Looking for kid-friendly hikes in our Great Smoky Mountains? I have 5 hikes that are perfect for kids and families alike. Spring is usually a wonderful time for hiking in our beloved Smoky Mountains. The wildflowers bloom, days are not yet hot, and waterfalls are roaring with water.
Here are some tips to help you prepare for your day out with your family.
Know Your Family Best Know that although the final destination may be desired, making memories on the journey is often what kids know best. Only you know your family and their unique needs best.
Leave No Trace- While hiking in our Great Smoky Mountains, please remember to “Leave No Trace” and leave only footprints, take photos, and make memories.
Come Prepared- Bring your pack, wear warm layers, and sturdy hiking shoes. Bring plenty of water, food, sunscreen, sunglasses, and a headlamp in your pack. Just in case, you end up hiking out after dark. Having children wear a whistle jis a great safety tip too. This way they can whistle to bring a signal to rescuers in the event of being lost.
Beloved Black Bears- Most people hope to spot a curious black bear on their visit. There are hundreds of them roaming around in the parks, their presence is not unusual. They, generally, are not aggressive but DO NOT feed them or approach them! Please remember they are WILD animals. Approaching a bear is ILLEGAL in the park. While hiking with kids please let them be loud, as the noise usually scares the bears away. So sing, yell, and whistle away as you hike.
Snakes- My worst nightmares are made of snakes, although I understand how important they are to our Smoky Mountain ecosystem! Please know that there are two poisonous species to be on the lookout for while hiking. Both the Northern Copperhead and the Timber Rattlesnake can be found in the mountains. Stay on the designated trail to try to avoid them as best as possible.
Porters Creek- 6 miles east of Gatlinburg on Porters Flat is the Porters Creek Trail. The first mile of the trail is an old gravel road that unwinds through the forest of moss-covered trees, along the banks of Porters Creek. In the spring, it is carpeted in wildflowers. At around 2 mile, is Fern Branch Falls, a breathtaking waterfall during high water flows. The picturesque waterfall is 40ft high with a series of cascades. Along the way, you will see historical remnants such as cantilever barns, springhouses, cabins, and the Elbert Cantrell Farmstead remnants. Round trip the trails are 4 miles.
Kephart Prong Trail- Kephart Pong Trails is like time traveling through the park’s history. It is an old logging area that the forest has reclaimed. It is 2 miles to the trail shelter, so 4 miles total. It has 4 log bridges. The first two are easier and the last two may be better suited for older children. Along the way, you will see the remnants of The Civilian Conservation Corp occupied this space from 1933-1942. There are still glimpses of the stone hearth, drinking fountain, and masonry notice board. At .7 miles you can see two large concrete tanks, from the fish hatchery that was once there. Be on the lookout for wildlife and my family’s favorite, the salamander. In spring, from late March through April, there are gorgeous wildflowers. Be sure to tag us in your pics #goodkarmacabins.
Clingmans Dome- Clingmans Dome is the highest point in Tennessee! One of the most popular and trafficked sites during the tourist season. So get there early or late, whatever best suits your family. Make sure to cross this one off your Great Smoky Mountain bucket list! The hike to Clingmans Dome is a ½ mile walk, up a mountainside, on a paved trail to the Observation tower. Be sure to climb the tower because the views are unparalleled. On a good clear day, you can see for over 20 miles. Although the trail is paved, it is not advisable to take a stroller or wheelchair. This hike is short but steep! There are benches every few feet to rest up. It is worth it!
Grotto Falls- Grotto Falls is another popular hike with good reason. This gentle hike is 3 miles round trip on a mostly wide path, taking approximately 2-3 hours. The trail starts on the Trillium Gap Root and passes through 4 small creeks to Grotto Falls. There are roots and rocks that may be trip hazards. Watch out and Be careful!. Grotto Falls is a 25ft high waterfall and makes for the picture perfect places for a family photo opportunity. The trail goes right behind the waterfall. This is the only place in the park you can experience this! Won’t your kids think that is SO neat? Please DO NOT climb on the rocks around the waterfall and please supervise children closely. Be sure to tag us in your waterfall pics #goodkarmacabins.
Laurel Falls- The pay off at the end of the trail is well worth it! This is a short hike 2.5 miles on a paved, although uneven path, that takes around 2 hours. It is steep in sections and portions have steep drop offs, so please supervise children closely and it is not suitable for strollers or wheelchairs. The falls are nothing short of spectacular. They are 80 ft high and have upper and lower sections for observation. There is a walkway crossing over the stream at the base of the upper falls. This is a great place to get a picture of this popular Great Smoky Mountain destination. In springtime, you may be able to see the mountain laurels that the falls are named after. This is also a frequent place for bears so please be aware!