The Best Hikes for Kids and Families in Western North Carolina

Hikes By Features: Waterfalls | Views | Historic Sites | Kids and Families

Looking for a great hike with the kids? Here's a selection of hikes perfect for families with little ones!

A great trail for children isn't just one that's easy enough for them to handle. It should also have something unique or fun for them to explore, without excessive safety concerns. Not every trail in the mountains is steep, difficult, or treacherous. And many of them lead to fun and exciting destinations that kids can't resist!

Kids can hardly resist a splash in the creek at the end of a long hike!
Kids can hardly resist a splash in the creek at the end of a long hike!
Kids on Bearwallow Mountain
Kids will love the Bearwallow Mountain trail, which features a huge meadow, water features, mossy rocks, and lots of icecicles in colder weather!

You'll find waterfalls, rock piles, wide streams, lakeshores, even playgrounds and interpretive exhibits along some of the area's best trails for kids. So take a look and see if one of these hikes will work for you!

Tips for Hiking with Kids

  • Kids can easily be overwhelmed with what seems like an easy hike for adults, so make sure it's within their abilities!
  • Bring plenty of water and snacks. Kids will get hungry as they go, and a well-timed snack stop can make or break a trip. They also make a good enticement to go just a little further!
  • Keep a bathing suit in the pack and an extra change of clothes and dry towels in the car. Water features along the trails can be totally irresistible!
  • Fit, experienced hiking children can probably handle about a mile hike for each year of their age - but that will be less if they are still being introduced to hiking, or if the trail involves lots of climbs or difficult sections.
  • A good bug spray can prevent days of itchy misery after an outing. Feel free to find a natural alternative to traditional ingredients like DEET.

The Hikes

Kids In Parks TRACK Trails

Great Woodland Adventure Salamander
This replica salamander is one of the neat animal figures kids can see on the Great Woodland Adventure trail.

Kids In Parks is an organization started in 2008 with the goal of increasing kids' participation in outdoor recreation and exploration. Kids in Parks originated right here in Western North Carolina in 2008 as a joint project by the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, National Park Service and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation with a goal to formally link the health of children to the health of parks by creating a strong network of trails and partners in the communities on and along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Since that time, the program has expanded its partnerships and its reach nationwide, and as of 2016 there are hundreds of official TRACK trails - and growing!

TRACK trails are hiking trails, biking trails, geocaching trails, paddling trails, nature trail disc golf courses and even backyard adventures which encourage kids to get outside and stay healthy. Each trail has designated Adventures, each with their own high-quality take-along brochure, to help you identify all the neat things kids can find along the way, as well as containing a wealth of cool facts. Adventures have a theme, such as Trees, Insects, Animals, or History.

The best part? Parents can sign up online and add their kids to the profile to track their hikes. As you progress, you can unlock badges and receive cool prizes, such as:

Hiking Trail TRACKer Gear

  • For every Trail tracked - a Trail Sticker
  • 1 Trail Tracked - a Trail TRACKer Nature Journal
  • 2 Trails Tracked - a Kids in Parks Patch
  • 3 Trails Tracked - a Trail TRACKer TRACK Sac
  • 6 Trails Tracked - a Trail TRACKer Bandana
  • 9 Trails Tracked - a Magnifying Glass
  • 12 Trails Tracked - a Walking Stick Medallion

You can see a map of North Carolina's TRACK trails here. In addition to the Best Hikes we list on this page, each of the TRACK trails makes a great outing for the little ones. So find a trail, sign up now, and start TRACKing!

Playing in the Creek
What kid can resist getting wet when this is what's right beside the trail? Be sure to bring a change of clothes!

Our Best Hikes for Kids

In addition to the TRACK trails, here's our list of hikes we consider great for families with children. Choose a hike for all the details, including a detailed description, driving directions, and a map. Have fun on the trail!

Great Woodland Adventure Hike

Easy Hike
  • Winding through the woods below Chimney Rock is the Great Woodland Adventure trail, a Kids In Parks TRACK Trail which aims to engage kids in learning about all that can be found in the forest. A perfect introductory hike for families with small...
  • 0.6mi, Climbs Gently
  • Tread Condition: Graveled

Toms Creek Falls Hike

Easy Hike
  • This easy hike is excellent for families and children, with a reward at the end that everyone will look forward to. It's short enough that adults who have to carry tired kids won't be too worn out at the end to enjoy it themselves. The waterfall...
  • 0.8mi, Climbs Gently
  • Tread Condition: Graveled

Douglas Falls (Lower Approach) Hike

Moderate Hike
  • This spectacular, 70 ft. falls is located in an old-growth forest. The lower approach to the falls is a walk on a gently sloped trail to its base. The hike is markedly changed from years past; though the hemlocks in the area are dead, you'll travel...
  • 1mi, Climbs Gently
  • Tread Condition: Moderately Rough

Moore Cove Falls Hike

Easy Hike
  • This showery plunging waterfall is located in one of the most popular areas of the Pisgah National Forest, near the Davidson River in the "Land of Waterfalls". It's a delightful, beautiful walk thru fern-filled woods. And it's easy enough for...
  • 1.4mi, Climbs Gently
  • Tread Condition: Few Obstacles

Hickory Nut Falls Hike

Easy Hike
  • This moderate hike takes you out-and-back through a vibrant forest to the base of Hickory Nut Falls. This is a very high and neat waterfall. You'll travel along the base of the cliffs that form the edge of the Hickory Nut Gorge and the Falls. Trees...
  • 1.5mi, Climbs Gently
  • Tread Condition: Some Obstacles

Craggy Gardens Hike

Easy Hike
  • This self-guiding nature trail passes through a high-elevation Northern Hardwood forest to a Heath Bald, and finally into a Grassy Summit. A large trail shelter makes an excellent spot for a picnic. Visit during mid to late June for a spectacular...
  • 1.4mi, Climbs Moderately
  • Tread Condition: Some Obstacles

Ridgewalk Hike

Easy Hike
  • Following the mostly level upper portion of the Bennet Gap trail, this is an easy hike along a ridge to some great views. It's one of the easiest true hikes into the kind of neat environment typical of a rugged Appalachian ridgetop that we could...
  • 1.4mi, Few Hills
  • Tread Condition: Some Obstacles

Camp Alice/Commissary Hike

Easy Hike
  • This is a high-elevation hike that, while providing the same storied Black Mountains scenery, is both easier and less often used than some of the park's other trails, offering a chance for silence and solitude. Trees and meadows with a decidedly...
  • 2.0 - 3.6mi, Climbs Gently
  • Tread Condition: Few Obstacles

Rattlesnake Lodge Hike

Moderate Hike
  • This pleasant hike takes you to the ruins of a historic private lodge along a section of the Mountains to Sea Trail. It's close to the City of Asheville, making it a nice option if you're in the area and don't have a lot of drive time. A...
  • 2.8mi, Climbs Moderately
  • Tread Condition: Some Obstacles

Flat Laurel Creek Hike

Moderate Hike
  • This loop takes you around the headwaters basin of Flat Laurel Creek, which starts in a unique, high-elevation valley surrounded by sharp peaks, grassy balds, and cool, dark, spruce-fir forests. Its elevation is over 5300 ft at the bottom, and it...
  • 2.5mi, Climbs Gently
  • Tread Condition: Moderately Rough

Pink Beds Loop Hike

Moderate Hike
  • This relatively flat loop hike - which features a shortcut option - is all about water. You'll see rare mountain bogs, including glimpses of some rare and endangered species of plants if you're lucky. You'll pass through a forest in transition, as...
  • 5.1mi, Few Hills
  • Tread Condition: Some Obstacles