The Ultimate Guide to Great Smoky Mountains National Park with kids
Great Smoky Mountains National Park will have more than 12 million+ visitors by 2023 it is the most visited national park in the United States. The park has no admission fees. However, parking tags will be required for all vehicles parking for longer than 15 minutes starting March 1, 2023. It crosses the border with NC/TN that is offering some of the best Southeast panoramas. We just came back from an exciting visit with children to the Smoky Mountains and had a chance to see all that the park has to offer.Follow along with me to learn the best things to do in the Smoky Mountains with kids. We just returned from an amazing trip to the Smoky Mountains with kids, and we got to experience some of the best things the park has to offer.
Smoky Mountains Map & Entrances
The best thing about visiting Smoky Mountain is the beautiful views. But the problem is that the GPS does not usually operate in mountainous areas. If you want to take a look at the map I suggest you print out a printed map or stop in the Visitor Centre for a direction. A total of 522,427 acres are mapped in Tennessee and North Carolina and encompass a total area of approximately 816 square miles. The park includes 3 entrances: Gatlinburg, TN, Townsend TN, and Cherokee, NC. The national park services has an information kiosk near each entrance and will help you get more information about the parks.There are not a lot of places to get food inside the Smoky Mountains National Park so I would suggest you pack a picnic lunch.The Smoky Mountains National Park has one of the best collections of historic log buildings in the US.
Driving and parking in the Smoky Mountains with kids
For those who have never driven in the mountains, driving through the Smoky Mountains can definitely be an exciting trip. Coming from the North East, I have been used to extremely flat landscapes . My best tips on getting in the park is to go slow if you have no experience, watch speed limit signs, and use the pullover if the cars are close behind you.The Smoky Mountains National Park is an easy trip for an unforgettable family adventure. If you are looking for a family friendly adventure consider a jeep tour . Check out the best family friendly jeep tours in the Smokies by CLICKING HERE .
Where to stay to visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park
There is a very convenient location close to Great Smoky Mountains National Park either at its site or nearby Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge. The park offers only a lodging alternative: the LeConte Lodge. Because the Lodge is not easily accessible by foot after a 5- to 6-mile walk, I'm unlikely to recommend it in the case of kids. Our beautiful Dreamy Vistas Vacation Rental has everything you need for an unforgettable vacation, including soothing a hot tub, fantastic views, decks with rocking chairs, fully equipped kitchens, and Smoky Mountain-inspired decor.
Laurel Falls Trail
Laurel Falls is a favorite trail in Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It is extremely popular as it is an easy 2.5 miles roundtrip walk that includes the picturesque photographic Laurel Falls. Because it’s an easy walk and a shorter waterfall trek, the trails can also be enjoyed with children. The hiking trail is open to the public. It also offers an incredible landscape of mountains and waterfalls. It's really an amazing and fun hike for young kids. The last time I walked the trails, we saw a cub in the trees.
When to Visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The best time to visit Great Smoky Mountain National Park is between July and October throughout the summer and autumn seasons. Summer brings warm temperatures – perfect for walking on the water or swimming on rivers. It is Autumn and warm weather perfect to walk and see autumn's beautiful foliage. In warmer months many park animals and famous fireflies are seen here. During high winters, Great Smoky Mountains National Parks will not be available. Winter peaks are usually from October to March. These cold winter months leave parks covered with ice in a sweltering winter.
Junior Ranger badge at Sugarland Visitor Center
This is a very interesting program that encourages the kids to engage in the park through various activities that end with the kid earning the junior Ranger badge. We were excited when we first visited the Smokies. It was an awesome trip to the Smoky Mountains! We collected junior ranger packets from the Sugarland visitor centre closest to Gatlinburg.
Junior Ranger books will cost $2.00 from any visitor centre. In Spring and Summer and in Autumn there are different ranger programs for children.
The NEW Parking Pass Requirment in Great Smoky Mountains
The entrance fee is no longer required to access the Grand Smoke Mountain National Park. There is, however, an alternative parking permit which will be issued to each visitor. The new plan will begin in March 2023, but parking passes are expected to begin sales in February 2023.
Grotto Falls Trail
The Grotto Falls Trail is probably my favorite trail on the Smoky Mountain. The Trail lies on the magnificent Roaring Forks Motor Nature Trail. Grotto Falls trails are 2.66 miles from the trailhead to the road exit. The slope does not look too steep at first. This is an enjoyable trail which has wonderful scenery. The crossing of rivers is fun for the kids. It's a great feature to be able to walk along the trail to get back to the waterfall! The whole family were very impressed! Take photos of the waterfalls! Location: Located along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.Grotto Falls is another popular choice for hiking in the Smoky Mountains with kids.
