Best East Coast Hikes: Kid Friendly Hiking Trails

Our family loves hiking, yet we got a late start in the hiking world. Since we rarely go hiking without out kids, we always try to find kid-friendly hiking trails around the US. Being from Florida, our first East Coast hikes were in the southern states in 2014. Since then, we have hiked numerous state and national parks around the country and even travel locally to find some hidden gems. For our family, the best East Coast hikes have scenic views, something unique, and are at a maximum of six miles long. While we particularly loved Glacier National Park, Grand Teton and Yellowstone, and North Dakota, there are many East Coast hikes that are worthy of attention .In addition to my own experience, I asked some travel bloggers to share some of their best hikes on the East Coast.

best east coast hikes acadia
Some of the best East Coast hikes are in Acadia National Park

Best Hikes on the East Coast

While the Western half of the country is known for its spectacular scenery, we cannot leave out some equally beautiful natural scenery on the East Coast. For the purposes of this post, I am considering the states of the East Coast as Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Here are some of the best East Coast hikes organized by state:

east coast hikes book


Bulls Bridge to Appalachian Trail in Kent

This hike is really a combination of a couple of hikes. Bulls Bridge is a popular hike in Central Connecticut, yet also a very dangerous section of the Housatonic River. The rapids are beautiful to watch, but be sure to stay far away from the edge. We hiked the Bulls Bridge section to the Anderson Memorial Bridge, which was about a 2.5 mile section of the Appalachian Trail. There are more scenic overlooks if we would have climbed another mile or two, but we opted to stay put and not endure the steep climb. This is one of the best hikes on the East Coast because it is pretty gentle, short, and has some up-close views of the rapids of the Housatonic River. We used this article – Hike the Hudson Valley – as our guide, and found it very helpful.

best east coast hikes - Bulls Bridge
Best hikes on the East Coast – Connecticut


Gordons Pond Trail in Cape Henlopen State Park

This is ones of the best hikes on the East Coast because it is quite unique. The trail is flat on an elevated boardwalk and crushed gravel path that is a little over 3 miles long. You will see sand dunes, wetlands, a maritime forest, and a huge salt marsh before hitting the beach on the Atlantic Ocean. It ends at Rehoboth Beach and is a very popular trail for hikers, runners, and bikers. There are some nice scenic overlooks and plenty of bird watching opportunities too. Read more about the hike here – Gordons Pond Trail.

Gordons Pond Trail Delaware
Best East Coast hikes – Delaware


Little Talbot Island in Jacksonville

While this is more of a beach walk, it does begin in a wooded area. Due to Florida’s climate, it is important that you do this hike in the winter months, otherwise, you will need bug spray and you will melt with the heat. The entire loop is right about 4 miles, and there is a nice pathway that opens up to the beach. Once you are on the beach there are sections of driftwood which I personally love. Our kids enjoyed the uniqueness of the beach and climbing on some of the sections of driftwood. We were on a Florida roadtrip and were staying in St. Augustine nearby, so this was a departure from the type of beach we are used to.

little talbots island kid friendly hiking trails
Best East Coast hikes – Florida


Tallulah Gorge State Park

Tallulah Gorge is a beautiful state park located in the northeastern corner of Georgia, very close to the South Carolina border. We traveled here from Atlanta and Helen on a Southeast family road trip. While there are many viewpoints and hikes in this state park, we chose Hurricane Falls Loop which takes you to the bottom of the gorge. I will admit that although this hike is 2.4 miles, it is very steep. The trail is a mix between pavement, boardwalk stairs, a suspension bridge, and wooded areas. There are 750 steps down before you cross the suspension bridge over the gorge, and then another 450 steps to the viewing area! The 1,000-foot waterfall was clearly the main attraction, and it did not disappoint.

The views from the top were also quite beautiful, and it was interesting to compare the viewpoints from high above and down below. To date, it is the toughest hike our family has done, yet we made sure to stop often on the way back up the steps. For me, it is one of the best East Coast hikes because of the views, challenge, and the walk over the suspension bridge. To read more about the hike, check out my post on hiking Tallulah Gorge with kids.

Tallulah Gorge best hikes on the east coast
Tallulah Gorge – Best hikes on the East Coast

Canyon Loop Trail in Providence Canyon State Park

You may be surprised to learn that Southwest Georgia offers a great hiking experience with some very unexpected scenery. Providence Canyon State Park in Lumpkin, Georgia is situated near the Alabama-Georgia border and offers canyon views that rival those of many western states.

