In our family, 2 people really enjoy hiking, and the other 3, well… really enjoy getting to the destination. So when we’re hiking together we need to find an option that works for everyone. With a relatively short 1.3 mile distance to the falls, the Laurel Falls Trail is an easy family hike in the Smoky Mountains National Park with a lot to see.
A box near the starting point holds a stash of booklets about the surrounding environment. For a couple of quarters, this is a great little piece jam packed with information that coordinates with markers along the trail. You’ll pass through pine and oak forest,as well as ravines and ridges, with changing nature in each. You’re only a short distance from the road, but the sounds of the highway fade away after the first few trail markers, replaced by the sound of rushing water and whispering leaves.
You’ll see people of all ages on the trail, but it’s an especially good choice for our teen and tween hikers since we don’t have to watch them as closely on the more hazardous parts. The last third of the journey to the falls is narrower, with a steep drop on one side. The mountain views from this area are stunning and worth a photo stop. But don’t forget to look at the rocky side of the trail, or you could miss the little nooks of falling water and lichen that look like they could harbor woodland fairies.
70 ft, 2-level Laurel Falls is just ahead, tumbling toward the Little River. You can catch a good view of the lower falls, then cross the footbridge for a pretty photo spot on the broad rocks. It’s a popular spot for a family group picture in front of the upper falls. From there, you can relax and enjoy the falls before returning, or you can continue on. The following portion of the trail is much more rugged and isn’t paved. You’ll reach an old-growth hardwood forest in 1/2 mile, and the trail continues for 3 miles up Cove Mountain.
Tips for hiking Laurel Falls Trail:
- Laurel Falls Trail is one of the most popular in the park, and as usual in National Parks, midday is the most crowded time. The parking areas can be full, with cars lined up on the roadside in both directions. If you’re hoping for an empty trail and unobstructed waterfall photos, earlier or later in the day is better.
- The trail is paved, but not ADA accessible. The center of the trail is in good shape with crumbled edges in some areas. We’ve seen (and brought) strollers, though it’s not really an easy task to push it up to the falls.
- As mentioned, parts of the trail have steep drop-offs and rocks around he falls can be slippery. Watch children closely.
- It can be tempting to rush to the falls without taking the time to enjoy the trail itself. Relax and enjoy the journey!
Thanks for meandering by!