The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of America’s most beautiful drives. If you are planning a family road trip to the Blue Ridge Parkway your kids, take a break from driving and enjoy these kid-friendly hikes. In fact, getting out of the car and hiking Blue Ridge Parkway with your kids will exponentially improve your enjoyment of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
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Here are our six favorite kid-friendly hikes along the Blue Ridge Parkway:
1. Fallingwater Cascades Trail
Our family visit to the Blue Ridge Parkway was part of our Southern USA road trip with kids. After leaving Shenandoah National Park, we started driving the Blue Ridge Parkway at the north entrance where Skyline Drive ends. After 90 minutes of very scenic driving we arrived at Fallingwater Cascades.
There are many enjoyable, easy hikes on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Fallingwater Cascades is a well treed, short Blue Ridge hiking trail (about 0.7 miles each way, 1.4 miles total) which takes you to a very nice cascading waterfall.
The first half of the Fallingwater Cascades hike is all downhill, via a combination of dirt trail and stone stairs. About halfway down this easy Blue Ridge Parkway hike, the path meets up with a stream with a small natural pool below a bridge where kids can splash around in. There appeared to be a steep drop off downstream of the natural pool, so adults need to stay close!
From this point, the Fallingwater Cascades hiking trail gets steeper downhill as it follows the river. You can hear the water rushing downhill, but you can’t quite see it. After a few switchbacks, you reach the bottom of the Fallingwater Cascades hike where you can stand close to the bottom of the waterfall.
It’s a nice spot with lots of big fallen trees at the foot of the Fallingwater Cascades waterfall. It’s perfect spot for pictures of your kids in front of the cascading waterfall.
The Fallingwater Cascades trail isn’t a loop, so you’ll need to retrace your steps and climb back up the same 364 feet (111m) you just descended.
The Fallingwater Cascades hike was an easy hike for our kids – ours walked the entire way without help.
One element of the Fallingwater Cascades trail which made it especially kid-friendly was the cool bugs. There were lots of cool caterpillars, millipedes, daddy long legs, butterflies, etc. and stuff for the kids to look at with their bug viewer box, which kept them interested and motivated.
We have an entire post full of all our best tips for hiking with kids and this one with all the best hiking gear for kids.
2. Gully Creek Trail
The Gully Creek Trail is found at mile 217.5 in the Cumberland Knob recreation area. This is the hardest of the kid-friendly Blue Ridge Parkway hikes, but if you feel capable of this hike as a family, we recommend it as this was one of our favorite Blue Ridge Parkway hikes.
Gully Creek Trail is a reasonably short 2 mile (3.2km) Cumberland Knob hiking trail, but it’s pretty hard. If your kids are not great hikers, we’d recommend using a carrier to get them through some of the tougher spots.
The Gully Creek hiking trail is a loop which we hiked in a clockwise direction.
The Gully Creek hike immediately descends into a lush, thick forest. The forest cover was so complete, it was 80F (27C) outside and we didn’t need any sunscreen.
The hiking trail keeps on going down and down for approximately 780 feet (240m) until you reach Gully Creek.
The forest gets even more lush the further down you go and by the time you get to Gully Creek it feels almost tropical. The trail gets a little muddy in places, so make sure you have good closed toe hiking shoes on.
Be prepared to take your hiking shoes off though, as the hiking trail crosses the creek several times. I lost count, but I’d guess we crossed Gully Creek about 10 times.
There was one actual wooden bridge along the Gully Creek trail, but the rest were crossing via stepping stones in the creek. We had to take our shoes off for the first crossing, but were able to keep them on after that.
Our five year old daughter was able to do most of the Gully Creek crossings herself, with a little help for balance etc., while our 3 year old boy got carried across most times.
It was a lot of work managing the Gully Creek hiking trail at the bottom of the gully with two small kids, but the kids had a ton of fun. We thought the scenic creek and little waterfalls running through the near tropical forest were so beautiful.
As you follow the Gully Creek trail you continue descending, so by the time you leave the creek and start climbing back up, you have some work to do to get back to your car.
All told, it took us nearly 3 hours to do the Gully Creek hike with our kids. They both did great – our daughter hiked nearly the whole thing herself and was only picked up by Dad in the interest of time.
Our son struggled on the creek crossings and the big climb back up, but he still hiked close to 75% of it himself. We were so proud of them today!
Gully Creek Trail was one of the best hikes of our Southern USA family road trip so far!