The Canyon Loop Trail is a 2.5 mile loop trail that descends into the numerous slot canyons of the park. Several side trails can lengthen your trips if you so choose. This hike is moderate in difficulty. Leaving from the park’s visitor center the trail gently eases into the canyon floor and allows hikers to view the canyons up close. Gentle streams flow through the canyon bottom and are only a couple of inches deep. From the canyon floor the trail ascends to the upper rim and circles around the edge looking down and into the beautiful rock formations.

The Canyon Loop Trail does indeed connect with the 7-mile long Backcountry Trail. This trail has several hundred feet of elevation change along the trail and is very challenging. Six back-country campsites can be found along this stretch of trail and allow an overnight opportunity for the more adventurous hiker. Southwestern Georgia is not your typical hiker’s paradise, however, you absolutely can have a tremendous day afoot in a surprising and unique destination. 

Contributed by: Cassidy from Georgia Family Adventures

best east coast hikes canyon loop trail
Georgia – Best East Coast Hikes

Cloudland Canyon State Park

Cloudland Canyon in northwest Georgia is home to a system of trails that go around, down, and through Sitton’s Gulch.  The gulch itself is a thousand-foot-deep limestone canyon that runs off the backside of Lookout Mountain. This is the same Lookout Mountain that contains Ruby Falls,  Rock City, and the Incline Railroad. It gets its name from overlooking Chattanooga Tennessee, which tells you how far, and north Cloudland Canyon is in Georgia.

The park is known for brilliant fall colors, spring rhododendron blooms, scenic overlooks, and a series of waterfalls that cascade down Sitton’s Gulch. It is one of the best East Coast hikes because some of the best vistas on the East Coast are found on 5-mile-long West Rim Trail or the aptly named Overlook Trail (1mi). Even though Backpacker Magazine raved about the West Rim Trail as one of the top ten in America, we loved the Waterfall Trail. Not surprisingly, this trail takes you down 600 steps to a series of waterfalls including the 60′ high Cherokee Falls and the 90′ high Hemlock Falls. Whether you hike for an hour or all day, beautiful sights await you hiking Cloudland Canyon.

Contributed by: Jenn and Ed Coleman from Coleman Concierge

cloudland canyon kid friendly hiking trails
Best hikes on the East Coast – Cloudland Canyon


Tumbledown Mountain

I have hiked all around the east coast, even to such beautiful places as Acadia National Park, but the hike that far surpassed the rest for me is the hike up Tumbledown Mountain in Weld, Maine. The trail is set among the unspoiled beauty of Western Maine, far away from the crowds that can sometimes overrun the coast. The easiest way up the mountain is by the Brook Trail. The 1.8-mile trail is considered moderate, mainly uphill and rocky. When you reach the top of the main trail you will be rewarded with a cool alpine lake nestled in the wooded mountain. There is an island where one lucky person can set up a tent. We stopped and had a picnic here. Many people end their hike here, but for the best views scramble up the last half mile above the treeline. At the top, you will see the deep greens that only New England provides extending into eternity.  This is why Tumbledown Mountain is one of the best hikes on the East Coast. Check out some other ideas if you’re looking for the best hiking in Maine.

Contributed by: Jaime from the Daily Adventures of Me

best east coast hikes tumbledown mountain
Maine has some of the best East Coast hikes

Wonderland Trail in Acadia National Park

Wonderland Trail is a 1.4 mile out-and-back trail located in Southwest Harbor, Maine and is one of the best hikes in Acadia National Park. This trail is considered part of Acadia National Park, although it is not located in the park’s main area. Wonderland Trail takes you out to a quiet stretch of rocky coastline overlooking Bennet Cove and the Atlantic Ocean. Older kids will enjoy climbing the rocks and kids of all ages will enjoy exploring the tide pools. The trail is mostly flat, but watch out for rocks or slightly uneven areas along the way. Evergreen trees line the way, providing a cool, shady path.

Aside from the gorgeous coastal views and easy path, Wonderland Trail is close to other family-friendly stops in the area. Ship Harbor Trail, another 1.4 mile family-friendly coastal trail is just a quarter-mile down the road. The Bass Harbor Lighthouse is 1.5 miles from Wonderland Trail, as well. To get to Wonderland Trail, follow Maine 102A to Southwest Harbor. Look for Wonderland Trail signs once you are on the Seawall Road section of Maine 102A. There is a small parking area available, but if it is full, you can also park along the road.

