Get youngsters outdoors on kid-friendly trails in the Smoky Mountains. Whether your kids are young walkers needing the easiest footpaths, or older children eager for more adventure, every family can find the right trail. Check out these five:
1. Laurel Falls Trail
This popular trail for all ages leads you to 80-foot-high Laurel Falls, a beautiful reward for the 2.4-mile round trip. The trail is paved, with a gradual incline to get young legs working but not worn out. Tell the kids to stay alert—they might spot bears here. Tip: The trailhead parking lot fills up, so go early in the day to avoid crowds and see people-shy wildlife.
2. Gatlinburg Trail
More of a stroll than a hike, the riverside Gatlinburg Trail lets kids walk dogs or ride bikes—take advantage, because dogs and bikes aren’t allowed elsewhere on trails. This trail connects the National Park Service’s Sugarlands Visitor Center to downtown Gatlinburg, with spots along the way to get close to the water. The level pavement is great for strollers. The trail is 3.8 miles, round trip.
3. Cataract Falls Trail
Cataract Falls Trail starts in Sugarlands Visitor Center’s parking lot, so you can escape heat or rain with a stop at the center’s exhibits (plus: restrooms!). Once you start the three-quarter-mile round trip, kids will enjoy crossing Fighting Creek on sturdy bridges. Watch for salamanders and woodpeckers. Most strollers can navigate this gravel trail.
4. Metcalf Bottoms Trail
At just 1.5 miles round trip, the trail features rustic, split-log bridges and passes remnants of long-gone settlements. Step into the past at the 1882 Little Greenbrier Schoolhouse, a log cabin where kids can pretend they’re back in chalkboard days. A small cemetery is a reminder of when the school doubled as a church. Metcalf Bottoms Trail isn’t recommended for strollers.
5. Little Brier Gap Trail
You can reach this trail by driving to its trailhead or--if you’re already on Metcalf Bottoms Trail and the kids are still energetic--picking up this trail just above the schoolhouse.
At 2.6 miles round trip, Little Brier Gap Trail boasts spring wildflowers and the occasional bear sighting, but the highlight is the Walker homestead. Five self-sufficient sisters lived on this isolated farm for decades as the national park formed around them. Kids can explore the cabin, springhouse, and corn crib and imagine a life of growing and making everything they need.