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Jonathan Stull | 07.03.2017

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the East Coast’s idyllic mountain scenes. Gentle, rolling mountains, creeks embedded deep in the forest, and the blue haze that gives the mountains their name. This is a place full of history dating back to the Colonial Era and beyond, the ancestral home of the Cherokee before the arrival of Europeans. Today, it is an adventure for the whole family, with creekside walks and fireflies that glow in synchrony. Its wide range of hikes, cool waters, and comfortable amenities make it an ideal place to get out of town and into the beauty of nature.

Begin your weekend at Cades Cove. The campground is one of the most popular in the park, and for good reason. It offers easy access to the park and unparalleled amenities, especially for families. In addition to the standards like fire rings and picnic tables, a nearby store provides for camping supplies, and bike rentals are available from $10 per day. Take a morning ride, or you can choose from one of the many hiking trails nearby. Abrams Falls is an easy 2.5 miles to a 20-foot cascade. Cades Cove Loop offers 11 miles of meadows and historical homesteads with minimal elevation gain. The Middle Prong Trail traverses 8 miles of old railroad bed, which allows for smooth hiking along a river with numerous cascades and pools. The Schoolhouse Gap Trail is a shorter journey that includes a side trail to White Oak Sinks, a wildflower hideaway.

Complete your weekend with a night at Elkmont Campground or Smokemont Campground. Elkmont is the biggest tent campground in the park, and it offers the closest access to nearby trails. However, not far away, Smokemont Campground is of comparable size with fewer crowds. If you’re looking for a little more solitude with your little ones and you don’t mind a longer drive to destinations, head to Smokemont. The Oconaluftee River Trail is one of the best trails in the park for families—short, flat, and with plenty of opportunities to explore wildflowers and rivers in the Smokies. The Mountain Farm Museum, also just minutes from the campground, offers educational opportunities. Deeper into the park is the Little River Trail, another relatively short, level hike that’s perfect for families. In the opposite direction on Highway 441 toward Cherokee, Deep Creek Loop offers waterfalls, wildflowers, and if your family is able, tubing along the creek. It’s a perfect way to end your journey and head home relaxed and happy with your family.

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