Planning a trip to Gatlinburg with your family? There's no doubt you'll want to see some of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park during your stay!
Since Gatlinburg is the Gateway to America's Most Visited National Park, you'll be close to dozens of incredible natural wonders. But where should you begin?
We made this handy guide with the top 5 hikes in Gatlinburg for families!
These are short hikes with big rewards. Whether you'd like to explore historic buildings, walk through lush forests, skip along pure mountain streams, or enjoy scenic views for miles and miles, these family-friendly hikes are easy enough for everyone to enjoy!
All of these hikes are less than 5 miles in length for their round-trip distance, so you won't have to worry about starting a hike that will take all day. So grab a trail map, a water bottle, and your hiking parks to start your adventure in the mountains of Gatlinburg!
1. Andrews Bald Trail
Round Trip Distance: 3.5 Miles
Looking for a mountain-top experience with your family? You'll find exactly that on the Andrews Bald Trail. Simply take the Forney Ridge Trail that begins at the Clingmans Dome Parking Area high in the mountains of the national park.
This relatively short trail makes its way through boulder fields and high-elevation Spruce-Fir Forest on its way to a unique formation: Andrews Bald.
This destination is a beautiful mountain-top field with wildflowers and mountain laurel. This large exposed area of the mountain features spectacular views of the North Carolina part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so be sure to bring a camera. For such a short trail, this hike offers a terrific reward.
2. Abrams Falls Trail
Round Trip Distance: 5.2 Miles
Located in the Cades Cove region of the park, this popular waterfall hike is the perfect dose of adventure for a day trip to Cades Cove. This hike leads to the stunning Abrams Falls, the highest volume waterfall in the national park. This powerful, 20 Ft tall waterfall has created a deep mountain pool.
Do be cautious on this trail and near the waterfall. The pool at the base of the falls has strong currents, so this area is unsafe for swimming or wading. Wet slippery rocks are another hazard here, so be sure to keep an eye on children while enjoying this hike.
In the 1980s, park biologists released otters into this area of the park, so be sure to keep an eye out for otters on this river.
This accessible hike's trailhead is located at the far end of the Cades Cove Loop just before the Cades Cove Visitor Center.
3. Metcalf Bottoms Trail
Round Trip Distance: 2.6 Miles
Nestled in the peaceful Metcalf Bottoms area of the national park, the Metcalf Bottoms Trail begins at a pleasant picnic area on the banks of the Little Pigeon River only a short drive from Gatlinburg. To start this hike, simply cross the bridge across the river and look for the trailhead to the right.
This level trail is good for beginners and families with children. The Metcalf Bottoms Trail winds its way through the forest and along pretty mountain streams, an ideal setting for a relaxing stroll through the Smokies. At around 0.6 miles in, the trail reaches a historic church and schoolhouse that once served the Little Greenbrier Community. At just over 1.1 miles, the trail branches off to the Walker Sister's Homeplace.
This unique cabin was home to some of the last original residents of these mountains before the formation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Walker Sisters were permitted to live inside the bounds of the park after its formation and continue living their traditional way of life.
This hike leads to one of the most interesting cabins in the national park. Visitors are allowed to go inside the cabin and stroll about this old homestead in the Tennessee Mountains that was build in the 1870s.
4. Middle Prong Trail
Round Trip Distance: 2 Miles
Perhaps one of the most underrated and overlooked hikes in the national park is the Middle Prong Trail in the Tremont area of the national park. At the end of the long, winding gravel road in Tremont, you'll find the trailhead for the Middle Prong Trail.
This accessible hike is a steady climb alongside a rushing mountain stream. Along the way, you'll get to see several waterfalls and some evidence of the logging camp that once operated in this area of the mountains.
The total length of this trail is 4 miles, but you'll only have to hike less than a mile to reach Lower Lynn Camp Falls, a 35-foot multi-tiered waterfall.
This is a truly beautiful waterfall hike without the crowds of other more popular hikes like Laurel Falls Trail.
5. Alum Cave Trail
Round Trip Distance: 4.4
Though the Alum Cave Trail is a more challenging hike for families, it takes brings visitors to some of the more spectacular geologic formations in the national park so its well worth the effort.
This hike follows Alum Cave Creek, a lovely, rocky stream filled with crystal clear, cold water. After 1.3 miles, hikers will reach "Arch Rock," a unique rock formation created by years of freezing and thawing. In fact, the trail actually passes through the arch at "Arch Rock."
At mile two, hikers will reach "Inspiration Point," a prominent point on the ridge that offers panoramic views. At mile 2.2, you'll see the main attraction: "Alum Cave Bluffs."
This cave is actually an 80 Ft tall bluff on the side of Mt. LeConte. During the Civil War this was the site of a Saltpeter mine that was used to manufacture gunpowder for the Confederate Army. Interestingly, there are other unique minerals found under the bluffs that can only form in the absence of water.
From here, the trail continues 3 miles further up the 6593-foot Mt. LeConte if you'd like to continue the climb.
If you're traveling with young children, we recommend taking them on some of the easier nature trails in the park.
A few trails in the national park are paved, while others are on level terrain to make it easy enough for a young child to enjoy the hike. This includes trails like the Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail and the Gatlinburg Trail. For more great hikes for young kids, check out this online guide!
Written by Hayden Brown