Contributed by: Meg Frost from Frost + Sun

Wonderland Trail best hikes on the east coast
Best East Coast hikes – Wonderland Trail

Bubble Rock Trail in Acadia National Park

If you are visiting Acadia National Park with kids then a hike up to Bubble Rock is a must. Acadia National Park in Maine is the USA’s easternmost national park. The park is full of fun hikes for kids, the hike up to Bubble Rock is perfect because it is easy enough for little legs (or for parents carrying babies and toddlers) but interesting enough for older kids with rocks to scramble on. The incredible Bubble Rock teetering on the edge of the cliff is the prize at the top.

Start the 1 mile hike on Bubble Rock Trail from the small roadside parking lot on the park loop road, 2.3 miles south of the Cadillac Mountain Summit Road turnoff. The uphill track starts gradually and with stairs and rocks is not suitable for a stroller, as you reach closer to the top the track gets a little steeper and there are some rocks to step or climb over. This added interest rather than a challenge. Most of the track is in dappled shade, the top is exposed. There are no facilities nearby so take plenty of water. 

The walk up took around 30 minutes at 4 year old pace. At the top, you’ll be treated with brilliant views over the park and get to take an iconic photo with the Bubble Rock. This rock was shaved off the top of a mountain more than 40 miles away and deposited at its current position by a passing glacier, remaining in the same place since the last ice age! It is definitely a unique hike and one of the best East Coast hikes.

Contributed by: Kaylie from HAPPINESS TRAVELS HERE

bubble rock trail best east coast hikes
Bubble Rock Trail – Best hikes on the East Coast

Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park

Getting out into the great outdoors is one of our favorite activities as a family. Ever since our son was little, we have been hitting the trails and our visit to Acadia National Park was no exception. We picked Acadia National Park and neighboring Bar Harbor Maine due to their family-friendly vibe and tons of kid-friendly hiking trails.

One of our favorite hikes was around Jordan Pond. The hike is a 3.3-mile loop that starts from the Jordan Pond House. It is not stroller accessible, so pack a carrier for little ones and plenty of snacks. I recommend going counter-clockwise around the pond for the best views. You’ll follow a dirt path down to the beaver dam because the trail turns into wooden walkways above the soggy ground covering. The last part of the trail has a few wide boulders to clamber over before you reach back to the start. Kids will enjoy the variety of wildlife, spotting beaver activity and frogs. Unfortunately, there is no swimming in the pond since it is used as a backup water reservoir.  If 3.3 miles is too far, feel free to explore along the trail and then turn back for popovers with ice cream as a treat at the Jordan Pond House restaurant. Want to read about more great family hikes in Acadia National Park? Check them out on our travel blog.

Contributed by: Chelsea from Pack More Into Life

Jordan Pond kid friendly hiking trails
Jordan Pond is one of the best East Coast hikes


Cape Cod National Seashore 

The Cape Cod National Seashore was created by President John F Kennedy. The land stretches all the way from the tip of the outer cape all the way to the southernmost point of the lower cape. It encompasses an area of 60 square miles. There’s so much to do and see at this huge national park! There are plenty of easy hiking trails, bike paths, dunes, and beaches. This park has some of the best hikes on the east coast. It offers landscapes of woodlands, ponds, and beaches. It is part forest, part coastal, and it’s truly breathtaking.

There are 12 walking trails at the Cape Cod National Seashore and all of them are easy to moderate in nature. The Beach Forest trail in Provincetown is especially scenic during the spring and fall. This is an easy trail with a few long steps. It is a 1 mile looped trail that offers views of the Beach Forest Pond as well as the dense sandy forest. Nearby, there is also a paved bicycle trail.

Contributed by: Valentina from Valentina’s Destinations 

best hikes on the east coast cape cod
Best hikes on the East Coast – Cape Cod National Seashore

Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail at Cape Cod National Seashore

Cape Cod National Seashore in Massachusetts has several hiking trails. Most of the trails are 1-2 miles long and offer a variety of scenery. One of the best hikes on the East Coast is the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail. It’s a 1.2-mile loop trail near the Marconi Station Site (just follow the signs as you make your way along Cape Cod).

