When it comes to hiking it seems like everyone has a different skill and interest level, so here are four family-friendly fall hikes to please most everyone. An all-day trek covering many miles may be your thing; however someone in your bunch may prefer just a short, quiet walk in the woods. With that in mind, we have some suggestions for some great fall hikes that range from easy to difficult.
Lace up your hiking boots, or your walking shoes, do a couple of simple stretches, and enjoy kicking through the colorful and crunchy leaves on these favorite trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park this season!
- Sugarlands Nature Trail (.5 mile roundtrip, easy)
Sugarlands Nature Trail is found 1/4 mile south of Sugarlands Visitor Center on Newfound Gap Road. The trail is a paved, handicap accessible, path that is 1/2 mile in length. The trail follows the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River upstream with benches for relaxing and plenty of access for trout fisherman. The Sugarland Valley is acclaimed for the beautiful fall foliage. Once dominated by the sugar maple tree, today it is a mixed hardwood forest with a dazzling diversity of fall color.
- Laurel Falls Trail (2.6 miles roundtrip, moderate)
The Laurel Falls trailhead is on Little River Road four miles west of Sugarlands Visitor Center. The trail is paved but is considered moderate in difficulty. The 2.6 mile round-trip hike is well worth it with a 80-foot tall waterfall to reward your effort. If you hit this trail at the right time of the season the fall colors are amazing! We suggest early to mid October. This is one of the Park’s busiest trails, so a good off-time to hike is during the week or early before 10:00 a.m.
- Abrams Falls Trail (5 miles roundtrip, moderate)
The Abrams Falls Trail is found halfway around the Cades Cove Loop Road approximately 1/2 mile before the Cable Mill Historic Area and Visitor Center. The hike is 5 miles round trip and is considered moderate in difficulty. Again the rewards for this hike are big with an up close view of the 20-foot tall Abrams Falls from its base. Keep an eye on the creek as you walk along and you may be fortunate to see some playful river otters. The best chance for viewing fall color in Cades Cove is usually mid-to-late October due to its lower elevation; however, with sweeping views of the Stateline Divide there is always some color in view at some elevation.
- Alum Cave Bluffs Trail (4.6 miles roundtrip, difficult)
Alum Cave Bluffs Trail is one of the most popular in the Smokies and is found on Newfound Gap Road 8.6 miles south of Sugarlands Visitor Center. Get an early start and avoid the crowds. This relatively short walk, 2.3 miles one way, is considered difficult due to a rise in elevation of almost 1,500 feet. The steep climb does however provide amazing views of some of the most famous geologic features in the Park, like Arch Rock and the Chimneys. The hike to the bluffs is 4.6 miles round-trip. This hike combines Cove Hardwood Forest and the edge of the Canadian Zone Spruce Fir Forest giving the hiker the opportunity to experience a wide diversity of fall color. The Smokies are often described as being on fire during the fall when the vibrant red and yellow foliage are at peak. Don’t miss your chance to see it in 2015.
Keep up with the Fall Color Report from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Service!
HIKER PLANNING TIP: Always be prepared for the unexpected when you step into the wilds of the Great Smoky Mountains. For a complete breakdown of the minimal supplies you should always carry visit our blog on the Ten Essentials.