3 Great Waterfall Hikes in the Smokies

With weather predicted to be sunny and almost 80 degrees on Sunday, it’s time to lace up your hiking boots! The Great Smoky Mountains are the perfect place to take kids hiking.

Our kids love nothing better than setting off on a hiking adventure. If there’s a stream with rocks to hop on, all the better. And they LOVE to hike to waterfalls! Here are three of our kids’ favorite waterfall hikes:

  • Grotto Falls. This is a GREAT hike for young kids.
    • Length: 2.6 miles (roundtrip)
    • Classification: Easy
    • Best for ages: 5 and up (or kids in backpacks)
    • What it’s known for: Grotto Falls is the only waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that you can walk behind. (Fun, huh?)
    • Why we love it: It’s not hard, but there are some fun parts, like roots to climb over. But the best part is when you actually get to the falls. There are tons of fun rocks to climb on, and you can get right up to the waterfall. It’s great. Here’s an in-depth review of our kids’ experience tackling Grotto Falls.
    • The downside: None that I can think of. This is truly our kids’ favorite hike.
  • Laurel Falls.
    • Length: 2.3 miles (roundtrip)
    • Classification: Easy
    • Best for ages: Any! This trail is paved, so you can even take babies in strollers. And it’s easy walking for grandparents that may be along.
    • What it’s known for: It’s one of the most popular trails in the park, I think because it’s paved and also because it’s one of the first trails you come to when entering the park.
    • Why we love it: Well, it’s a beautiful hike to another breath-taking waterfall. Our kids also love that there are several mini streams to hop over on the way up. Here’s a blog about why my father-in-law loves this hike.
    • The downside: Parking can be a real problem, due to the popularity. And it’s also less exciting to hike a trail with people all around you. Arrive early in the morning to avoid the crowds. Also, parts of the trail are very steep, so it can be dangerous for little ones. So keep a close eye on young walkers.
  • Baskins Creek Falls. 
    • Length: 3 miles (roundtrip)
    • Classification: Easy (but not nearly as low of an easy as the other two mentioned here)
    • Best for ages: 7 and over
    • What it’s known for: One site calls this trail “the most underrated fall in the park.” I’d have to agree. It was deserted the whole time we were there, but boy is it beautiful.
    • Why we love it: It is a GREAT waterfall! You work to get to it, but it’s SO worth it. We also love that you hike alongside a stream much of the way, and have to cross it a few times.
    • The downside: It’s a toughie. I think the thing that’s rough about it is that it’s downhill most of the way there. So it’s easy to think you’ll have the energy for the way back up. But that’s when it’s rough. Also, it’s easier to motivate kids on the way to a waterfall. Be ready for some whining on the way back up. Here’s a post about our attempt to hike Baskins Creek with six young kids. It was too much.
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