by Stephanie Harper – Asheville is the epitome of a mountain town complete with endless eateries, urban jaunts, and organic living–but it’s the hiking in Asheville that will entice your outdoorsy family to stay forever.
With the iconic Blue Ridge Mountains surrounding the city in all directions and one million acres of protected forest and park land, there is no shortage of places to go and things to do outside. There’s plenty of family-friendly hiking trails near Asheville, all within a 30 – 45 minute drive complete with streams, waterfalls, views, and everything in between for all types of nature lovers to enjoy.
15 Best Family Friendly Trails In Asheville
Gather your magnifying glasses, day hiking packs, and full water bottles–Hiking in the Asheville-area mountains is a magical experience fit for the whole family, so let’s get trekkin’!
1. Bent Creek Hike
Probably one of the most popular and closest Asheville family friendly hikes is the Bent Creek trails. Located in Pisgah National Forest, this is a hike-bike-friendly area–there are a few easy loops, some of which include a stop to Lake Powhatan where a sandy beach welcomes tired feet to splash in. During Winter, chuck rocks across the frozen surface for a post-nature walk, sensory treat.
Trailhead address: 2-1298 491, Asheville, NC 28806
2. Little Bradley Falls Hike
Considered one of the closest waterfall hikes near Asheville for families to visit, this hike is truly a gem. The rain has altered the terrain quite a bit on some parts of the trail but nothing a little family teamwork can’t help. As you descend through the first part of the hiking trail, you’ll reach Bradley Creek which you’ll have to cross before you get to the waterfall. After getting past fallen trees and narrow paths, the trees open up to a truly magnificent sight–take a dip as you listen to the roaring of the water as it falls just feet away from you.
Trailhead address: Little Bradley Trail, Saluda, NC 28773
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3. UNC Asheville Botanical Gardens Hike
Right smack in the middle of UNC Asheville, this beautiful family friendly hiking trail showcases all of the region’s flora and fauna in one convenient location. Known for its picturesque qualities and babbling waters that flow within it, the UNC Asheville Botanical Gardens hike is the perfect place for a stroll and picnic lunch on one of the many streamside rocks. Docents are almost always around in the gift shop to answer any questions you may have that the plant species cards can’t answer.
Trailhead address:151 W .T. Weaver Blvd, Asheville, NC 28804
4. Pink Beds Hike
Asheville’s famous Blue Ridge Parkway has so many hikes to choose from. Pink Beds Loop is a 5 mile loop but families choose to do portions of it as the trail leads to many places for nature exploration. During the Fall is peak leaf-turning season with forest eye candy galore. Some portions of this family friendly hiking trail is made up of boardwalks that peer into beaver dams, ponds, bogs, and open forest areas, making it the ideal choose-your-own-adventure hike.
Trailhead address: US-276, Pisgah Forest, NC 28768
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5. Catawba Falls Hike
This 1.5 miles out and back, kid friendly hike near Asheville is great for small groups wanting to get a taste of the waterfall life. The Catawba River runs right alongside the trail and while there is a slight uphill climb, intermittent stops to play in the water is totally worth it. Bring a carrier just in case little ones get tuckered out. The Catawba Falls hiking trail itself is all dirt–once you get to Lower Falls, stop for an instaworthy pic with the kids for a job well done.
Trailhead address: 3074 Catawba River Rd, Old Fort, NC 28762
6. Warren Wilson River Hike
Another Asheville-area college, another hiking trail. This mellow kid-friendly hike is just one town over from Asheville and while you may run into some college students, it is not heavily trafficked by most. The hiking trail itself sits between farmland, meadows, and the Swannanoa River–a gorgeous backdrop when you need a quick dose of Vitamin N different from the heavy forested areas of the mountains. From this hiking trail you can also access the trail at Charles D Owen Park.
Trailhead address: 875 Warren Wilson Rd, Swannanoa, NC 28778
UPDATE: Warren Wilson River Hike parking lot is closed. You can access this trail via Charles D. Wilson Park.
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7. Graveyard Fields Hike
Driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway you’ll be tempted to stop at every mile marker. Graveyard Fields is not only known for its abundant blueberry patches in the Summer, but for the waterfalls and swimming holes. Located just right off the parkway, this kid friendly, Asheville-area hiking trail can be a day filled with fun for any season of the year. After hiking along a paved portion at the beginning of the trail, it turns into dirt and boardwalk with some stairs as you near the waterfall section. The bigger swimming holes are perfect for brook trout fishing and hanging a hammock on surrounding trees.