Cataract Falls Trail
Cataract Falls can be easily reached via the Sugarlands Visitors' Center. Located on a 40ft trail Cataract Falls is this trail. It's great for people who have toddler or young children, or who wish to see a waterfall, without having to travel long distances.
Clingmans Dome Trail
Climbmans Dome is an excellent choice for family trips in the Smoky Mountains. The peak has an elevation of 6,643 feet. This journey only runs April through November. The seven kilometre drive to the peak is quite steep. You'll notice how cooler it gets once you enter parking bring warm clothes . The parking lot has a fantastic panoramic of the Smokies. The Clingman Dome Trail starts from a parking area. In the vicinity there are a visitor center, gift shops and restrooms. The trail is about a half mile in length.
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
The Roaring Fork Auto Natural Trail is a 6-mile scenic road with a single route that is conveniently situated near Gatlinburg. I really like Roaring Fork Motor Trails. Every time we go into Smokies it should be seen. This drive offers spectacular mountain views, rushing rivers and historic buildings such as log cottages and grist mills. There are a couple of trails that lead to the roaring fork motor trail. The place of the thousands of dips. It is particularly beautiful during rainfall.Trillium Gap trailhead, which is on the Roaring Fork Motor Trail – this motor trail is a steep, narrow, winding, one way road that allows cars but not RVs or large trucks.
Newfound Gap Road
Here are the must-do scenic drives in the Great Smoky Mountains with kids. Driving a Newfound Gap Road is an essential feature for any visitor to The Great Smoky Mountains with children. The drive commences at the Gatlinburg exit from Sugarland Visitors Center and goes through Cherokee North Carolina. You can enjoy all of the attractions at Smoky Mountain National Park from Newfound Gap Road. Newfound Gap Road is a beautiful drive that has amazingly amazing mountain scenery. It's very popular for people parking in their cars, going to the exits and taking photos. there are several turnsoff places. You have to go to Newfound Gap for a family photo shoot. Newfound Gap lies at the junction between Tennessee and NC.
Best Hikes for Kids in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Porter Creek Trail: The trail has 2 miles of trails. Along the trail you may spot a remnant of an old community whose buildings were built in the 1800's, abandoned a couple hundred years ago. Kids can enjoy the old barns, springs and huts! Porters Creek Trail is among the most scenic, family-friendly hikes in the Kephart Prong Trail. You'll cross several log bridges, see an old fishing hatchery, spot flora and fauna, admire beautiful views and even be able to see the plethora of wildflowers blooming in the park.
Tips for Cades Cove
Give yourself 2-3 days for the trip. Summers are more crowded, so make more time. Besides, they let you see buildings and enter them. From June until November the road will close down on Wednesdays, so bicycles and hikers are welcome. Cades Cove Cades Cove is a must-see when in the Great Smoky Mountains with kids.
Pro Tip- Drive Mornings and drive Cades Cove afternoons if you feel tired. So they're free to rest and are not crabby. Please don't forget to carry food and beverages with you (at least 2 bottles of water if you plan to bike it ).
Stroll Downtown Gatlinburg
Stroll downtown Gatlinburg or the “road” if one might say is the best thing to do when traveling to the Smoky Mountain. There is lots of sightseeing, shopping and dining. There's something for everyone at Ripley's Museum, Mini Golf Laser Tag bumper cars and a mirror maze.
Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort & Water Park
They have an indoor & outdoor pool e-bike charging stations Ziplines & outdoor center climate-controlled bar spa.
Explore the Visitor Centers
The Great Smoky Mountains have four visitor centers. These include Cades Cover, Oconaluftee, Clingman's Dome, Sugarland,among others. Visitors centres are very helpful as they help visitors discover park features and find an interesting souvenir.
Take a Guided Tour
Friends of Smokies offers guided hikes and activities to promote the park and have also offered guided trips to other parks. The trail is varied in length and difficulty and includes tracks in NC and Tennessee. Great Smoky Mountain Association provides hike and activity activities to increase knowledge and appreciation of National Parks. Various programs cover various subject areas, from cultural activities to guided walks and night walks.Be On the Lookout for Black Bears Black Bears are commonly seen in the Smoky Mountains National Park.
Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies
The Ripley Aquarium in the Smokiesis a perfect place to take the kids to the beach and relax after walking and exploring the park. These are fun aquariums with great features! My favourite place is an underwater tunnel where you can swim around sharks. This penguin tunnel can be climbed by children to the center of the penguin exhibit. In addition, the Glass Bottom Boat Trip is offered as a free option on rented vehicles at extra charges. This is an underwater tour in aquariums with sharks, turtles and other creatures spotted beneath you! Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies , voted the #1 aquarium in the nation by TripAdvisor.
