8 Hiking Tips For Your Family Vacation

Hiking is a wonderful exercise and the best way to see the beautiful scenery of the Smoky Mountains is by “hitting the trail”. Whether you want to do a short trail or a long vigorous one you’ll find what you need in the Smoky Mountain National Park. It’s a great way to spend time with your loved ones and getting smaller kids out can really burn some of their energy too.

  • Take noted trails— Don’t go off course and let someone know what trail you plan to take prior to heading out. This helps if you are gone longer than you planned and (God forbid) if you were to get hurt you’re more likely to be found quicker. Some popular trails in the Smoky Mountains are:
    • Gatlinburg Trail. One of the easy trails. It’s great if you want to leisurely stroll and is only 3.8 miles round trip. Leashed pets and bikes are welcome and kids really love this trail because it runs by a creek. If they get a little tired of the walk they can kick off their shoes and splash around in the river for a little bit. The trail starts at the Sugarland Visitor Center and ends right at the city limits of Gatlinburg.
    • Alum Cave Trail. Classified as a moderate trail. This trail is approximately a 4.5 mile hike. You’ll be hiking along the Alum Creek for the first stretch and then you’ll start climbing steps to reach Inspiration point. The views from this point is worth the climb. The views along the way are well worth the entire hike.
    • Rainbow Falls Trail. It’s a 5.6 mile hike and you WILL feel the burn. The first part will have you at a steady climb. Rewarding sites can be found along this part of the trail. Even midway you’ll appreciate choosing this trail. The last 4 miles have you climbing up to the top of the Mt. Leconte summit. Your camera is really going to come in handy for this one.
  • Don’t hike alone — It’s a safety precaution. Not to mention the company would be nice. Take a cell phone as well but there are no guarantees you’ll have cell phone service. Although, once you find yourself in the middle of the natural beauty of the Smoky Mountains you won’t mind not being bothered by a ringing phone.
  • Lights, camera, action! — Well, maybe just the camera. There are a lots of photo ops along the trail. You might come upon a beautiful landscape or have a funny picture of the kids that you will want to remember. You might just want to take a picture to prove that yes, you actually went on a hike while on vacation.
  • Wear weather appropriate clothing and SHOES — This one might be common sense but you’d be surprised. Do not wear flip flops or slips ons. You’ll be sorry you chose those shoes halfway through your hike. Warm weather calls for light clothes, cold weather calls for a jacket. Boots support your ankles better and are great if you want to hike rougher trails.
  • Water! No sodas — Drinks like Gatorade or Powerade would work too. You don’t want to get halfway through the hike and really wish you had something to drink. Hiking is exercise and your body needs the hydration.
  • Beware of wildlife and insects — Bug repellent would be your best friend. Especially in the summer months. You would want to avoid wearing hairspray, lotion, perfume/cologne, anything scented. It makes you a magnet for all the bugs. Most of the time the only wildlife you’ll encounter is a squirrel, chipmunk, those types of animals. Believe it or not, the wildlife is more frightened by you than you are of it (yes, even the bears although I know some people who could be the argument to that statement). Obviously do NOT taunt any of the larger animals. Get in the most non-defensive position you can… fetal position and play dead (even though the heart attack you feel like you’re experiencing might make you think you will actually die).
  • Pack lightly — Wanting to have a picnic along the trail? Remember you have to carry all the food that you’re packing. If you’re packing a backpack for a long adventure then this applies to you too. Do you really need all that trail mix you have packed?
  • First air kit — It’s pretty self explanatory. If you get hurt you’re going to need something to protect the area from a possible infection.

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