Trailhead address: Graveyard Fields, Canton, NC 28716
8. Moore Cove Falls Hike
A waterfall hunting we will go…The Appalachian mountains are full of peaks to bag, but have you tried waterfall hunting? This is an easy and short 1.5 mile family friendly hike with some off-trail rock climbing and stream play leading to a gorgeous ending at Moore Cove Falls. If you’ve never walked behind a waterfall, this is the place to do it. Bonus add-on trip: Go down the street and do a quick driveby of Looking Glass Falls, on of Asheville’s most famous waterfalls.
UPDATE: The Moore Cove Falls Hike is currently closed.
Trailhead address: US-276, Brevard, NC 28712
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9. Bearwallow Mountain Hike
Ready to climb? This family friendly Asheville-area hike, constructed by volunteers courtesy of Conserving Carolina, will definitely be remembered. Starting from the parking area, you can take either the gravel road up or the dirt road with plenty of switchbacks. The well-maintained, 2.5 mile trail offers tons of views of Gerton and beyond. There are plenty of sections for kids to take breaks, but the real treat is at the top–a large, open meadow sits where you’ll be able to reap the rewards of scenic views and some occasional cow friends!
Trailhead address: 4854 Bearwallow Mountain Rd, Hendersonville, NC 28792
10. Carl Sandburg Home Hike
This family friendly Asheville-area hiking trail is a mix of history, homestead, and views in one. The home of poet and writer Carl Sandburg sits above a picturesque pond surrounding grassy, hilly, fields. Starting off at the beginning of the trail, there is a slow ascent, but it’s doable for smaller kids. The best part is it’s only 30 minutes away from Asheville! With plenty of benches and rest areas on the way, Glassy Mountain overlook, and a small goat farm, this hike is sure to bring on good naps.
Trailhead address: 1800 Little River Rd, Flat Rock, NC 28731
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11. Richmond Hill Park Hike
If you don’t want to leave Asheville and just need a quick dose of nature, then Richmond Hill Park is the perfect escape. It’s in a residential area but surprisingly full of quiet spaces, stream gazing, and even views of the city on portions of the trail. While this particular trail is not heavily trafficked, you’ll definitely catch some disc-golfers, runners, and dog walkers on any given day. This easy, kid friendly hiking trail offers mini-explorers a total loop of 3.4 miles with about 300 ft elevation.
Trailhead address: 280 Richmond Hill Dr, Asheville, NC 28806
12. Laurel River Trail Hike
Hiking alongside a river can be peaceful and exciting at the same time. This Ashville-area, family friendly hiking trail offers visitors shaded areas, lots of flat places to have a picnic and skip rocks, and if you’re feeling ambitious, you can go further along the trail to some rocky caves and grooves. The Laurel River Store is an eclectic spot locals love (and right next to the parking area where the trail starts) that has coffee, snacks, and handmade trinkets. While the whole hike is about 3.6 miles out and back, you could easily customize this hike to your family’s abilities.
Trailhead address: 5150 US-25, Marshall, NC 28753 (Laurel River Store)
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13. Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center TRACK Trail Hike
An all-encompassing, short, 1 mile loop that connects to the Mountains-to-Sea-Tail, is a must do kid-friendly hike in Asheville. Located right near the Visitor Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway, this hiking trail has interactive activities marked with the TRACK trails symbols that are sure to keep kids moving while learning all about the region’s diverse eco-system. While there are several TRACK trails in and around Asheville, this is a great family nature walk dedicated to nurturing any budding naturalist. After completing the hike, earn a junior ranger badge at the Visitor Center.
Trailhead address: 195 Hemphill Knob Rd.Asheville, NC 28803
14. Collier Cove Nature Preserve Hike
Collier Cove Nature Preserve is another short drive from Asheville and a nice nature walk for families looking to get some after school or post-dinner outdoor time. This short kid friendly hike is a loop nestled in South Asheville with some decent views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. As you come down the hiking trail there’s a small meadow where kids can run around. During Winter this can be a convenient location for quick nature play that isn’t too far from home.
Trailhead address: 175 Rhododendron Dr, Arden, NC 28704
15. Devil’s Courthouse Hike
The last hike as we round out our family friendly Asheville hiking trails list is a big one. Devil’s Courthouse overlook and hike is just a little further past Graveyard Fields and while it’s mostly all paved and only .05 miles, it definitely takes some good effort to get to the top. At the end of the hiking trail, it overlooks amazing panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains surrounded by massive trees and distinct plant life. There’s even a cool plaque that visually points out nearby peaks in the distance–at 5,700 ft. elevation, this hike gets the blood pumping and gives you a picture-perfect perspective from up high.
Trailhead address: MP 422.4, Blue Ridge Pkwy, Balsam Grove, NC 28708
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Stephanie Harper is a freelance writer who lives in Asheville, NC. Originally from Oakland, CA, she and her husband, James, decided to move their blended family cross-country in hopes to broaden their landscape for outdoor adventuring and love of nature. You can follow the Harper family on her blog raisingkidswild.com.