Tennessee is home to one of the best national parks on the East Coast, and families are quickly figuring out why. Great Smoky Mountains National Park with kids is an easy day trip for those living in the area, and the perfect outdoor family adventure for those living farther afield. Families can camp in the park or stay in hotels in the nearby towns of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville, where plenty of shopping and food options are available to occupy family members not as interested in a rustic vacation. Don’t skip out on the park though. Hikes leading to waterfalls, tubing, butterflies, deer and more, welcome families who want to strap on their hiking boots and hit the trail with kids in tow, with many perfect for novice and experienced hikers alike.
This hike is an easy uphill climb to Laurel Falls, which promises beautiful views and a spectacular, multi-level waterfall at the end of the trail. There is a steep drop on one side of the path however, so keep an eye on younger children. Families with older children can try to climb down to the lower pools, but families with little ones should stay up top and on the trail. The 2.5-mile trail is paved, making it stroller accessible, but a baby carrier would be a better option if you don’t want to fight with ruts in the road.
This 11-mile loop is a great drive if you want to see the park but have a napping baby in the car. Biking families can enjoy the loop sans car in summer on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and multiple hikes are offered around the loop to see the historic buildings of the valley. Parents will love the mountainous views of the Smoky Mountains and animal sightings that go along with this drive.
Look Rock Tower
This trail is an easy half-mile hike for families to tackle, especially with little ones. The observation tower provides a 360-degree view of the mountains and is the highest point on the Foothills Parkway. The Parkway is one of the less crowded sections of the park and a great 16.5 mile drive with enough pull offs to get your fall leaf peeping in during the autumn months.
This unpaved trail is longer than Laurel Falls, but there are not as many steep drop offs on the trail like Laurel Falls. Kids will love that they can walk behind the waterfall too. The trail is about three miles round trip, and families should be on the lookout for salamanders, which love to call this part of the park home.
Deep Creek Trail Loop
For families looking for a little adventure, Deep Creek Trail is the hike to tackle. This 5-mile loop is relatively flat, with a small steep climb, but the three waterfalls—Tom’s Branch Falls, Indian Creek Falls and Juney Whank Falls— your family will get to see is worth it. Best of all, you can go tubing down the rocky waters of Deep Creek, a favorite pastime for local families and visitors alike.
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