Easy Hikes for Kids on the Blue Ridge Parkway

easy hike for kids rough ridge north carolina
Rough Ridge

The Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina is littered with hundreds of miles of hiking trails, making it a fantastic place to introduce your children to the joys of hiking and exploring the natural world. However, the shear amount of choices can get overwhelming if you’re just starting to research easy hikes for kids on the Blue Ridge Parkway. In this guide, we’ll help you navigate the top 5 easiest hikes on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. If you’re looking for child-friendly hikes that offer scenic beauty without being too strenuous, these five trails fit the bill!

Beacon Heights Trail

easy hike for kids on blue ridge parkway beacon heights
Beacon Heights Overlook

Trail Length: 0.7 miles (round trip)

Difficulty: Easy

 

Beacon Heights is an ideal introductory trail for hiking with kids on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This short, easy trail offers stunning panoramic views and is accessible for most skill levels.

 

To access the trailhead, head to Milepost 305.2 off the Blue Ridge Parkway, near Linville, North Carolina. There is a paved parking area where you’ll start the trail off by crossing a footbridge over a small waterfall. At approximately 0.2 miles into the hike, you’ll come across a trail option to the left, which is the Tanawha Trail. This path eventually leads to Rough Ridge (see next hike) or The Linn Cove Viaduct. However, if you’re looking to stay on the easy hike for kids, keep right at this point.

 

Once you are nearing the summit, you’ll see the trail splits into two paths. Each path offers a short, easy walk to incredible long-range mountain views. The path to the right will take you to a south-facing granite rock sitting at 4,430 feet in elevation. The path to the left takes you to another breathtaking clearing where you can see Grandfather Mountain in the distance. Both options are easily managed by children, so if you have the time, try both to compare the views!

Rough Ridge Overlook Trail

best hikes for kids off blue ridge parkway rough ridge
Rough Ridge Overlook

Trail Length: 1.2 miles (round trip)

Difficulty: Moderate

 

Rough Ridge Overlook Trail, located along the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 302.8, is a slightly more challenging hike, but still suitable for children with some hiking experience. You’ll find hikers of all skill levels as you trek through lush rhododendron tunnels before landing at a breathtaking overlook with long-range mountain views. This iconic North Carolina view is mesmerizing anytime of year, but if you’re lucky enough to visit in late October, the fall leaves will be changing into their finest colors for the autumn show!

 

From several large boulders along the hike, you and your children can view the most famous part of the Blue Ridge Parkway; the Linn Cove Viaduct. This unique section of the scenic roadway was constructed to seamlessly flow with the Blue Ridge Mountains. Rough Ridge truly stands out from the rest due to the unmatched scenery and diverse ecosystem found in the area. Boardwalks are placed in sections of this hike to protect the delicate ecosystem thriving in the area, so please practice responsible tourism and stay on the designated trail. You’ll also need to leave Fido at home; dogs are not allowed on this one!

Black Balsam Knob via Art Loeb Trail

easy hike for kids off blue ridge parkway black balsam knob
Black Balsam Knob

Trail Length: 1.4 miles (round trip)

Difficulty: Moderate

 

The Black Balsam area in Pisgah National Forest offers numerous trail options, making it adaptable for all hiking abilities. Younger children can explore the meadows and open balds while older kids may enjoy longer hikes to Tennent Mountain. If you’re looking for an easy hike for kids on the Blue Ridge Parkway, head to Black Balsam Knob via the Art Loeb Trail. This 1.4 mile trail has 354 feet in elevation change, but is a popular choice for families of all ages. Regardless of your chosen route, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and rolling hills.

 

There are multiple access points to reach the summit of Black Balsam Knob, but the child-friendly one is via the Art Loeb trail off Black Balsam Road (near Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 420.2). You’ll start the trail by walking on a gravel path through dense, evergreen forests. Be prepared for a drastic change of scenery when you start to climb granite rocks that have been worn down over millions of years. Based on the smooth, wave-like pattern of the rocks, you’ll think you’re walking on hardened lava!

 

Once you reach the summit at 6,214 feet, you’ll be rewarded with sweeping mountain views in all directions. The unobstructed scenery, multiple trail options, and accessibility for most make this one of the best areas off the Blue Ridge Parkway to hike with kids. For more ideas of where to hike with children, check out Best Hikes for Kids near Asheville.

Craggy Pinnacle Trail

easy hike for kids on blue ridge parkway craggy pinnacle trail
Craggy Pinnacle Trail

Trail Length: 1.5 miles (round trip)

Difficulty: Easy

 

Craggy Pinnacle is a must-visit spot for families looking for Blue Ridge Parkway hikes for kids. With just 242 feet of elevation gain, even the tiniest of trekkers can enjoy themselves. You’ll find the trailhead just off the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 364.1, where you’ll be lead to an iconic mountain bald with 360-degree views of the Craggy Gardens and surrounding Pisgah National Forest. This hike is particularly stunning in mid June when the rhododendrons are in full bloom. 

 

Be prepared to take your time if you’re hiking this trail with children. There are multiple, wind-blown and twisted trees that provide irresistible playgrounds for kids! There is no doubt that your little ones will need to make a pit stop to test out their climbing skills! Even though the hiking here is easy, the environmental conditions are not. Due to the severe winter weather this area experiences, trees have a hard time flourishing here. Instead of towering trees blanketing this area, you’ll find shrubs and bushes that appear more like works of art than nature! Check updates on Blue Ridge Parkway closures before you go, but if you do make it to the summit, a manmade rock ledge provides a piece of security for active children!

 

After completing this hike, be sure to drive down the parkway to the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center where you can grab information on the area, as well as stock up on snacks and souvenirs.

Waterrock Knob Trail

blue ridge parkway hikes for kids waterrock knob
Waterrock Knob

Trail Length: 1.2 miles (round trip)

Difficulty: Moderate

 

Waterrock Knob, located at Milepost 451.2, is another great choice for a family-friendly hike on the Blue Ridge Parkway. While it’s a bit steeper with 426 feet of elevation gain, the trail is short (0.6 miles one way) and leads to a summit with unparalleled views of the Great Smoky Mountains. Kids will love exploring the rocky outcrops at the top, and the drive to the trailhead offers plenty of opportunities for scenic overlooks and wildlife sightings.

 

You’ll start this trail out on a steep, but paved incline before transitioning to the more traditional mountain terrain of rocks and roots. You’ll find the entire 0.6 miles to the summit to be a bit of a cardio challenge, but there is a spot about halfway up that invites hikers to rest on its stone wall with spectacular view. Once you arrive at the peak of Waterrock Knob, at 6,292 feet above sea level, you’ll be rewarded to one of the best views outside of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

 

Bring a picnic dinner, so when you’re done hiking, you can set up at a table and be in one of the best spots to watch an epic North Carolina mountain sunset! You’ll find plenty of facilities in the parking area to keep you comfortable while you wait. There are picnic tables, restrooms, and a visitor center all available at your disposable during the warmer months.

 

For options on child-focused hiking tours, check out Tiny Trailblazers!

Final Thoughts

The Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina contains endless opportunities for exploring nature, and these child-friendly hikes offer an excellent way to introduce your kids to the wonders of nature. With these five easy hikes for kids, you can create unforgettable family memories while nurturing your child’s love for the great outdoors. Remember to bring plenty of water, snacks, and sun protection, and always leave no trace to preserve the natural beauty of these pristine locations.

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