Head out on the trails with these short and easy hikes near Asheville, NC. They are perfect for the entire family.
Along with its delicious food scene, Asheville’s Blue Ridge Mountains are famous. The hiking in and around the city is fantastic, especially with all of those cascading waterfalls.
Yet, the mountains can also be intimidating whether you are an experienced hiker or a more casual vacation trekker.
Some trails have extremely high elevation gains and are much longer while others are quick and simple.
If you are looking for short hikes near Asheville, NC, especially if you are wondering how to pick the best family-friendly hikes in Asheville, we got you!
It’s not always easy to gauge the terrain or what to expect from hiking apps. Plus, nothing beats firsthand experience.
Below, find kid-friendly hikes in Asheville that will take you across the city’s historic landmarks and onto the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Head to the Pisgah National Forest and chase those waterfalls near Hendersonville, NC at DuPont State Forest. See where you can picnic with the cows or on top of a mountain bald.
These family-friendly hikes in Asheville are sure to help you make the most out of Mother Nature and all that the Western North Carolina mountains have to offer without the worry.
Don’t forget to let us know your favorite kid-friendly hikes near Asheville, too. Let’s get started.
Read more about all of Asheville’s best hiking trails locals love.
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10 Kid-Friendly & Easy Hikes Near Asheville, NC
By Tori Curran
1. DuPont State Forest’s 3 Waterfalls Hike
DuPont State Forest’s waterfall hikes to Hooker Falls, Triple Falls, and High Falls are a must for beautiful and easy hikes near Asheville.
Plus, Triple Falls is a filming location for The Hunger Games.
Choose a short, less-than-one-mile out-and-back hike or visit all three waterfalls for a lengthier stay. Either way, you can’t beat those views.
Park at the Hooker Falls Access Area and begin with one of the most kid-friendly hikes near Asheville: the .3-mile trek down to Hooker Falls.
With only a bit of elevation gain, the kids will be sprinting down to the waterfall to climb rocks or cool off in the warmer months. Just remember that there are no active lifeguards on duty.
For families that are up for more and can handle a slightly increased elevation, continue on to Triple Falls and High Falls.
From the same access area, hike about half a mile up the gravel path until you spy the waterfall. There is a picnic area for the little ones (and big ones) to take a lunch break.
Another .6 miles up, take a left onto High Falls Loop to access the third waterfall, High Falls.
Additional trails, including the Covered Bridge Trail, can be added on for overachievers. The Three Waterfall Hike will total about three miles round trip, with moderate terrain.
While these three short hikes near Asheville feature gravel, decent elevation gain, and spectacular views, they’re not particularly challenging.
Our four-year-old managed the majority of the hike himself, while our two-year-old was in and out of his Osprey toddler carrier.
Head to Hendersonville afterward for lunch and kid-friendly museums.
2. Chimney Rock State Park: Outcroppings Trail & Exclamation Point Trail
As a The Last of the Mohicans filming site, Chimney Rock State Park is undoubtedly one of the most popular and most crowded family-friendly hikes near Asheville.
It’s also a fabulous Asheville day-tripping option. You will have to pay to enter the park.
Chimney Rock, the 535 million-year-old monolith for which the park is named, is accessible either by the Outcroppings Trail or via elevator.
While the trail is steep with 494 steps, it is safe and well maintained. Plus, there are plenty of breathtaking viewpoints to break up the hike, including The Grotto and Pulpit Rock.
Families can continue on to the Exclamation Point Trail. Across from the stairs, take a series of switchbacks and steps through the cliffside.
While the trail is mostly uphill and slightly strenuous, it’s only about twenty minutes to Exclamation Point, with plenty of points of interest along the way.
Pause at the Opera Box, overlooking Hickory Nut Gap and Lake Lure, then again at the iconic Devil’s Head. Enjoy a picnic and more views at Exclamation Point, then relish in the downhill hike back.
Head over to Chimney Rock’s website for ticket information.
3. Catawba Falls Trail
If you are looking for impressive, but easy hikes near Asheville, head to the Catawba Falls Trailhead for another waterfall hike.
About thirty minutes outside of Asheville and off of I-40, visitors can easily find the Catawba Falls Trailhead parking lot.
From here, it’s an easy 1.5-mile hike (3 miles round trip) with a mild but steady incline to the 100-foot waterfall. Leashed dogs are welcome here, as well.
Along the way, kids will enjoy crossing the river via the footbridge, exploring some of the smaller cascades, and spying historic buildings dating back to the 1920s. These sites are accessible by additional short trails.
The trail ends at the base of Catawba Falls. While you may be tempted to hike up to Upper Catawba Falls, know that it is not recommended.
While short, the hike to the upper falls is extremely dangerous, and we don’t suggest it for children.
Read more about all of Asheville’s breathtaking waterfall hikes.
4. Bent Creek Experimental Forest’s Homestead Trail
While we haven’t personally hiked here yet, we are eyeing Bent Creek and Lake Powhatan for our next trip to Asheville with the kids. Christine and Tom frequent Bent Creek’s trails.
You’ll find dozens of short and easy hikes in Asheville in the Bent Creek Experimental Forest. Pick one for a quick but leisurely walk or piece together a longer hike if you’re up for it.
The easy .7 mile out and back Homestead Trail (Bent Creek Trail 333) hugs Lake Powhatan and is popular among families. Hikers will pass Lake Powhatan, the dam, and footbridges.
Add the Deerfield Loop or Small Creek Trail for another one to two miles of easy, pleasant hiking. For a much longer but easy hike, link up to the Hard Times Trail, which also connects into The NC Arboretum.
You’ll also see families teaching their younger children how to mountain bike along a few of Bent Creek’s trails. For short hikes in Asheville, you can’t go wrong in this area.
