Whether you’re local, new to Asheville or visiting Asheville with your family, getting out into the mountains is a must do activity for families with energetic children! When you have younger children, figuring out which hikes are safe for kids while also being engaging and fun for them (and for you) can be a daunting task! Because I’m an Asheville native who has hiked all over these Blue Ridge Mountains and because I’m a mom with a rambunctious, energetic 6yr old boy, who also survived a pandemic (read: hiking for my sanity) and because I hike fairly regularly, I’ve done all work for you (including actually doing all of these hikes with my son)! So, without further adieu, I give you: a decent list (from an actual local) of The Best Family Friendly Hikes near Asheville!
Waterfall Hikes with Kids near Asheville:
Little Bradley Falls – Saluda, NC
Located just about 45 minutes south of Asheville in the Green River area of Saluda, Little Bradley Falls is an exceptionally beautiful 50 foot, multi-tiered waterfall at the end of an easy, almost two mile roundtrip hike through a dense hardwood forest with wildflowers to frolic in, downed logs to climb over, a creek crossing to get a little wet and a big payoff at the end! Little Bradley Falls has lots of spots to park it for a picnic and a great swimming hole at the base of the falls which isn’t too deep, has clean water and best of all, it’s pretty safe to let your kids splash around in (of course you should always take the usual precautions around water & potentially slippery river rocks!)
Hot Pro Tip: Never ever climb waterfalls. The rocks are super slippery and it’s really dangerous (so many tourists get severely injured or killed in WNC every year trying to climb around waterfalls, seriously, look it up!). You’ll also want to wear comfortable hiking / water shoes as you’ll be crossing the creek on the way to the falls and if you’re planning to play in the swimming hole at the base of the falls, river rocks are slippery and hurt your bare feet!
PS: Booking a Family Portrait Session while you’re at it is always an amazing idea! Imagine having images like this on your walls! You can do that here: Make it Happen!
Catawba Falls – Old Fort, NC
*Catawba Falls is closed until Spring 2024 for trail restoration
Also a short 45 minute drive east of Asheville, in a little town at the base of the black mountains called Old Fort, the Catawba Falls trail is one of the more popular waterfall hikes in the area due to it’s close proximity to Asheville! The trail takes you through a dense, shady hardwood forrest, walking you along the Catawba River for most of the journey! (read: lots of opportunities for kids and dogs to play in the river along the way!) At just over 2.5 miles out and back, with a 300 foot elevation gain, it’s a moderate hike that’s great for families with kids and dogs. At the end of the trail, the big pay off is this beautiful, multi tiered waterfall cascading over moss and plant covered rocks with a cool swimming hole at the base for the falls! There’s plenty of large boulders around the falls which make a great place to rest, take in the sights and sounds of the falls or enjoy some snacks before your return hike!
PS: Booking a Family Portrait Session while you’re at it is always an amazing idea! Imagine having images like this on your walls! You can do that here: Asheville’s #1 Family Photographer
Hooker Falls – Dupont State Forrest near Brevard, NC
About an hour from Asheville, Hooker Falls is one of four scenic waterfalls along the Little River in DuPont State Forest outside of Brevard! If you wanted to make a day of it, you could hike to the others as well: Triple Falls (one mile away), High Falls (1.5 miles) and Bridal Veil Falls . Hooker Falls made my list for Best Family Friendly Hikes near Asheville because 1. it’s an easy drive and 2. an even easier hike into the falls (only 1/4 mile) which means it’s really easy for little ones! Hooker Falls is the only waterfall area in DuPont State Forest that is safe for swimming. Hooker Falls is part of the bigger Cascade Lake, so there’s not a strong current which makes it a fun spot to take a dip during the summer months! There are plenty of boulders to sit and climb on, lots of forrest to explore and you can even walk behind the falls!
