Looking for that perfect hike in Tennessee for young children? Whether you’re new to hiking with your baby or toddler, or you’re looking for a new trail to explore, the Hike it Baby community is a valuable resource for finding family hiking trails around the country. In this article, we share three amazing Tennessee trails to explore with babies and young children.
Hiking with young children (under five years old) is different from hiking with school-age children. These three hikes in Tennessee offer families of young children beautiful and unique trails to explore while considering the special ways young children hike, wander, dawdle and explore.
Sunset Rock (Lookout Mountain, Tenn.)
Sunset Rock offers one of the best views in the Chattanooga area and can be accessed either via a steep .1-mile hike down from a parking area high up on the mountain or via a 1.5-mile hike up from the historic Cravens House. The Cravens House Trail is a beautiful hike around the west side of the mountain, though the thick foliage blocks the view along the hike during the summer. As you get closer to Sunset Rock you are treated to waterfalls trickling down the sandstone bluffs, and might even see rock climbers scaling their way up! The trail follows a gentle but steady ascent until you reach a junction at about .7 miles between the Point Park Trail to the left, and the Bluff Trail to the right. The Bluff Trail takes you to Sunset Rock on a narrow path, ending in a difficult stone staircase to the viewpoint. From here, you can either go back down the way you came or if you have two cars, park one of them at the top of the mountain and take the .1-mile hike out.
- While Sunset Rock is aptly named for its incredible western views, the Cravens House parking lot is gated and closes at nightfall. Plan accordingly so you can be at your car by dark, or it may be locked in.
- The overlook is a very popular place, particularly for people who come in from the shorter hike above it, so expect it to become quite crowded right at sunset on nice weather days.
- There are also 4, 4.5, and 10-mile options to hike to Sunset Rock, if you are looking for an adult-or-carrier-only hike.
This was our first family hike after moving to Tennessee, and nothing about it disappointed. The hike from Cravens House reminded me of our frequent hikes in Shenandoah National Park, and both kids loved looking for spiderwebs in the rocks beside the trail and were enchanted by the tiny waterfalls running off the bluffs. And the views are just unmatched. We got to the top well before sunset and could have easily stayed for hours just soaking it all in. – Stephanie Jacobson
Glen Falls Trail (Lookout Mountain, Tenn.)
Located a short drive up the Tennessee side of Lookout Mountain, Glen Falls is a great out-and-back that offers a short trail with a huge payoff. From the small parking spur off Ochs Highway, the trail follows a gentle descent for a few hundred yards before leveling off on a half-mile hike to the falls. Once there, there is a swimming hole to the right that is perfect for playing and splashing in, or you can cross a short wooden bridge then wind up a stone staircase and through a natural rock tunnel to the upper falls.
- The first swimming area is over a foot deep, so be prepared with a change of clothes.
- While there are plenty of splash opportunities in the upper falls, the rocks can be quite slippery due to algae growth, and the water can be quite deep in places if there has been a lot of recent rain.
- There is a small but steady elevation gain on the return trip, so expect it to be slow going with kids who are exhausted from all the water play.
This hike has quickly become my favorite go-to hike with kids since moving to Tennessee. It’s just outside the city of Chattanooga, and offers a feeling of wilderness along with natural wonders for the kids to explore, while still being a short drive home. – Stephanie Jacobson
Foster Falls (Sequatchie, Tenn.)
Tennessee is home to dozens of spectacular free-falling waterfalls, and with its 80-foot cascade into a beautiful blue pool below, Foster Falls is a must-see. From the parking lot, the hike passes a stroller/wheelchair accessible overlook above the falls. To journey to the bottom of the falls, take a set of wooden stairs a few yards south of the overlook, and continue down the rocky trail to a suspension bridge that crosses Little Gizzard Creek. Here the trail opens to the pool a the base of the falls and offers a truly awe-inspiring amphitheater-view. Take a dip in the pool, have lunch while listening to the sound of pounding water, or watch for rock climbers tackling the bluffs around the falls. To return, either go back out the way you came to complete a 1-mile out-and-back or go south past the suspension bridge to complete a 1.6-mile loop trail that passes some of the park’s backcountry camping opportunities.
- Foster Falls Campground is at the top of the falls if you want to combine this with a camping trip and extend your time in the area.
- While the section of trail from the parking lot to the overlook is very accessible, the descent to the base of the falls is rocky and can be slick if there has recently been rainfall.
- Try and do this hike earlier in the day, before the older/adult crowds show up, as they bring a rowdiness that may not be appropriate for children.
The amphitheater at the bottom of the falls really reminds me of just how beautiful and powerful nature is. The only sound you can hear is the roaring of the falls, and as we were there early in the morning we hardly saw any other people. The water was too cold to comfortably swim in, but we loved getting our feet wet and our kids thought the suspension bridge was an added bonus. For such a short hike to the falls—especially if you are camping and don’t even have to drive—it somehow feels like you are cheating to be rewarded with such incredible surroundings. – Stephanie Jacobson
Trail reviews and photography contributed by Stephanie Jacobson.
More Resources For Families with Young Children
- Hike it Baby calendar (or connect with the local branch)
- Tennessee State Parks
- Hike it Baby: 100 Awesome Outdoor Adventures with Babies and Toddlers – New Book by Hike it Baby Founder Shanti Hodges
- 3 Trails to Explore in Missouri with Young Children
- 3 Stunning South Carolina Trails for Families with Young Children
- 3 Unforgettable Hikes in Georgia for Young Children