5. Black Balsam Knob Via Art Loeb Trail
Black Balsam Knob, also known as Black Balsam Bald, is the second-highest mountain in the Black Balsam Mountains. Don’t let the elevation deter you though.
The 1.5-mile out and back to Black Balsam via Art Loeb Trail to the top is one of the most popular kid-friendly hikes near Asheville with only 347 feet of elevation gain.
Spy beautiful wildflowers, take in the gorgeous panoramic views of the mountains, and peep the foliage during the fall.
Black Balsam via Art Loeb Trail is also one of the most frequented short hikes near Asheville, so plan your 45-minute drive from the city accordingly and consider arriving early.
Read more about all of the gorgeous Blue Ridge Parkway hikes in North Carolina.
6. Max Patch
About an hour and a quarter outside Asheville on the Tennessee-North Carolina Border, Max Patch is the farthest of our recommended short hikes near Asheville.
A 1.5-mile loop, Max Patch intersects with the famed Appalachian Trail and provides some of the most spectacular views of the mountains.
If you’re looking for bucket list, family-friendly hikes near Asheville, this is it. Don’t forget to pack a picnic, too, but remember to take your trash with you.
From the Max Patch parking lot, hike along rolling hills and wildflowers before coming to an intersection for the AT. Stay to the right to keep on the Max Patch Loop or hike up the AT to head straight to the top of the mountain.
Please just keep in mind that the road to Max Patch’s trailhead can be more difficult to navigate and a tad frightening in poor weather.
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7. Biltmore Estate Trails
Did you know that the Biltmore Estate offers some of its very own family-friendly hikes in Asheville? You will need an annual pass or ticket to enter, though.
While the twenty-two miles of trails range in difficulty, Biltmore visitors will find plenty of easy and moderately short hikes.
Stroll the one-mile mostly paved Azalea Garden or explore the Historic Gardens.
Moderate, but mostly flat, trails include the three-mile Lagoon Trail, the six-mile Farm Trail, and the Westover Trails. The Deerpark Trail will treat you to a side view of Biltmore Estate and end in the gardens.
Biltmore’s trails are a great place to start experiencing some of WNC’s naturescapes and find amazing, but easy, kid-friendly hikes in Asheville. Bamboo forests included.
Know that you can also bring your own bikes or rent mountain bikes from the Bike Barn. The Lagoon Trail is an especially popular biking trail amongst families and their littles.
A few more family-friendly hikes near Asheville from Christine of UA
8. Bearwallow Mountain
Another one of the most popular short hikes near Asheville, either take the wide gravel access road or more challenging forest trail up to a beautiful meadow filled with cows. That’s Bearwallow Mountain.
You can even trek one trail and take the other down to create a loop. The cows freely roam around you and may throw you some shade. Watch out for those cow pies too.
Bearwallow Mountain is an easy 2-mile hike that is perfect for picnics and sunsets. This is also a great fall and winter hike.
9. Moore Cove Falls
Moore Cove Falls is one of the best easy hikes near Asheville, especially for families. Trek a 1.4-mile out and back straight to a 50-foot waterfall. Never climb these falls, though — there have been causalities.
The trail may grow a bit muddy based on the season, and you’ll cross small wooden bridges with a few narrower spots along the trail.
Moore Cove Falls is located just past Looking Glass Falls in the Pisgah National Forest off of the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway. Sliding Rock is also nearby.
10. Oconaluftee River Trail
Although a bit of a drive, if you are craving a quick introduction to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, head to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center and River Trail.
The Oconaluftee River Trail is one of two trails in the Smoky Mountains where visitors can walk their dogs on a leash and/or ride bikes.
Encounter a beautiful 3-mile nature walk along the Oconaluftee River. You don’t have to follow the trail all the way to the end since it’s an out and back.
Encounter elk from afar, and spot wildflowers and birds. View exhibits educating visitors about Cherokee artwork, traditions, and spiritual beliefs.
For families, you’ll also pass the open-air Mountain Farm Museum. Freely explore a collection of log buildings dating back to the late 1800s and early 1900s. Don’t miss the log farmhouse, barn, and apple house.
You can also view the Davis House, which is constructed from American Chestnut wood. Be sure to walk over to Mingus Mill. See how families lived and worked in the Appalachian Mountains years ago.
Lastly, enjoy the amenities of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. Find restrooms, maps, and even a few Park Rangers to answer your questions.
The local gift shop is perfect if you need more snacks, want to stock up on water, or if you wish to grab local literature and souvenirs. Bear plushes included.
If you don’t mind stairs, Mingo Falls is also a gorgeous short hike nearby.
A Note On Skinny Dip Falls**
**We’d also normally suggest Skinny Dip Falls as the perfect kid-friendly hike near Asheville, especially since it’s a bustling swimming hole for families.
However, with the recent 2021 flooding, Skinny Dip is unrecognizable and in need of repairs. Certain areas are especially dangerous. Floods have washed away the bridge.
We will keep our eye on updates for the summer of 2022. Sliding Rock is also currently closed.
Lastly, if hiking seems a tad much, read more about Asheville’s quaint parks and gardens.
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Thank you to Uncorked Asheville contributor, Tori Curran from Explore With Tori
Tori is a mom to two boys, living in New York but adventuring everywhere, usually with a toddler on her back. She’s an avid traveler, nature junkie, and writer encouraging families to get outside and start exploring the world. When she’s not hiking or traveling, you can find her lost in a book, watching Bravo reruns, or obsessively decluttering her home.
Which short hikes near Asheville, NC do you love?
There are a plethora of easy hikes near Asheville. Which ones do you frequent or most enjoy? What are your favorite family-friendly trails? Let us know in the comments.