Have a blast singing these hiking songs with your kids.
3. Price Lake Trail
Another beautiful easy hike on the Blue Ridge Parkway is found at milepost 297. This easy, kid-friendly Blue Ridge hike is a 2.2 mile (3.5km) walk around the “V” shaped around Price Lake.
The majority of the walk is near the shoreline of Price Lake through a dense rhododendron forest. (Apparently they bloom in early July, so our August visit was too late for them, but I imagine it’d be a pretty incredible walk during this time.)
Even when the flowers are not in bloom, the Price Lake walk offers some nice views of the lake and the mountains beyond.
The kid-friendly walk goes through a campground complete with bathrooms (good for small bladders) and an amphitheater with a stage (good for impromptu talent shows by the kids).
Price Lake is a very flat walk, although there were points where you needed to balance over some logs to get over some muddy spots. It was a kid-friendly Blue Ridge Parkway hike which both of our kids easily walked themselves.
Factoring in the breaks we took at the amphitheater and looking for fish under bridges, etc., the easy Price Lake Blue Ridge Parkway hike took us 1h 45m.
4. Rough Ridge Trail
Rough Ridge is a very popular kid-friendly hike along the Blue Ridge Parkway (milepost 302.8) to an amazing viewpoint of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s only 0.3 miles (0.5km) to the Rough Ridge viewpoint, so it’s a pretty short, but steep hike.
The Rough Ridge hiking path has lots of rocks and trees roots, so footing may be a challenge for some. Both of our kids were able to walk all the way up and down this kid-friendly hike all by themselves.
The Rough Ridge viewpoint is along a long wooden boardwalk with many viewing platforms and benches.
There is also a pathway leading to a viewpoint on a large flat rock, which has a very long drop-off, so watch your kids very closely! Our little guy gave us a heart attack as he bolted from us and ran out onto the rock!
The views from the Rough Ridge boardwalk are pretty spectacular, in fact our host at our Blue Ridge Parkway house rental said they’d make us weep. We didn’t quite break into tears, but it was a truly amazing view of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
5. Hiking Mount Mitchell
Next we drove 90 minutes south on the Blue Ridge Parkway to Mount Mitchell State Park at milepost 349.9. At 6,684 feet above sea level, Mount Mitchell is the highest point in the USA east of the Mississippi River.
What is pretty amazing is that you can drive all the way to the summit of Mount Mitchell. What’s even more exciting is that you can park halfway up the Mount Mitchell summit road and enjoy a hard, but very rewarding hike with the kids to the summit.
There are a series of different trails leading up to the summit of Mount Mitchell. There are good signs around the mountain, but we did find it useful to use our AllTrails app to make sure we were on the right trails.
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Our hike to the summit of Mount Mitchell with kids was along a series of different hiking trails:
We began behind the Visitor Center on Commissary Trail, which is so wide it felt like it was a country road.
This Commissary Trail is actually a bit downhill at the start and had hundreds of butterflies along it, so our kids literally raced the first 1.3 miles (2km) as they chased every single butterfly they could see.
The flowers on the Commissary Trail were very pretty and the occasional views of the mountains below were pretty great too. Enjoy these views as most of this Mount Mitchell hike beyond this point is through a beautiful, but thick forest which doesn’t offer many mountain views.
When the Commissary Trail reached a creek, we turned left and started to follow the Camp Alice Trailhead. This Mount Mitchell hiking trail is much narrower, steeper and harder to walk on.
We let the kids hike this trail for a while, but all the rocks and tree roots were a little too hard on them. We threw the kids on our backs in their carriers and this improved our hiking pace significantly.
After about 0.5 miles (0.8km), the Camp Alice Trail turns right onto the Old Mitchell Trail which takes you to the summit.
At the Mount Mitchell summit, there is a paved trail leading to a viewing platform at the top. This is where you will meet up with the other 99% of the people who simply drove to the top of Mount Mitchell.
The day started off with clear, blue sky but unfortunately a lot of clouds formed as we were hiking up Mount Mitchell, so the views weren’t all that amazing. But we could see some views in a few directions, so we were happy with what we got.
We began our descent through the Balsam Nature Trail, a short, flat kid-friendly hike at the top of Mount Mitchell. There are lots of interpretive signs along this short easy walking trail.
Before long, the Balsam Nature Trail forks – the easy nature trail leads to the left (which goes back to the summit) or you can take the Mt. Mitchell Trail, which is a different hiking trail back down the mountain.
