The Smoky Mountains are home to some of the most amazing hikes in the entire United States. With so many different trails, it can definitely be hard to choose the best ones. Taking kids hiking adds additional worries and concerns that can make the decision even more agonizing. This list of the 15 best Smoky Mountain hiking trails ranges in difficulty from easy to moderate, while still including the scenic beauty adventurous adults crave. These hiking trails are perfect for a day of family-friendly fun!
Of course, each family has its own unique needs. You know your family best, and are ultimately responsible for discerning the safety and appropriateness these hikes. Please read our full disclaimer here.
Best Smoky Mountain Hikes
Before we get to the trails, I must touch on some safety concerns, specific to The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Although each of these hikes is family friendly, I urge you to wear proper clothing and shoes. Flip flops and/or sandals are not appropriate for any of these trails.
To protect against ticks and other bugs, it is best to wear waterproof hiking boots with long pants and/or tall socks. Please note that Tennessee ticks do have a higher likelihood of carrying Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Although infections are rare, this illness can be deadly, so it is best to take precautions.
While hiking, I would also urge you to keep a safe distance from bears, elk and other wildlife. Park visitors are known to do crazy things to try and get close to bears. For example, my local Facebook group was recently discussing some visitors they saw throwing peanut butter sandwiches at bears in Cades Cove. Can you even believe that?!
Sadly these antics often end very badly. Recently a mother bear and her 2 cubs had to be euthanized after they were fed human food by park visitors, which taught them that humans were a source of food. Each and every year, local black bears are euthanized due to human carelessness. Please do your part to protect these bears, by viewing them from afar and never leaving food or trash on the ground. And of course, never throw peanut butter sandwiches!
Whether you’re hoping to see a bear or not, these easy hikes are great opportunities to teach your children about animal conservation and safe practices when encountering wildlife. Encountering a bear on your Smoky Mountain hike can be both thrilling and terrifying. This video from the National Park Service shows you exactly what you need to do to keep your family safe, if you encounter a bear in the wild. Hopefully, you can remember all of this great info on your family hike!
Best Hiking Trails In The Smoky Mountains:
Click on any photo or trail name to see our full review.
Round Trip Length: 2.65 miles
This is a short and easy hike, although there is a bit of a drop off in some spots. The trail runs along a peaceful stream and leads to the historic Walker Sisters’ Place. This primitive homestead is where the Walker Sisters continued to live after refusing to sell their land to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There are picnic areas at nearby Greenbrier.
Round Trip Length: .9 miles
This trail is completely paved and with only a moderate incline. Also, there are no steep drop offs on either side of the trail. The coolest part is that it leads to a man-made tower that offers stunning 360° views. On one side you can see the expansive Smoky Mountains, while the sweeping Tennessee Valley is on the other. Please do watch your children very closely while on top of the tower. The fall would be deadly. This trail is located along the scenic Foothills Parkway, which offers stunning mountain views and plenty of pull-offs for photographs. It is important to note that there are no amenities on this trail nor on the parkway.
Round Trip Length: 3.8 miles
This kid-friendly trail is great for viewing wildflowers in both spring and summer. The path is very wide and follows a small stream. There is a designated parking lot for this trail. If you are not in a parking lot, you are in the wrong place. We found this out the hard way!
Round Trip Length: 4 miles
One of the easiest Smoky Mountain Hikes, this trail is also one of the few that allows dogs. Of course, furry friends must be kept on leash. This trail runs along the little pigeon river and is relatively level, although not paved. There are also some historical sites along the trail. The trail is close to the Sugarlands Visitor Center which offers educational indoor entertainment, a gift shop, and restrooms.
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Round Trip Length: .5 miles
This is by far the easiest of all the trails and the best for taking very young kids hiking, where they can actually walk. Our toddler walked the entire way. The trail is paved and is 100%, without question, stroller and handicap accessible. This hike is also located near the Sugarlands Visitor Center, which offers educational indoor entertainment options, a gift shop, and restrooms. Despite the short length of the trail, it is very scenic. It runs along a small peaceful steam and it completely wooded the entire way.
Moderately Difficult Smoky Mountain Trails
Round trip length: 3.5 miles
Follow this family-friendly hiking trail to a large clearing called Andrews Bald. This location offers spectacular mountain views year round and is a popular photography spot. This is also an especially excellent hike for viewing wildflowers in late spring and early summer. The trail is accessible from the Clingman’s Dome parking lot, which has restrooms, a picnic areas and a small gift shop.
Round Trip Length: .5 miles
This summit trail leads you to a tower atop the highest peak in the Smoky Mountains. The tower offers spectacular 360 degree mountain views and wonderful photography opportunities. Although the trail is paved, it is extremely steep. Personally I am adamant that this trail, despite being paved, is NOT stroller accessible and the park service agrees.
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Cove Hardwood Nature Trail
Round Trip Length: .7 miles
This is a looped hiking trail, which means there is no need for backtracking. This short and sweet hike provides excellent views of wildflowers in March and April and is a great spot for kids’ hiking.
Round Trip Length: 1.25 miles
This family-friendly Smoky Mountain trail runs along a creek and is noted for bear activity. So, be sure to bring your bear spray. At times, there is a moderate incline along the trail with a steep drop off to one side. There is also a fun historical cabin located on the trail, which makes a great opportunity for family photos. From this trail, you can continue on to Cataract Falls.
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Round Trip Length: 2.6 miles
Although mostly uphill, the incline of this easy kid-friendly hiking trail is gradual and manageable. This a great spot to look for the famed red-cheeked salamander, which is native to the Smokies. One of the best features of this trail is, once you reach the waterfall, you can actually walk behind it. We did and it was a blast! This unique feature makes this one of the most popular Smoky Mountain trails in the entire park.
Round Trip Length: 4.2 miles
This trail follows a picturesque stream and features historical landmarks including the remnants of an old barracks, a old log cabin, and the remnants of an old fish hatchery.
Round Trip Length: 2.3 miles
Laurel Falls is the MOST popular hiking trail in all of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and boasts an 80 foot tall waterfall. Due to the popularity of this trail, it tends to be very busy, but there is plenty of parking available along the road. Once you reach the waterfall, there are small natural pools for wading, which makes this a great summer choice. Although paved, this trail is NOT stroller accessible.
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Little River Trail
Round Trip Length: 4.9 miles
This trail is wide and spacious and follows the path of the Little River. It’s an excellent spot for wildflower viewing in March and April. There are historic landmarks along this trail, and picnic areas are located at nearby Elkmont.
Porters Creek Trail
Round Trip Length: 4 miles
Follow the creek as you enjoy spectacular views of the forest. In March and April, the first 1.5 miles of this hike offer stunning views of wildflowers. There are also a few historical buildings located along trail. Picnic areas are available at nearby Greenbrier.
Round trip Length: 5.4 miles
Yet another of the more popular Smoky Mountain hikes, this pleasant and beautiful nature trail boasts an impress 80 ft. waterfall. The falls get their name from the radiant canvas of colors they cast on the surrounding rocks. Although the incline of the trail can be strenuous, my family had a great time. Of course, we really enjoyed the grand finale. I will caution you not to climb the rocks at the foot of waterfall. There are signs advising against it, because the rocks do get very slippery. I have seen kids fall and get hurt, but of course the decision is ultimately up to you.
Happy hiking in the Smoky Mountains, y’all!