The trail is just long enough for kids to feel like they went on an adventure, without them feeling like they’ll be hiking FOREVER! From the parking lot, the trail descends through a wooded area toward the White Cedar Swamp. Once you get to the swampy area, you don’t have to worry about getting your shoes wet – the area through the swamp is on an elevated boardwalk. When you’re done exploring the swamp, follow the trail along the Old Wireless Road back to the parking area. There’s some deep sand to walk through, which makes it a little more challenging – but doable for all ages.

From the parking lot, take another short hike to an observation platform to get a wide view of the Atlantic Ocean. From ocean views to woodlands and swamps, the variety of scenery along the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail in Cape Cod makes it one of the best hikes on the East Coast.

Contributed by: Jason Carlton with Carltonaut’s Travel Tips

cape cod best east coast hikes
Best East Coat Hikes – Massachusetts

New Hampshire

Flume Gorge Trail in Franconia Notch State Park

While this is more of a walk rather than a hike, the Flume Gorge Trail is surely one of the best East Coast hikes. A two mile hike along a natural gorge is quite scenic, yet its’ beauty comes with a price tag. There is a separate fee to enter to the Flume Gorge Trail, and it is only open May-October. Read more details about fees on the New Hampshire State Parks site.

It’s pretty amazing to walk so close to the rushing water and look up from inside the rock gorge. There are numerous things to see on this trail besides the boardwalk through the gorge. There are a few covered bridges, unique rock formations and picturesque viewpoints along this hike. It is a hike suitable for all ages and surely deserves to be one of the best hikes in New Hampshire.

Best East Coast hikes flume gorge
Best East Coast hikes – New Hampshire

New Jersey

Sunfish Pond

Sunfish Pond is one of the best East Coast hikes as it has been ranked the best trail in New Jersey by multiple sources. Part of the Appalachian Trail, Sunfish Pond is the perfect day hike within the Delaware Water Gap in New Jersey. A glacial lake, located 1,000 feet above the surrounding area, the trek is 7.9-miles long through dense forest and rocky terrain.

On a nice day the parking lots at the base of the trail can get crowded, so make sure to go early. There are two options to reach Sunfish Pond, you can take the Appalachian Trail there and back, or you can take the Dunfield Creek Trail up and the AT back, or vice versa.

If you are looking for more solitude and fewer people, take the Dunfield Creek Trail. Weaving back and forth across the creek, you steadily climb up towards Sunfish Pond. If there has been a lot of rain, however, this trek can be very challenging. Either way, you will experience the dense forest, interesting wildlife, and a moderate hike along a well-traversed trail. For more hikes in New Jersey check out my top picks of the Best Hikes in New Jersey.

Contributed by: Nicole Lewis of Wandering with a Dromomaniac

sunfish pond best east coast hikes
Sunfish Pond – Best hikes on the East Coast

New York

Prospect Mountain

The Adirondacks in Upstate, NY are full of amazing hiking trails for all ability levels. There are 46 high peaks for experienced hikers, but there are also some smaller mountains that are perfect for beginner level hikers and home to some kid-friendly hiking trails. One of the most popular hikes for families is Prospect Mountain. This mountain is located in Lake George, NY and the trailhead is right on the edge of the village. The hike starts out with crossing over the Northway on a metal bridge high up in the air and this may be the flattest part of the trail. The trail is a steady ascent and can get muddy certain times of the year, so wearing good hiking shoes and bringing hiking poles would be a good idea. The hike is just under 3 miles out and back, and the elevation of Prospect Mountain is 1500 feet, so it is a fairly steep hike. The views at the top will be totally worth it! You can also drive to the top of Prospect Mountain ($10 toll), or there is also a shuttle during the tourist season. This hike is totally do-able with kids but not super easy. Make sure to pack bug spray, water, and snacks and take plenty of breaks when hiking in the summer in New York. If you’re looking for other things to do in the area, check out Dino Roar Valley.

Contributed by: Amanda from Patsey Family Travels

prospect mountain kid friendly hiking trails
New York – Best East Coast Hikes

Letchworth State Park

Letchworth State Park in Castile, NY is known as the “Grand Canyon of the East”. The Genesee River flows through the gorge, forming 3 spectacular major waterfalls; Lower, Middle and Upper Falls. There are also 55 more little waterfalls throughout the park. Letchworth State Park has 66 miles of picturesque hiking trails for hikers of all skill sets. The Gorge Trail is the best hiking trail to do in order to see all 3 waterfalls. This 7 mile trail is labeled as a moderate, but the southernmost piece of it is much easier. To avoid the steep parts, pick up the trail near the campground at the stairs to Lower Falls or by the Visitors Center.

