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Best/Easiest Hiking area with small kids

Lexington, Kentucky
Level Contributor
81 posts
10 reviews
Best/Easiest Hiking area with small kids

Hi all!

We will be down visiting PG and Gatlinburg the end of July into the 1st week of Aug. We have two boys, 4 & 7. We will definitely be visiting the SMNP but would like to know if there are any easy trails...waterfalls that we could hike too? Maybe pack a picnic lunch? My DH and I have been but it has been about 8 years since we have been down. We did go to Cades Cove and not sure where but we drove WAY up a mt and came to an awesome overlook!! The temp actually dropped....does anyone know where this might be? Thanks for any input or suggestions!! It is much appreciated!

4 replies to this topic
Melbourne, Florida
Destination Expert
for Melbourne, Florida
Level Contributor
18,064 posts
116 reviews
1. Re: Best/Easiest Hiking area with small kids

You will want to visit Cades Cove again, bring the picnic lunch and change of clothes in case the kids play in the creek at one of the picnic areas. On the way there you can see the Sinks which is a waterfall right next to the road, there is a parking area and a short trail to get a different view. Meigs Falls is just down the road. Laurel Falls is a mostly paved trail, also on the route to Cades Cove. Cataract Falls is right next to Sugarlands visitors center (stop there to purchase the brochures you will need for the drive in the park). Cataract is a small waterfall but a short easy walk to get there.

As for the mountain that got cooler you were either at Clingmans Dome (keep a hand on the kids at the parking area overlook, no guard rails there), but there is a short up hill walk to a viewing tower where on a good day you can see 3 states. Newfound Gap is a viewing area where you can stand in 2 states at the same time. Or you might have ventured onto the Blue Ridge Parkway where temps can sometimes be cooler depending on time of year.

On the south end of the park is Mingo Falls which is a short walk down some steps to see the waterfall. And Oconoluftee visitors center has a historical farm onsite.

There is also a Great Smoky Mountains national park forum and you might want to look at the Gatlinburg forum too.

Sugar Land, Texas
Level Contributor
2,487 posts
17 reviews
2. Re: Best/Easiest Hiking area with small kids

The Gatlinburg Trail is very easy hike along the river. Trailhead is at the very end of River Road in Gatlinburg just before entering the park.

Pack a picnic lunch and go to either Chimneys Picnic area off of Newfound Gap Road/hwy 441 or Metcalf Bottoms Picnic area off Little River Road. Both are on streams so kids can play but be sure to bring a change of clothes and shoes.

If you have the time, drive over to Deep Creek area of the park in Bryson City. The 3 waterfalls are very close together if you do not walk the loop trail. Juney Whank is .3 miles from the parking area but it is a steep climb. If you do go to Juney Whank Falls, return the way you came and turn left when you get to the parking area. Thus will put you on the bike/hiking trail. It is wide and smooth (no roots or rocks) and Tom Branch Falls is only .2 miles. Indian Creek Falls is .6 miles beyond that point. There is one hill but it is still very kid-friendly. So to keep it easy on the kids, choose to do just the 2 waterfalls on the bike/hiking trail. You will enjoy the walk along the river as there are couple of places where the huge rocks allow a little access to the water. Just watch the kids closely.

If you time this day trip correctly, you can return to the park and stop at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center just before dusk and you may see a herd of elk.

Hope that helps

Destination Expert
for Rehoboth Beach
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2,287 posts
1,521 reviews
3. Re: Best/Easiest Hiking area with small kids


For little kids I would recommend the Cataract Falls trail out back of the Sugarlands Visitor Center. It is a short, mostly flat hike that still has the payoff of a waterfall.

Mingo Falls in Cherokee is an easy trail...most a lot of steps but not much of a trail. Waterfall is nice. The Mountain Farm Museum is nice for kids over in Cherokee too. You can also wade in the river at Oconaluftee Islands Park.

The Deep Creek section of the park has 3 waterfalls on one pretty easy, short trail. You can tube and swim right up to Tom Branch Falls. It is in Bryson City. IF over that way, Na-Bers drive-in is a great stop of lunch. It is a real old fashioned drive-in.

If you go to Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area, you can hike the flat trail from the picnic grounds to the Little Greenbrier School House and on to the Walker Sisters Cabin. You can also wade in the river at the picnic area here. Wear water shoes for river wading here. IF you are at Metcalf Bottoms, keep on driving the short distance to the Sinks. You will see a powerfall waterfall just steps from the parking lot!

The Noah "Bud" Ogle trail is a little more challenging, but still a great option for families with kids. No real drop offs to worry about. Will still pass by some water on the trail. Get there early as parking fills up fast.

For fun, you can walk the paved path around Patriot Park in Pigeon Forge...looking at all the state flags. Stop and feed the ducks along the river here. You can get a bag of duck feed in the Old Mill general store for $1.

The "overlook" that you went to may be Clingman's Dome? or Newfound Gap? Clingman's dome is a short STEEP trail that goes up in elevation to an observation tower. It is always much cooler there than in downtown Gatlinburg. It is a good option for people with kids too.

Hope this helps.

Edited: 2:48 pm, June 10, 2018
Lexington, Kentucky
Level Contributor
81 posts
10 reviews
4. Re: Best/Easiest Hiking area with small kids

Thank you all for your responses! That is a lot of help!

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