- Sports and Recreation
5 Family Friendly Waterfall Hikes in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park
The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is the most visited national park in the country, and there is a good reason for that. It's a beautiful area full of wild flowers, wild life and amazing hiking opportunities. If you are in the area and want to do some hiking but aren't sure which ones will be a good fit for your children, I would suggest going to a few waterfalls. Waterfall hikes are great for kids because they are fun! There is a goal to keep you moving in the hike and oftentimes there are swimming, rock jumping or the ability to go behind the falls when you reach the destination.
Top 5 Waterfall Hikes for Families
Laurel Falls is one of easiest trails for those with small children because the trail is paved which makes it accessible for strollers. It is located off Little River Road, just up from the Sugarlands Visitor Center. The trail is just over a mile to the falls, where you will see the 80 ft high Laurel Falls. There are some steep parts and bears are often spotted along the trail.
Grotto Falls is located off the Roaring Fork Motor Trail in Gatlinburg. This hike is moderate in difficulty, but my 4 year old made it with a few snack and drink breaks along the way. It's about a mile and a half to the falls, with some rocky parts so make sure you have good shoes on! One of the best things about Grotto Falls is that you can pass behind the falls! Which kids always love!
Abrams Falls is located off the loop in Cades Cove. It's a bit longer, so probably suitable for those with older kids. The trail is moderate in difficulty and is about 2 and a half miles to the falls. You might want to start early in the day to make it back to your car before dark! The falls are not very high, at only 20 ft, but the amount of rushing water is amazing. There is a pool at the base of the falls that many use for swimming, but use extreme caution if you get in the water due to the current and undertow.
Spruce Flat Falls:
Spruce Flat Falls is located in the Tremont Section of the Smokies and is fairly short at only about a mile. The terrain is pretty even after the initial climb. There are some amazing views along the way too. There is a lot to explore once you reach the falls as well. You can climb up to get a better view of the upper falls or picnic on some of the larger rocks. If you go in the spring you can see many different varieties of wild flowers along the trail. I took a not-quite-4-year-old on this hike and he did fine, actually better than on some of the other trails!
Tom's Branch Falls and Indian Creek Falls Combo:
These are located in the GSMNP on the Bryson City, NC side and can be accessed from the Deep Creek Campground. The hike is short and easy at just over a mile and a half round trip. Tom's Branch Falls is located about .7 miles down the trail and if you continue about 200 ft you will come to Indian Creek Falls. This is a nice hike for smaller children with a big pay off at the end.
The Smokies are an amazing sight that every one should see at some point in their life. There is something for everyone, from an avid hiker to a small child with little legs. Get out and explore these hikes and the many others and experience everything that the Great Smoky Mountain National Park has to offer!