Smoky Mountain Hikes: Laurel Falls with Kids

We love to do short family hikes when we travel. Well at least I do…my kids are lukewarm about it. This was our first hiking experience. We visited Pigeon Forge, Tennessee in 2015, during the school holiday break, and made sure to squeeze in a few hikes, even though it was a little chilly. We stayed in Pigeon Forge, which is about 5 minutes away from Smoky Mountain National Park. We visited Gatlinburg, Knoxville, and Pigeon Forge with kids, and loved that there are so many activities for families in this area. That is why I believe that Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the best national park vacations for families. Here is a review of one of our favorite Smoky Mountain hikes, Laurel Falls with kids.

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First of all, be sure to take this picture! We try to make sure and take a family shot with each National Park sign. There is a slight turn off where you can park and luckily we were the only ones there.

Smoky Mountain sign Fam

Laurel Falls Trail

Of the 3 trails we have hiked in the Great Smoky Mountains, our favorite is Laurel Falls. It is short (2.6 miles round trip), family friendly, mostly paved, gentle and scenic. We have done this hike twice in the winter (the first time the kids were 3 and 5, and the second time they were 5 and 7). Even in 30 degrees, the falls were plentiful, and although there was some ice as you neared the viewing area, it was safe for the whole family. It is one of my favorite East Coast hikes.

The parking lot is clearly marked and the trailhead is steps away from the lot (very easy to find).

Laurel Falls sign Fam

A good portion of the hike is paved and flat (making it very easy for little ones and “out of shape” ones). A stroller can technically be used for most of the trail, but once you get closer to the falls, it does not fit. See the short video below and notice how wide the paved trail is.

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There are many places to stop and take pictures, or just to relax and enjoy nature. There are a couple of sections where you scramble through some rocks, and towards the end of the 1.3 miles to get to the falls, there is a steep drop off that you must be careful with your kids.

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As with most family friendly trails, there is a payoff – the reward of a gorgeous waterfall! Most of the hikes we do as a family usually involve some type of waterfall or river. Below are some pictures of the end of Laurel Falls Trail.

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The return hike back to the car is another 1.3 miles, yet for whatever reason, the way back is always faster than the way there. We stopped to take some pictures of the mountains in the distance, and soak in the woods all around us.

Both times we hiked Laurel Falls with kids was on a road trip around the South and drove up from Miami. We have stopped along the way at St. Augustine, Savannah, Atlanta, Helen,Greenville, and Charleston.

Every time we would do a road trip out of Florida, it was at least 6 hours out of the state. We made sure to have plenty of road trip activities for kids and used small durable luggage to make sure we have room. If you are looking for a packing list for your travels, check out this post – 12 Essential Travel Items for Every Adventure.


I hope you enjoyed this post on hiking the Smoky Mountains with kids. If you would like to read more about our travels please subscribe to my site – DQ Family Travel. Pin this post to save for later!

Laurel Falls cover

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5 thoughts on “Smoky Mountain Hikes: Laurel Falls with Kids”

  1. Such a beautiful hike!! I wish I could have had the same experience in the Smokies. I definitely have to get back there and explore more. Definitely going to have to check out this trail.

  2. Good call on getting a picture taken with each sign for each National Park you visit! What a great and unique way to stay active and spend time together as a family! As your kids started hiking so young, I’m curious, how “well did they do?” Especially interested to hear what it was like taking them for the first time! Smoky Mountains is high on my bucket list, hopefully our soon to be born little one will enjoy it as much as your kiddos! Great write up!

    1. My daughter enjoys hiking more as she likes to walk and hop/explore more. That hike she was 4 I think and was fine. A little “whiny” on the way back. My son is not a fan of hiking too much, but I take him anyways. He always wants to stop for a snack break and is a slow walker. It’s a work in progress… I always try to keep it fun!

  3. We, well, I… always make sure to take family picture by the National Park sign, too. We haven’t been to Smoky Mountain NP but heard a lot about Pigeon Forge. I would like to hike to Laurel Falls, too. It looks easy and the falls is beautiful.

  4. We love waterfall hikes with our kids as well! Mostly when it’s warm though because they love to play in the water when we get there. Beautiful hike, thanks for sharing!

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