The Mount Mitchell hiking trail isn’t overly steep, but it has lots of rocks (some are wet and a bit slippery) and the ever-present hordes of tree roots. We let the kids hike it for a while, but we eventually put them in their carriers.
Once the steady downhill along the Mt. Mitchell Trail done, you meet up with the Commissary Trail once more. This part of the trail seems to be along an ATV trail with lots of flowers and berry bushes on the sides. The views of the mountains below reappear at this stage.
Before long, Commissary Trail meets up with the creek from the first section of this trail. This time you have to cross the creek it via stepping stones. Then you walk back up the original section of the Commissary Trail that you did at the very beginning of the Mount Mitchell hike.
The advertised length of this Mount Mitchell hiking trail was 5.2 miles (8.4km), but our GPS clocked it at 6.2 miles (10km). It took us exactly 4 hours to complete the loop, with our kids walking about 60-70% of the total distance (mostly the flat and/or downhill sections).
It isn’t an easy hike and if you have small kids, you will likely need to carry them at some point. The footing on the Mount Mitchell hiking trails isn’t always the best, so good shoes are a must.
There were bear warnings posted for the area, so carry bear spray in a holster and make lots of noise while on the trails (usually not a problem hiking with kids!).
It’s hard to find a moderate Blue Ridge Parkway hiking trail. Most Blue Ridge hikes are super short and easy, or they are super long and hard. If you are looking for a fun, scenic and rewarding moderate Blue Ridge Parkway hike, Mount Mitchell is for you.
6. Graveyard Fields Trail
The popular, family-friendly Graveyard Fields hiking area is near the popular resort town of Asheville (which also has excellent kid-friendly hiking) near milepost 418.
Graveyard Fields boasts several modest waterfalls and a nice kid-friendly hike through a river valley. There are several hiking trails in the Graveyard Fields area which give a variety of options for lengths and difficulty.
We chose to hike to the Upper Falls and back for a total of 3.2 miles (5.2km). The Upper Falls trail is a reasonably flat hike, with the exception of the initial descent from the parking lot which is on a steep paved trail.
The kid-friendly hiking trails in Graveyard Fields are in good condition and easy to walk on until you get to the second half of the hike towards the Upper Falls.
At this stage of the hike we had to cross several small creeks and dodge mud puddles, while the dry parts of the trail were rocky with lots of tree roots. Our kid’s hiking pace slowed way down in this part as the footing on the hiking trail was much more challenging for them.
The Upper Falls at Graveyard Fields were nice, and I’m glad we went, but they won’t change your life either. If you are pressed for time, you won’t miss much by skipping them.
The family hike to the Upper Falls was nice enough, but what made this hike a super-fun thing to do with kids was the ripe wild berries! We had read that in late August, Graveyard Fields has massive amounts of wild blueberries and blackberries start to ripen along the trail!
We visited Graveyard Fields on August 19th and the wild berries were just starting to get ripe.
Normally when we are in bear country, we respect the bears need for food and leave the wild berries alone, but the information sign in the parking lot made it clear that eating wild berries at Graveyard Fields was ok to do.
The kids had so much fun looking for ripe berries at Graveyard Fields (although our little guy just liked picking anything off the tree). Although most of the Graveyard Fields wild berries were not ripe yet, we still found plenty to fill our tummies!
The wild berry picking slowed us down significantly, but we managed to get the Graveyard Fields Upper Falls hike done in 3h 20m. Without the wild-berry picking, we would have been done in 2.5 hours.
Southern USA Road Trip with Kids
- Orlando, Florida (Princess Experiences, Essential Disney gear, Disney World Tips, Kid-friendly Orlando restaurants)
- Things to do in Savannah with Kids
- Two Days in Charleston with Kids
- Two Days in Wilmington, NC with Kids
- 6 Kid Friendly Hikes in Shenandoah National Park
- 6 Kid-Friendly Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes
- 7 Kid-friendly Hikes near Asheville, NC
- Things to do in Gatlinburg with Kids
- Nashville with Kids
Visit the Blue Ridge Parkway with Kids
Kids in Parks (information for the kid-friendly hiking trails on the Blue Ridge Parkway)
Family-friendly Blue Ridge Parkway hotels in Boone, NC and Asheville, NC.
Family Friendly Blue Ridge Mountain VRBO rentals
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