The views of the gorge can’t be beat. There are several areas to stop and take pictures. The falls, especially Upper, create beautiful, Insta-worthy rainbows. If you’re lucky, you may see a fleet of hot air balloons sailing over the gorge. Letchworth State Park is one of the most scenic parks and has some of the best East Coast hikes. Hikers can experience one of a kind views surrounded by lush forests filled with unique birds and animals.

Contributed by: Lisa from Adventures in Familyhood

letchworth state park best hikes on the east coast
Best hikes on the East Coast – Letchworth State Park

Gertrude’s Nose in the Hudson Valley

Gertrude’s Nose is an amazing hike in the Hudson Valley of New York State and one of the best hikes on the East Coast. Located in Rochester, Gertrude’s nose is about a 2 hour drive from Manhattan. This trail brings you amazing views of the Hudson Valley and is best done during spring and fall (for foliage).

Gertrude’s Nose Trail is a 7 mile loop starting from the upper parking lot (add an extra 2 miles from the lower parking lot). The elevation gain is about 1200 feet and there are a few rocky parts making Gertrude’s Nose a moderately difficult trail. What’s amazing about Gertrude’s nose is that there is a beautiful lake near the trailhead and for a large part of the hike you will be near the cliff’s edge offering you the most spectacular views. The trail is generally wide making it pretty safe to hike even with kids and the only caution would be to make sure that kids and dogs don’t run too close to the edge of the cliff. Given its scenic nature and the short distance from New York City, Gertrude’s Nose is one of the most popular hikes in the Hudson Valley. During peak foliage time, you should aim to get to Gertrude’s Nose early otherwise the upper parking lot fills up fast. 

Contributed by: Serena from Serena’s Lenses

best east coast hikes Gertrude's Nose
Best East Coast hike – Gertrude’s Nose

North Carolina

Catawba Falls in Pisgah National Forest

During a press trip to Asheville, North Carolina, I was most excited to explore the beautiful mountains and hiking trails that the area is known for. If you are visiting the area, it’s definitely worth the short drive from Asheville to the Pisgah National Forest in Old Fort, NC for a hike to Catawba Falls, which is one of the best East Coast hikes.

Our group went on a guided tour with Asheville Hiking Tours, which is a good option if you are looking for some commentary as you hike, as well as a guide to the falls. The entrance to the park does have restroom facilities, although I’d recommend using facilities before you leave. This particular hike is about 3 miles and takes about 2 hours (depending on how long you want to spend at the waterfall). It’s a fairly easy trail, although there are some rocks that you’ll need to climb and go over. Be sure to pack some hiking boots or sneakers in your suitcase, so you’ll be prepared. You definitely need appropriate walking shoes. In addition, you’ll probably want to pack some water, snacks, and a sweater/sweatshirt. Once you arrive at the gorgeous 100+ foot waterfall, you’ll definitely want to stop for photos. It’s really beautiful and one of the nicest payoffs I’ve had for a hike.

Contributed by: Jodi Grundig from Family Travel Magazine

catawba falls kid friendly hiking trails
North Carolina has some of the best kid friendly trails

Rhode Island

Cliff Walk in Newport

The Cliff Walk in Newport, Rhode Island is one of the best East Coast hikes because the entire time you are walking alongside the Atlantic Ocean. The majority of the 3.5 mile trail is paved, although no biking is allowed. You can stop whenever you choose and turn around, but if you are interested in getting to the end, you will need to turn around and hike the 3.5 miles in return. The southern part does have some natural parts and involves a little bit of rock scrambling, but is very doable. In addition to gorgeous rock cliffs and ocean views, the Newport mansions that you walk alongside are stunning. The mansions once belonged to the uber-rich businessmen from the Gilded Age, and the architecture clearly reveals its’ past. There are tours of some of the mansions offered, but we did not opt for that. Check out more detail here about Newport’s Cliff Walk.

best hikes on the East Coast Cliff Walk
The Cliff Walk is one of the best hikes on the East Coast

South Carolina

Swamp Rabbit Trail in Greenville

Greenville is one of the best Southeast cities for families to visit. Families will love the Swamp Rabbit Trail, as it is one of the best kid-friendly hiking trails, and it is paved the entire way. This 20 mile paved biking/running trail links Greenville, South Carolina to a nearby town called Travelers Rest. It begins right in downtown Greenville and goes through neighborhoods, shops, restaurants and a whole lot of nature!

