to the Smokies involve multiple generations? Bringing two, three, or even four generations of family means finding activities everyone will enjoy together. A visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park definitely fits the bill. If you’ve got older adults, senior citizens, or group members with limited mobility, you’ll want to check out this list of hiking trails for seniors in the Smoky Mountains.
Sugarlands Nature Trail
The Sugarlands Nature Trail is easily recognized as the most accessible trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Not only does this trail have plenty of paved, level parking, it’s also paved! This 0.75 mile paved nature trail is a great fit for the whole family. This nature trail is not only a great trail for seniors, it’s also great for little ones in a stroller. The loop trail winds its way through a stand of trees, past a brick chimney. Take your time exploring here.
Step off the pavement and you can walk down to the bubbling stream. Back on the paved trail, approximately halfway through the paved loop, you’ll see evidence of our most famous resident. That’s right – there are black bear prints right in the concrete!
The loop trail continues around through the forest and brings you right back to your car. Spend an hour or half a day here. With plenty of benches, small side trails, and big trees, every member of your family will enjoy Sugarlands Nature Trail.
Any Quiet Walkway
Sure there are plenty of hiking trails to choose from in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Our best kept secret though? The Quiet Walkways. These trails are truly unique. Each of our 14 quiet walkways are easily accessible off a parking area. Simply look for the signs dotting the roadside throughout the park.
Quiet Walkways are not designated trails. You won’t find them on any map. Simply meander your way out as far as you wish before returning to your car. Typically these small, gentle trails are between a quarter and three quarters of a mile long. They’re perfect for getting out and stretching your legs while taking a scenic drive.
Dotted throughout the park, Quiet Walkways are easy to miss. Best of all, no matter when you visit the Smokies, you’ll typically have a Quiet Walkway all to yourself. These gentle trails are a great hiking trail for seniors or small kids. For more information about these lovely trails, check out the Hiking in the Smokies blog post.
Cataract Falls is at the top of nearly every list of trails families love. This well-graded hiking trail for seniors is located just behind the Sugarlands Visitor Center. There’s plenty of parking, bathrooms with running water, drink machines, and even a gift shop and museum. Sugarlands Visitor Center is a great place to spend half a day learning everything there is to know about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
If your family is ready for a little fresh air after touring this gorgeous building, simply head outside. Following the wide, graded path, you’ll stroll along a small stream. Not only is this trail easy to walk for all ages, you can take the whole family on a self-guided nature tour. Small informational signage in front of trees and plants teach you all about the beauty surrounding you.
After heading under a bridge, and up a small set of stairs, follow the nature trail back to Cataract Falls. Take plenty of photos and be sure to stay on trail. As tempting as it is for little ones, it’s never a good idea to climb up next to the falls. Return to your car the way you came, or by taking a detour past the Park Headquarters and returning to your car via the sidewalk.
The Gatlinburg Trail is not just a great walk for all generations. It’s also only one of two trails where dogs are allowed inside the park. If you’re bringing your four-legged family member on a pet-friendly vacation, you’ll definitely want to see this trail. The Gatlinburg Trail is wide and well-graded. If you’re looking for a stroller friendly hiking trail or a hiking trail for seniors you won’t want to miss it.
Start at the Sugarlands Visitor Center and follow the sidewalk back behind the building, past the park headquarters, and a small cemetery. Follow the road through the park housing and past the maintenance facility. From here, you’ll climb a gentle hill while listening to the rushing river next to you. Once at the top of the hill, see remnants of a time gone by. A set of stairs and a fireplace hearth from a home still stand here.
Down the hill, you’ll walk across a large, wide bridge and cross to the other side of the river. From here, it’s a short, level walk to Stoplight #10 in Gatlinburg. There are plenty of opportunities to hop down and splash in the river, take a break on a bench, or even take your picture together at the entrance sign of the park.
Alternatively, there is a small parking area just past Stoplight #10 and you can walk this trail the opposite direction. The trail is 2 miles in length total, so if you decide to walk the whole trail just remember you have to return, making a 4 mile trip.
Huskey Branch Falls on The Little River Trail
Waterfalls are a mainstay attraction in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. But hiking to a waterfall doesn’t mean a day-long, strenuous hike. Huskey Branch Falls on the Little River Trail is a great hike for seniors and every member of your family.
This hike starts out in the Elkmont section of the park, approximately 5 miles from Gatlinburg. Follow the signs for the Jakes Creek trailhead and use one of the many paved parking spots. Follow the wide, gradual Little River Trail alongside the scenic Little River. You begin the hike by walking through the former Daisy Town section of Elkmont. The former homesites are dotted with chimneys and signs of times gone by.
Continue along this trail for a total of approximately 2.2 miles before coming to a large footbridge and the small waterfall. It’s a great place to take a family photo before returning back the way you came. This nearly 5 mile hike is a great early morning walk with the family. Enjoy a picnic afterward while taking a look at the rest of the still standing homes in the area.
Grotto Falls is one of the most unique waterfalls in our area and shouldn’t be missed! This hike is a little more strenuous than others on our list, but it still makes a great hike for seniors and small kids too. This hike is less than 2.5 miles round trip.
Hikers to this trail also get the chance to drive the stunning Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. This gorgeous scenic drive is less busy than Cades Cove and is a great alternative visit all on it’s own. After driving approximately 5.5 miles from Stoplight 8 in Gatlinburg, arrive at Grotto Falls Parking area. You’ll want to arrive early. This popular hike fills up fast on beautiful days.
Hike the Trillium Gap Trail from the parking lot. This gorgeous old growth forest offers plenty of opportunities to see our famous wildflowers and hemlock trees. After 1.2 miles, reach a tumbling cascade you can actually walk behind. Talk about a photo opportunity!
Return to your car the way you came and continue driving along the one-way Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. There are plenty of opportunities to get out and see historic sites along the way too.
Book Your Stay
Now that you’ve seen some of our favorite hiking trails for seniors in the Smoky Mountains, you’ll want to book a cabin big enough for the entire family!. Let American Patriot Getaways help. By choosing one of our Gatlinburg cabins for large groups or families you’ll be sure to have lots of bedrooms and plenty of space for everyone to spread out and relax. Does a member of your family have limited mobility? We also offer handicapped friendly cabins (not ADA compliant) where many amenities will be on the main floor and there won’t be quite so many stairs. Of course, if you have more questions or requirements for your large family trip, give our friendly Reservation Team a call at 800-204-5169. We want every member of your family to be comfortable when visiting the Smoky Mountains.
Check out our Smoky Mountain Travel Guide for more adventures. Don’t miss out and see all of our vacation guides for planning your Smoky Mountain getaway.