With the most visited national park in their vicinity, mountain towns like Sevierville are no strangers to the attention the Smoky Mountains receive each year. Its camping, fishing, and wildlife viewing opportunities are virtually unparalleled, and millions of people flock to the Smokies to try it on for size. One of the best ways to enjoy and truly appreciate the area’s natural beauty is by diving headfirst into its trail system. With more than 800 miles of trails within the park alone, finding a hike the entire family will love can seem a little daunting. That’s why we’ve taken the guesswork out for you. From roaring waterfalls to quiet valleys and scenic bluffs, these are five of the best hikes for families to try in the Smoky Mountains this year.
Laurel Falls Trailhead
Named for the laurels that bloom around it in the springtime, Laurel Falls is one of the best-known waterfalls hikes in all of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. At 80 feet, it’s also one of the tallest in the park. Located just down the road from Sugarlands Visitor Center, the hike to Laurel Falls is especially popular during the summer among families. It’s one of a handful of trails within the park that’s paved, so families, even those with strollers, can all make the trek together. If you only have time for a short hike, Laurel Falls is definitely a must to add to the itinerary.
Alum Cave Trail
Like Laurel Falls, Alum Cave Trail is one of the most popular hikes with Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Whereas Laurel Falls is a quick hike to a waterfall and back, the Alum Cave trail showcases the full biodiversity of the Smoky Mountains better than almost any trail within the park. The trail winds along Alum Cave Creek before eventually winding toward Arch Rock and later opening up to the large bluff area known as Alum Cave. The mouth of the cave dramatically frames the surrounding mountains, making for a perfect spot for a quick picnic lunch before heading back down the trail. The full trail to Alum Cave Bluffs is about fives miles roundtrip; however, families with young children can easily stop at the halfway point of Arch Rock for a shorter, more manageable hike.
Cades Cove Loop
With some of the most popular trailheads and some of the best wildlife viewing in the entire area, Cades Cove is practically a rite of passage for visitors to the Smokies. Tourists from Sevierville, nearby Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge flock to the valley for hiking, biking, and picnicking from March through October. Numerous trailheads begin within Cade’s Cove as well, including Abram Falls and the Cades Cove Nature Trail. For the best photos and the least amount of foot and vehicle traffic, try to visit the Cove early in the morning or just before dusk.
Located off Cades Cove Loop Road, Abrams Falls is the perfect day hike for families with older children who have a lot of energy and a healthy dose of adventure. It takes about three to four hours to get to the waterfall and back, but the hike to the 20-foot falls is well worth it. Of all the falls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Abrams Falls pushes out the most volume of water. Due to the sheer force of the water, the depth of the pool it runs into, and the number of rocks in the area, swimming in the waters is not advised. This is one of those waterfalls where it’s best to take in the views from afar.
Prosperity Mountain at Foxfire Mountain Adventure Park
Although it’s not in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a trip to Foxfire Mountain Adventure Park is a fun day-trip away from the crowds. The Sevierville-based park brands itself as a full-service adventure park, complete with ziplining and ATV adventure tours available to adults and children of all ages. It’s also home to several small hiking trails, a BBQ joint and even a cider house. After a busy morning of testing your meddle on the Goliath Zip Line Tour, the highest and longest in the Smokies, slowing things down a bit with a quiet hike across the longest swinging bridge in the US to Lost Mine Falls and Dunn’s Creek is the perfect way to unwind.
How To Do It
Nested at the base of the Smoky Mountains, Sevierville is the perfect place to kick start — or unwind — a day full of exploring in one of the nation’s most beloved national parks. Whether you prefer a cozy cabin in the woods or a resort near downtown, you’re sure to find accommodations that fit your needs — and friendly locals who will help you fall head over heels with the surrounding area along the way, too. Add in the down home Southern cooking at restaurants like the Applewood Farm House and Tony Gore’s BBQ as well as the local distilleries and wineries and it’s easy to see why everyone’s always talking about their Sevierville vacation in the Smokies.