While there is no way I recommend all twenty miles, families can easily do a short section. Our family rented bikes at a place called Reedy’s and rode about 2 miles to have breakfast. We were supposed to ride more, but the weather that morning was about 30 degrees Fahrenheit and windy. We couldn’t take the cold and gave up! Even if you only do a piece of the trail, I highly recommend the Swamp Rabbit Trail when you are looking for fun things to do in Greenville.

Swamp Rabbit Trail
Biking the Swamp Rabbit Trail in Greenville, SC

Boardwalk Loop in Congaree National Park

The Boardwalk Loop in Congaree National Park is a great 2 mile hike/walk for the entire family. It takes hikers into an old growth forest in the middle of a swamp. The landscape here is unlike anything we had ever experienced, and we visited Everglades National Park in Florida. This trail is stroller friendly and has access points to other trails as well, yet it provides a great overview into this marshy world.

Kids will enjoy walking through the trees and seeing birds, turtles, and other smaller creatures from the boardwalk vantage point. There is no elevation gain and the loop takes you right back to the Visitors Center where you started from. A word of warning… mosquitos are very common here; in fact, they have a famous “mosquito meter” that lets visitors know how bad the mosquitos are that day in the park. I would recommend visiting when it is cooler and not humid and bring bug spray just in case. Check out my short video below on what to expect when visiting this park and hiking the Boardwalk Loop.


Laurel Falls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

This gentle 2.6 mile hike to a waterfall is not only one of my favorite kid-friendly hiking trails, but one of my favorite hikes ever! Located just outside of Pigeon Forge Tennessee, Laurel Falls is a great Smoky Mountain trail. It is a gentle hike with some very nice scenic views throughout and a beautiful waterfall at the end. I rate it as one of the best East Coast hikes because it is an easy hike that encapsulates the Great Smoky Mountains. There are a couple of times that you need to step over stones to cross a small creek and a couple of narrow pathways with a ledge that provides a little excitement. To read more in-depth about the hike, check out Laurel Falls with kids.

Laurel Falls best east coast hikes
Laurel Falls is one of my favorite kid friendly trails

Cummins Falls State Park

Location: 1.5 hour drive from Nashville Cummins Falls State Park is an idyllic, but rugged, park located nine miles north of Cookeville, TN. The Cummins Falls Trail is a 2.1 mile moderate round trip hike and one of the best hikes on the East Coast.

The Cummins Falls Trail can be challenging, especially at the beginning, but worth the adventure (There is also a shorter hike to a waterfall overlook). The first ¼ mile of the hike is very steep and narrow. There are rocks and some gravel on the way down (and remember that you have to hike back up) and also a few places where you get into a single file to let other hikers pass. Once you get to the bottom, the terrain changes dramatically and you hike through the water or along the rocky edges of the creek. There are a few spots along the way where there are spaces deep enough to stop and swim or look for critters and play among the rocks. But the Falls at the end are a beautiful and spectacular reward – perfect for swimming, exploring, picnicking and more. Click here to read more: A Family Hike to Cummins Falls State Park in Tennessee

Contributed by: Sarah Wilson from The Wandering Rumpus

Cummins Falls best hikes on the east coast

Cataloochee Valley in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

America’s most popular national park, attracting around 9 million visitors each year, Great Smoky Mountains National Park straddles the line between North Carolina and Tennessee. The park boasts a diverse array of wildlife species, including Deer, around 1,600 Black Bears, and lots of birds. But the most noteworthy animal you can see in the park is its ever-expanding herd of Elk. These humongous herbivores once roamed the North Carolina hills by the thousands, but they were all killed off by hunters in the 1700s. Thanks to a 2001 reintroduction program, there are now more than 150 Elk within the park’s boundaries, and Cataloochee Valley (which is surrounded by majestic 6000-foot mountains) is the best place to see them. Helpful park volunteers can typically tell you where the herd was spotted last, but we found a number of them along the lovely and well-maintained Rough Fork Trail.

The trail takes you past a picturesque stream (which is extremely popular with trout fisherman) and wildflowers as well as several historic buildings, including a 19th century schoolhouse, barn, and houses that visitors can explore. The trail runs 12.3 miles, but even a short hike along it offers lots of fun adventures. To read more check out the Blue Ridge Mountains Travel Guide site.

