Did you know that over 11 million people visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2016?
And if you and your family are joining the crowd, you might be surprised by all the options for hiking. So take a break from Dollywood, Wonderworks, and all the other big city attractions and get out in the great outdoors!
Knowing which trail to take can be a difficult choice to make. And if you have small kids, chances are you want to know how difficult the hike will be.
Lucky for you, this article will tell you everything you need to know. Read on for the top five hikes!
1. Laurel Falls (2.93 miles)
Laurel Falls is a beautiful hike to take, and it’s one that won’t be difficult for small children. Clocking in at under three miles, this trail could be a beautiful way to spend the afternoon.
One nice part about this trail is that it has pavement. This means you won’t have to worry about anyone tripping over rock or cray stems. Also, this trail tends to have lots of great shade.
Oh, and the falls?
Yeah, this hike can get wet. While not everyone chooses to swim at the waterfall on the top, a good majority of hikers do. There is a nice pool of water you can dip in.
Keep in mind that because this trail is easy and beautiful, many other families will be taking this one as well. Try to find a time that is less crowded.
Also, avoid this trail if you want to give your child space to explore. There are plenty of steep ledges to watch out for.
2. Andrews Bald (3.5 miles)
If you’re looking for a trail with a bit more difficulty, Andrews Bald is a good option. Although it’s moderately difficult, this one is worth it for the views.
Andrews Bald is the highest peaks in the Smokies, and most of the hike is done by car! After parking, you only have to hike 1.75 miles to reach the top.
This trail isn’t a great option if you have smaller children. But most kids over the age of 8 should be able to take on this hike. Just don’t be surprised if you hear some complaining.
This trail is not a good trail if you or someone has bad knees. The trail requires hikers to take some steps to reach the top.
When you reach the end of the trail, keep walking for another hundred yards to see the best view. You won’t regret it, and you could even stop for a picnic there.
Keep in mind that Andrews Bald is also a popular trail to hike. Arrive early or on a less busy day to make sure you get parking.
3. Mt. LeConte (11.0 Miles)
Mt. Leconte is not a trail for the weak.
In fact, it’s one of the more difficult trails in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. But, it’s also one of the most iconic trips you can take.
If your children (and you!) are in good shape, try this trail out. At the top, you’ll see one of the most beautiful views of the Smoky Mountains.
But the hike isn’t just beautiful because of the peak. On the way, you’ll see interesting rock formations and previews. You might even see wildlife if you’re lucky!
There are a few different ways to hike Mt. Leconte, but for most first-timers, the Alum Cave Trail might be your best option. Other hikes will give you different views and places to explore though.
When you reach the top, there are cabins that you reserve for a night. If you want to do this, you’ll have to book far in advance. They go quickly because this is also a popular trail.
4. Cades Cove Loop (11 miles)
Cades Cove Loop is another popular location for hikers. While you can drive the trail, you’ll have more fun if you choose to hike or bike it. Depending on the time of year, you cannot drive on it anyway.
This trail is a loop, but many people choose not to go on the entire trip. But if you do, there are plenty of places to stop for a break.
When you go, get ready to see wildlife, scenic views, and historic buildings. You may see a black bear, but proper safety knowledge will keep you safe.
Despite its length, this trail shouldn’t be difficult for any age. Plus, you don’t have to do all of the trail to have fun.
If you’re worried about children or want an easy-going afternoon, you might want to consider driving. There are plenty of places to pull over, but you’ll have to deal with traffic.
5. Rocky Top (13.9 miles)
Near Cades Cove, there is a trail called Rocky Top. If you’re looking for a beautiful and historic hike, this is it.
This hike is difficult, and depending on your preferences, it may even be harder than Mt. Leconte.
Throughout the hike, you’ll see stunning views of the North Carolina side of the park. You may even find yourself stopping a few times while hiking.
You’ll also get to walk through beautiful meadows. Although they are pretty year-round, summertime is the best option for this.
After spending some time on the Appalachian Trail, you’ll start your trek to Rocky Top. When you make it, you’ll see one of the most spectacular views of the Smokies.
One interesting thing about this hike is that there is a popular song about it. Called Rocky Top, this song is the unofficial fight song of the University of Tennessee.
This hike would be difficult for young children or people who can’t do difficult hikes. But if you choose to brave it, you’ll see why Tennesseeans call it home sweet home.
Looking for More About the Great Smoky Mountains National Park?
Now that you know the best hikes for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you should be ready to get going. Before you know it, you’ll want to stay forever.
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