Skip to Content

Family-Friendly Hiking Trails Across the US

Family-Friendly Hiking Trails Across the US

Heading out into the great outdoors with the family is pretty much our favorite thing ever. There’s nothing like hitting the trails to explore the beautiful nooks and crannies of our country, from the lush, hidden paths on the East Coast to the awe-inspiring, rocky vistas of the West, and all the incredible scenery in between.

But, throwing a bit of a curveball into our adventures, we have a brave kiddo who’s navigating life with epilepsy, which means we’ve gotta be a tad more picky about our destinations. We’re always on the hunt for spots that are as stunning as they are safe and welcoming for everyone.

Our love for hitting the trails isn’t just about snagging those cool pictures or getting in a solid workout; it’s way bigger. It’s about sticking together through thick and thin, making sure everyone’s having a blast and feeling good. Through a lot of trial and error, we’ve stumbled upon some real gem trails that tick all the boxes for us – they’re safe, beautiful, and everyone from little ones to grandparents can enjoy them without any fuss.

To round things out, we’ve got a family member who’s all about running – and not just the casual jog-around-the-park kind of running. We’re talking serious, competitive running. So, we’ve managed to blend his training runs into our travel plans, discovering some pretty epic trails that offer both a killer workout and breathtaking views.

So, here’s our little treasure trove of the best family-friendly hiking spots we’ve fallen head over heels for. These places are more than just trails to us; they’re adventures that have welcomed us with open arms, serving up gorgeous views and unforgettable experiences. They’re perfect for families like ours that are all about mixing a dash of adventure with a whole lot of safety.

Ready to check them out?

1. Acadia National Park, Maine – Jordan Pond Path & The Bubbles

Photo by Joseph Philipson, Friends of Acadia, NPS

Jordan Pond Path offers an easy, scenic 3.3-mile loop around Jordan Pond, with the North and South Bubble mountains serving as a stunning backdrop. It’s perfect for families, offering gentle terrain and iconic views. After circling the pond, if your family is up for a bit more adventure, consider tackling The Bubbles. This additional hike is a bit more challenging but brings you to unique rock formations and vistas overlooking Jordan Pond. The ascent is worth the effort for the panoramic views at the top.

Explore the Coastline and Enjoy Fresh Lobster: Acadia National Park is a treasure trove of rugged coastlines, majestic forests, and granite peaks like Cadillac Mountain. After a day of hiking, unwind by taking a scenic drive along Park Loop Road for breathtaking ocean views. Don’t miss the chance to savor Maine’s famous lobster at a local eatery. For a hands-on family adventure, join a guided tour to learn about lobster fishing—a memorable experience that combines education with fun.

Family Vacations US Tip: Visit in the fall to witness the spectacular autumn foliage that Acadia is famous for. The park’s beauty during this season is unmatched, and the cooler temperatures make for a pleasant hike.

2. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee/North Carolina – Laurel Falls Trail & Cades Cove Loop

While Laurel Falls Trail is an accessible, family-friendly path leading to a stunning waterfall, consider adding Cades Cove Loop to your itinerary. This 11-mile one-way loop road offers opportunities to see wildlife, historical buildings, and beautiful mountain scenery from the comfort of your vehicle—an excellent option for families looking to explore more of the park without extensive hiking.

Family Vacations US Tip: Cades Cove Loop is also a fantastic spot for a family bike ride. On certain days, the loop is closed to vehicle traffic, offering a safe and peaceful biking experience. Check the park’s schedule before you go.

Witness Biodiversity and Historic Homesteads: The Great Smoky Mountains offer more than just trails; they’re a sanctuary of diverse ecosystems and rich history. Venture beyond the hikes to explore the historic buildings of Cades Cove, where you can step back in time and learn about the lives of early settlers. For wildlife enthusiasts, the park’s biodiversity offers ample opportunities for bird watching and elk spotting, especially in the Cataloochee Valley. The synchronous fireflies display in early summer is a magical experience not to be missed.

3. Yosemite National Park, California – Lower Yosemite Fall Trail

Lower Yosemite Fall Trail is a must-see, offering an easy walk to the base of the spectacular waterfall. For another accessible yet profoundly rewarding experience, head to Bridalveil Fall Trail. This short 0.5-mile round-trip trail leads to the base of Bridalveil Fall, one of the most prominent waterfalls in Yosemite Valley, especially in the spring. The mist from the waterfall creates a cool and refreshing environment, which can be quite pleasant on a warm day.

Family Vacations US Tip: For a quiet moment in Yosemite, visit the Yosemite Chapel, the oldest structure in Yosemite Valley. Its quaint charm and peaceful surroundings offer a perfect spot for family reflection.

Rock Climbing and Stargazing Adventures: Yosemite’s granite cliffs are a climber’s paradise. Families can enroll in rock climbing lessons suitable for beginners, making for an exhilarating day out. As night falls, the park transforms into a celestial wonderland. Participate in a ranger-led stargazing program to learn about constellations and marvel at the clarity of the Milky Way from Glacier Point. Yosemite’s natural splendor extends from its valley floor to the night sky, offering awe-inspiring views day and night.

4. Zion National Park, Utah – Riverside Walk

The Riverside Walk is an excellent introduction to Zion’s beauty, offering easy access to the Virgin River and stunning canyon views. To add variety to your Zion adventure, consider the Emerald Pools Trail. This hike offers three levels of trails—Lower, Middle, and Upper—each leading to beautiful waterfalls and vibrant, clear pools. The Lower Emerald Pool Trail is particularly family-friendly, offering a relatively easy hike with the reward of seeing waterfalls up close.

Family Vacations US Tip: Pack water shoes for the kids. After hiking, they’ll likely want to wade in the Virgin River or explore the base of the waterfalls where the ground can be rocky and slippery.

River Tubing and Cultural History: Beyond its majestic hikes, Zion National Park invites families to cool off with a tubing adventure on the Virgin River—a refreshing way to appreciate the park’s stunning canyon scenery. For a dose of cultural history, visit the Zion Human History Museum to learn about the park’s Native American heritage and pioneer past. The museum’s interactive exhibits and educational programs make history come alive for visitors of all ages, enriching your Zion exploration with meaningful context.

Incorporating these trails into your family vacation plans offers a mix of easy and slightly challenging hikes, ensuring a rich, outdoor experience for everyone. Whether it’s marveling at majestic waterfalls, enjoying panoramic vistas, or simply enjoying a leisurely walk in some of the country’s most beautiful national parks, these adventures are sure to strengthen family bonds and create lasting memories. Always remember to check the current conditions and accessibility of trails before heading out, ensuring a safe and enjoyable trip for the whole family.