Contributed by: Bret Love from Green Global Travel

cataloochee Valley


Lake Trail in Red Rocks Park

This easy hike has some great views of the Adirondacks and Lake Champlain. Located near Burlington, Red Rocks Park has some kid-friendly trails with pretty scenic views. The Lake Trail is about a mile round trip and a very easy walk for little ones. For a little more adventure, the loop trails are a nice option too.

kid friendly trails red rocks park
Vermont – best hikes on the East Coast


River Trail at Great Falls Park

The River Trail at Great Falls Park is one of the best hikes on the East Coast. It is one of the best places to hike near Washington DC, and it is located in Northern Virginia. The park is named after a wide section of falls on the Potomac River. While there, be sure to take in the three different vantage points of the falls.

There are miles of hiking trails with varying degree of difficulty to choose among. My favorite is the River Trail because it follows the Potomac River for about 1.5 miles along the tops of the cliffs. In some areas, this trail runs right next to the edge of the cliff, offering dramatic views of the Potomac and Mather Gorge. There are numerous areas along the way to take a break and watch the kayakers in the whitewater down on the river.

Great Falls is managed by the National Park Service so there is no entrance fee if you have the American the Beautiful Annual Pass. The park also has a terrific visitor center and participates in the Junior Ranger program for children ages 5 and up.

Contributed by: Julie Chickery from Chickery’s Travels

Great Falls Park best east coast hikes
Great Falls Park – Best East Coast hikes

Little Stony Man Trail in Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park is the perfect family getaway up on Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. There are quite a few kid-friendly hiking trails within the park, but one of our favorites has to be the Little Stony Man trail. This easy 1.6 mile (round trip) hike goes through the forest and slowly gains elevation, which makes it an easy hike for the kids. It’s an easy trail to navigate even with a jogger stroller. The trail forks into two viewpoints, and you can easily see both on the hike. Both viewpoints have the most amazing views of the Shenandoah Valley down below which is the reason I think it is one of the best hikes on the East Coast. But the most popular lookout point is the Stony Man Summit. 

Stony Man summit is the second highest elevation in Shenandoah National Park at 4,011 feet. The rocky outcrop makes for the most amazing photographs of the Valley and is the perfect vantage point to watch the dramatic sunset over the mountains. The kids will love scaling the rocks but make sure to keep an eye out as there is a pretty steep drop-off with no barriers for protection. The hike probably took us about an hour and a half, and we lingered at the summit for a while. Make sure to pack snacks and water and enjoy the views. Click here to read more about what to do in Shenandoah National Park with kids.

Contributed by: Skylar from Skylar Arias Adventures

Little Stony Man Trail best hikes on the east coast
Some of the best East Coast hikes are in Shenandoah NP

As you can see, the Eastern part of the US has several great kid-friendly trails and some of the best hikes on the East Coast. If you’re visiting Great Smoky Mountain, Shenandoah, or Acadia, consider having the kids become junior rangers before or after a hike. Interested in visiting national parks and monuments? If you have a 4th grader, your whole family can visit for free. Check out these national park road trip itineraries to make the most out of the 4th grade national park pass.

While some states do provide better opportunities for hiking, every state does have a beauty of its’ own. If you are considering visiting any of these areas in the future, check out some of the links above for more information. While I have visited all of the East Coast states, I have not hiked all of the trails that were recommended. They do seem like some of the best East Coast hikes, and I’m looking forward to hiking these areas in the near future.

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13 thoughts on “Best East Coast Hikes: Kid Friendly Hiking Trails”

  1. What a great list of hikes along the east coast. I have done only a few of these so I have a lot more to check out with the kids!!

  2. Such a great round up of hikes, I want to try them all! Hopefully we’ll be back to the East Coast soon so we can start working through this list.

  3. Great ideas! We’re headed to Tennessee this summer to explore the Great Smokey Mountains National Park so I’ll definitely check out that hike!

  4. Glad I bumped into this post as we plan to explore New England next summer. And we love hiking. I hope they are dog friendly, too.

  5. Lindsay Jensen

    This is such a great resource! I’ll be coming back again and again as we travel the East Coast. And from a Nashvillian, I can vouch for the Cummins Falls hike! It’s a fave!

  6. Great post! I love doing hikes in Vermont, especially in the south. There’s some great hikes there!

  7. I live on the East Coast so many of these are familiar. It just shows that you don’t have to go our west for amazing hikes. Thanks for putting this together.

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