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father and son walking to Clingmans Dome

4 Top Things to Do in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for Families

DATE : October 15, 2019

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is filled with great things to do for guests of all ages. However, we wanted to list a few of the top things for families to do while visiting the park. A trip to the Smokies is one that families will remember for years to come and often becomes a family tradition that is carried on for decades! Here are some experiences that you won’t want to miss on your next family vacation to the Smoky Mountains!

Visit Sugarlands Visitor Center

Sugarlands Visitor Center in the Great Smoky Mountains National ParkThe first suggested stop for families staying on the Gatlinburg side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the Sugarlands Visitor Center. The visitor center is less than 2 miles from our hotel and can be accessed with a 5 minute drive or by taking a hike along the Gatlinburg Trail. Families can expect to find rangers and volunteers that are available to answer questions and also ranger-led programs that are held seasonally. Guests can watch a free video about the park, pick up a park map and newspaper, get info on daily weather forecast in the Smokies and browse the gift shop. Children and adults both will enjoy exploring the natural history exhibits and taking a trip out to Cataract Falls. Before you leave, be sure to pick up a log book to keep track of your families miles on the trails and check into the Junior Ranger Program as well. You can also find a wide range of park information and any needed gear for an adventure in the Smokies at the NOC in Gatlinburg that is located near our hotel. The NOC also offers gear rental on a daily or multi-day basis.

Take a Hike!

sugarlands valley nature trail in the smoky mountainsAfter you’ve stopped by the visitor center and picked up your park map, take the family on a hike! In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you’ll find a trail for everyone!. The Sugarlands Valley Nature Trail is located near the Sugarlands Visitor Center in Gatlinburg and is a perfect trail for those visiting the park for the first time, guests that have physical limitations or for families that have toddlers and strollers in tow. The trail is flat and paved with multiple handicap accessible parking spaces. The trip around the nature trail is short, but it’s still beautiful and you’ll find many gems from the past along the way. If you’re looking for a more challenging hike but one that on the safer side for children, consider checking out the Little River Trail, Middle Prong Trail or Kephart Prong Trail. Families with experience on the trail will enjoy hikes like the Alum Cave Trail, Trillium Gap Trail or Rainbow Falls Trail. If you’re interested in a guided hike, companies like locally owned A Walk in the Woods offer excellent options for families.

Explore Clingmans Dome

view of the mountains from Clingmans DomeOne trail that you won’t want to miss is the trail to the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower. The trail is paved but steep and can be difficult for some. However, the view at the top is certainly worth the trip up! Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Smoky Mountains and on the Appalachian Trail. If you’re not up for the climb, the view is still fantastic from the parking area and you’ll find plenty of learning opportunities as well as the Clingmans Dome Visitor Center. The Spruce Fir Nature Trail that is located on Clingmans Dome Road is a flat and enjoyable stroll for families and a great place to take in the allure of a Spruce Fir forest.

Note: Clingmans Dome Road does close to vehicles during the winter months, please check closure dates when planning your trip to the top of the Smokies!

Visit the Little Greenbrier Schoolhouse and Walker Sisters Homeplace

Little Greenbrier School in the Smoky MountainsIf you’re looking for an excellent way to get outside, explore the Smokies and also blend in a great learning experience for your family, you’ll want to take a trip out to the Little Greenbrier Schoolhouse and Walker Sisters Homeplace. The schoolhouse can be accessed by Little Greenbrier Road or by hiking from the Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area. You will have to hike out to the Walker Sisters Homeplace with either option but the trail is wide, smooth and enjoyable. The schoolhouse was built in 1882 and served as both a church and a school for the community. Everyone in the family will enjoy this little walk through history, but it will be an especially neat experience for children to compare their life at school now to the life of school children in the Smokies so many years ago.

Are you ready to make memories with your family that will last a lifetime and beyond?

At our hotel we have a very deep appreciation for families and for leaving future generations with a legacy and traditions that they can carry own for years to come. Our Hotel was built based on our owner’s grandmother’s hotel, the original Bearskin Motel. For the past 20 years we have focused daily on providing the same hospitality to our guests that Hattie Ogle McGiffin showed to the many visitors that stayed with her over the years in Gatlinburg.

front desk at Bearskin Lodge hotel in GatlinburgBearskin Lodge on the River is located in downtown Gatlinburg and within walking distance of the most loved attractions in the Smokies as well as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Our rooms are spacious but cozy and you’re certain to find that a stay with us feels almost like you’re visiting your grandmother’s house. The friendly staff and fresh baked cookies that are served every afternoon will help to add to the home away from home feeling. Guests also receive a free breakfast each morning and if you book direct by our website or calling the front desk, you’ll be treated to a few extra perks!

If you’re visiting with smaller children, you’ll love Our Junior King Suite! Adults will enjoy the king bed while children will enjoy watching their favorite cartoons from the sleeper sofa and staying warm by the fireplace on chilly nights in the mountains. The King Suite offers the same but with more room, a larger bathroom, an extra television and a balcony overlooking the stream. We also have three Queen Room options that are also perfect for families!

If you’re ready to browse our rooms, rates and available dates, click the link below!

The Bearskin Lodge in Gatlinburg