Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the largest protected areas in the eastern region of the United States. It straddles both sides of the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, and is renowned for its diverse wildlife, unspoiled beauty, and ancient culture. Accordingly, the park lays claim to being the country’s most visited national park. There is an almost endless selection of incredible vacation rentals at Great Smoky Mountains National Park situated just minutes from breathtaking views, as well as access to plenty of recreational activities for families. Reconnect with nature by hiking on the most unforgettable trails at this distinguished national park.
1. Alum Bluff Cave Trail
This family favorite trail offers scenic views of hardwood forests, small waterfalls, and creeks along a 4.4-mile hike. The Alum Bluff Cave Trail is one of the most popular hikes to the Leconte Lodge, the highest guest lodge in the eastern United States. The 4-plus miles of hiking may seem like a bit of a trek for families with young kids, but the variety in scenery brings renewed excitement with every turn. The trail itself is easy to follow and well-maintained, due to the popularity of the trail. Various points along Alum Cave Creek allow for wading in the shallows. The hike typically culminates at the Alum Cave Bluff, unless you’re continuing on to the Leconte Lodge, which is another 2.8 miles.
2. Porters Creek Trail
Gorgeous waterfalls and a blanket of wildflowers propel Porters Creek Trail to one of the most scenic family friendly trails on the list. The round-trip hike is 4 miles to Fern Branch Falls and begins at the end of Greenbriar Road. Every vista is reminiscent of a scene from a fairy tale, from the wooden bridge that crosses a bubbling stream to the carpet of white wildflowers that goes on for acres and acres.
3. Kephart Prong Trail
Take your kids back to a time before the park was established, and help them imagine the area as a logging camp. Remnants of camps from 1933 to 1942 can still be found along the Kephart Prong Trail, including a stone drinking fountain and stone hearth. Your kids can also delve into the past while examining the old fish hatchery built in the 1930s. But they can stay in tune with the present as they spot wildlife that has taken over the old camp. The Kephart Prong Trail is about 4 miles round trip.
4. Grotto Falls
Ever wonder what its like to walk behind a waterfall? At the Smokies, hikers can retreat to the cool, shady retreat behind the Grotto Falls, the only waterfall within the park where it’s possible to walk behind a cascade. The entire hike round trip is a little over 2.5 miles, but visitors who want a longer hike can continue on from Grotto Falls to Brushy Mountain or see how far they can make it to Mt. LeConte.
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5. Little Brier Gap Trail
Once upon a time, five spinster sisters used to live in a community called Little Greenbrier, located along the Little Brier Gap Trail. They became famous when they continued to live within the national park decades after it was established. Hikers on the Little Brier Gap Trail can see where the local Walker sisters made their home, in addition to local landmarks such as the Little Greenbrier Schoolhouse, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
6. Abrams Falls Trail
The Abrams Falls Trail leads to one of the strongest flowing and posts popular waterfalls inside the park. The hike starts from a field in Cades Cove and runs parallel to Abrams Creek. The stream is the longest stream within the park and eventually plunges over into Abrams Falls and one of the areas largest natural pools. The hike is 2.5 miles to Abrams Falls, with opportunities for fishing and cooling off in the creek nearby.
7. Deep Creek Loop Trail
What sets this trail apart is the opportunity to tube down the waters of Deep Creek. The trail itself is a moderately easy hike that leads to three different waterfalls. It’s a bit long at almost 5 miles, but the terrain is relatively flat for most of the way. For kids who enjoy challenging terrain, the Sunkota Ridge part of the trail gets a bit steep. Animal enthusiasts will find an abundance of wildlife in the area, and may even come across fellow visitors on horseback.
8. Rainbow Falls Trail
The Rainbow Falls Trail is about a 5.4-mile hike round trip along LeConte Creek, to the highest single-drop waterfall in the national park. The 80-foot-high Rainbow Falls is a place of magic for young explorers, who’ll be able to spot a rainbow in the mist created by the falls on sunny afternoons. Families will also find great picnic sites near the creek for a leisurely afternoon strolling along the water and taking a splash.
9. Caldwell Creek Trail
Also known as the Boogerman Trail, the entire trip is a whopping 7.4 miles round trip. While hiking the entire length of the trail might be difficult for young children, the trail includes various points of interest for young explorers. On the hike, visitors will be able to see an old graveyard, historic farms, and homes, as well as some of the biggest old growth trees around. The Boogerman trail is definitely one of the more challenging family friendly hikes, but the pockets of history along the trail are an inexplicable draw.
10. Big Creek Trail
At about 5.4 miles round trip, the Big Creek Trail isn’t a walk in the park. But the path leads to Midnight Hole, a gorgeous pool below a waterfall. Family members of all ages will enjoy the swimming hole, whether their preference lies with basking in the sun or wading in the water below the waterfall. Visitors who are old enough might enjoy jumping from the rocks around the pool into the water, a popular activity for both kids and adults.
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