Kid-Friendly Hikes in Smoky Mountains
Certainly one of the best activities in the Smoky Mountains for children is hiking. It's the easiest thing to see how much we appreciate Smoky Mountain.
Things to do in Pigeon Forge TN
Pigeon Forge is another tourist city near Smoky Mountain entrance. I'm sure this will be an exciting place for everyone. They have an extensive range of attractions in the famed Dollywood attractions. You'll find miniature golf courses and other games in the town. It's also possible for children and adults to go shopping for more familiar things. I bought inexpensive souvenir goods from a shop with the big shark door that our little ones liked.
Swimming and Playing in the Little Pigeon River
During a visit to Great Smoky Mountain National Park the Little Pigeon River flows along the road. Pull over at a good place to swim and go fishing. They'll have fun jumping between rock. It’s so peaceful despite the fresh mountain scenery.
Ober Gatlinburg space needle
Ober Gattlinburg is a beautiful destination in Smoky Mountain for kids all year long. Fun activities throughout the year include aerial transportation and scenic lifts. Throughout the summer, there will also be summer water rafting or tubing excursions. In late fall, snow tubes will be added. Throughout the year, snow-boarding and skiing have become common activities.
Luvdbaby Premium Baby Backpack Carrier for Hiking with Kids
Here are must-have items for ensuring a great time in the Smoky Mountains with kids!Luvdbaby Premium Infant backpack carrier is a great backpack carrier for hiking trips with toddler. This will give you the opportunity to take the smallest children out on the trail without any trouble! See the best prices for lvvdbaby backpacks for hiking for young kids on Amazon right now!
Crockett's Breakfast Camp
Crockett's Breakfast Camp is fantastic! Not just are the meals amazing, but their presentation and ambience really highlight this place! Almost everything in this restaurant is available: Pancakes & waffles, toast eggs, omelettes & huge cinnamon rolls!
The Old Mill Restaurant
It has become a favourite restaurant for families and children in Smoky Mountains. These are the finest traditional recipes. They offer a choice of meals and lunches. There is no other place where the waitstaff are so friendly! The meal is delicious. You need need to try their hushpuppies!!!Wow! The restaurants are extremely popular and expect a wait. There are shops in the old mill area that are worth browsing whilst you wait.
Must Have Gear for Visiting the Smoky Mountains with Kids
Travel is important especially when traveling with children and teens. What's important is to make sure your children have an enjoyable time in the Smokies Mountains!
CamelBak Mini M.U.L.E. Kids Hydration Backpack, 50 oz
This Camelbak Mini MuL'E Kid Hydration Backpack 50 lbs makes for the ideal kid's travel backpack! The great thing about this backpack is the fact you have the option to drink water without the backpack. It has a capacity of 1 liter. It is equipped with safety bells and whistles as well. It's an exciting backpack that your children won't want to leave! This product also includes many colors for boys and girls. Find prices for CamelBak Mini MULLIEN Kids Hydration Backpack on Amazon!
Is the Smoky Mountains a good family vacation?
Take family trips to the Great Smoky Mountain Scene. World-class attractions, restaurants serving Southern classics and luxury lodging are all surrounded by Smokies scenery. Enjoy nature and family activities in this mountain town.
Can kids hike in the Smoky Mountains?
Those who visit the Smokies with children will get some good trails that suit a smaller crowd.
Is Gatlinburg good for families?
The only place where you can enjoy family entertainment in the Gatlinburg area! Take everyone to the ski slopes of Ober in gatlinburg, the sole combined Ski Resort & Amusement park in Tennessee.
Which is more kid friendly Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg?
Although both cities offer fun activities for all ages, children can find everything they need at Pigeon Forge.
Is it better to stay in Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg?
If you are interested in exploring the real tourist experience in the Smokies Mountains, it's worthwhile visiting Gatlenburg. If you need a similar thrilling experience and a bit less crowding, Pigeon Forge will be your answer.
Is it better to stay in a hotel or cabin in Gatlinburg?
While a hotel is great for trips around New York City, it is also a good option for a stay in an authentic cabin. Guests can enjoy a Smoky Mountains authentic experience in a cabin that can never be found elsewhere. Our beautiful Dreamy Vistas Vacation Rental (CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE) has everything you need for an unforgettable vacation, including soothing a hot tub, fantastic views, decks with rocking chairs, fully equipped kitchens, and Smoky Mountain-inspired decor.You can relax in the hot tub after exploring the Smokies and sip your favorite wines from the local wineries.
In conclusion,a family vacation to the Smoky Mountains and Gatlinburg, TN is an experience that your family will never forget. From thrilling theme parks to beautiful landscapes, there truly is something for everyone! With careful planning, you can ensure your family has a wonderful time. So what are you waiting for? Start planning your trip today and make memories with your loved ones that will last a lifetime!