Hot Pro Tip: Bring a Picnic and some Floats! Because the trail isn’t that long or difficult, it’s easy to hike in with food / coolers and floats! It’s the perfect spot to stay a while! Please, always remember to leave no trace!
PS: Booking a Family Portrait Session while you’re at it is always an amazing idea! Imagine having images like this on your walls! You can do that here: Hook it Up!
Mountain Top Hikes with Kids near Asheville:
Max Patch- Hot Springs, NC
About an hour and fifteen minutes west of Asheville, Max Patch sits on the NC / TN border along the Appalachian Trail! Imagine a 4,600-ft. bald mountain with 360 degree rolling Blue Ridge Mountain Views as far as the eye can see! There’s tall prairie grasses, beautiful old wooden fencing and it’s just spectacular! I can still remember the first time I hiked to the top, it brought me to literal tears it was so beautiful! The hike to the top is about two miles round trip and it’s gradual enough that it feels like a pretty easy hike for little ones! I enjoy hiking the balds with big payoffs with little ones because there are no edges, ledges or rocks that they can hurt themselves on (win / win)! This is for sure one of the very Best Family Friendly Hikes near Asheville!
Hot Pro Tip: Bring a Kite, a Blanket and a Picnic! You’re gonna wanna stay a while! In fact, you may never want to leave! Also, dress in layers and definitely bring a hoodie bc its a good ten degrees cooler up there and it can get windy! (It’s a bald with no trees to block the wind!)
PS: Booking a Family Portrait Session while you’re at it is always an amazing idea! Imagine having images like this on your walls! You can do that here: Yasssss Please!
Black Balsam Knob – Blue Ridge Parkway
Black Balsam is included on this list because not only is it the most popular but also one of the Best Family Friendly Hikes near Asheville! Your adventure begins at the Art Loeb Trailhead, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway near milepost 420 (about 26 miles south of Asheville). This is a beautiful beginner & kid friendly trail at just 1.4 miles roundtrip to the summit! This hike delivers stunning Blue Ridge Mountain views and is sure to keep your children engaged because of the drastic change in landscape throughout the journey (you’ll travel through a balsam fir evergreen forest to wildflower fields and large rock outcrops to scramble up!) At the summit, you’ll enjoy 360 degree rolling Blue Ridge Mountain views as the balds are almost entirely devoid of trees! In the summer, everything is so green, it looks more like Ireland than North Carolina! Take a blanket and a picnic because you’ll definitely want to hang out for a while!
PS: Booking a Family Portrait Session while you’re at it is always an amazing idea! Imagine having images like this on your walls! You can do that here: Let’s do it!
Roan Mountain – Mitchell County, NC
Roan Mountain is spectacularly beautiful, wild and rugged! It’s a five-mile ridgetop balds hike that ranges in elevation to a lofty 6,286 ft. at Roan High Knob! You can hike as little or as much of the ridge line as you’d like, it’s an out and back trail! The Appalachian Trail crosses the grassy summits of Roan Mountain and this hike delivers incredible panoramic mountain views from the balds! Roan Mountain is famous for it’s gorgeous Catawba Rhododendron blooms each June. Roan Mountain / Carver’s Gap is a really satisfying hike that you’ll never forget!
Hot Pro Tip: Because of its elevation, Roan Mountain is really unpredictable! It could be sunny down in Burnsville and then you could be entirely in a cloud up on Roan Mountain! Be prepared! Always dress in layers, if hiking in the spring or fall, wear a jacket and bring a beanie & gloves! Lastly, you should definitely bring a rain / wind jacket (anytime) you’re going up to Roan Mountain, just incase!
PS: Booking a Family Portrait Session while you’re at it is always an amazing idea! Imagine having images like this on your walls! You can do that here: Take me to Where the Magic Happens!
If you would like to learn more about Little Bradley Falls, Catawba Falls or Hooker Falls, Max Patch, Black Balsam Knob or Roan Mountain you can click the links for more information & directions to the trailheads!