smoky mountain wildflowers
July 25, 2019

Smoky Mountains National Park is not just a popular park for outdoor enthusiasts, avid hikers, and bird watchers, but a family-friendly destination that kids will love! The park offers a unique and exciting opportunity for children to learn more about the history of the region, explore some fun hiking trails, and perhaps even spot some wildlife! Here are the top 3 things to do in Smoky Mountains National Park for kids:

1. Become a Junior Ranger

sugarlands visitor center

If your kids ever dreamed about being a Forest Ranger, they can now make that a reality with the Junior Ranger program at Smoky Mountains National Park! Kids who are between the ages of 5 to 12 can participate in the program by picking up a Junior Ranger booklet for a nominal fee at any of the Smoky Mountains National Park Visitor Centers or at the Cades Cove or Elkmont campgrounds. Once your child completes all of the activities in the booklet, stop back by a Visitor Center to talk to a ranger, and then they will receive their Junior Ranger badge! There are also special ranger-led Junior Ranger programs throughout the spring, summer, and fall where your children can learn more about the park from an official park ranger!

2. Explore the Sugarlands Visitor Center

Another one of the fun things to do in Smoky Mountains National Park for kids is to explore the Sugarlands Visitor Center! While all of the visitor centers throughout the park offer park maps, ranger information, and facilities, Sugarlands Visitor Center is especially interesting for kids! This center offers free admission to a 20-minute film about the park, as well as extensive natural history exhibits that your children will find intriguing. The Sugarlands Visitor Center is also a perfect starting point for several kid friendly hikes, including the Gatlinburg Trail, Cataract Falls Trail, and the Fighting Creek Nature Trail. There are plenty of other great family hiking trails throughout Smoky Mountains National Park too!

3. Ride Bikes Through Cades Cove

Cades Cove

If your child loves to spend time on their bike, they will especially love riding a bike through Cades Cove! The Cades Cove Loop Road is an 11-mile, one-way road that provides a wonderful opportunity for wildlife viewing and touring 19th century homesites, including a working grist mill. While you enjoy biking on this road at any time of year, the best time to take kids for a bike ride is from early May to late September when the loop road is closed to motor vehicle traffic on Wednesday and Saturday mornings until 10 am. Keep in mind that the State of Tennessee requires that children ages 16 and under wear a helmet while riding their bike in the park.

Now since you know some of the top things to do in Smoky Mountains National Park for kids, you and your children can enjoy a fun and educational adventure in the park! To help your kids learn more about the national park prior to your visit, check out the fascinating history of Smoky Mountains National Park!