Where to Hike with Kids in the Roanoke Region
Roanoke is a fantastic region in Virginia’s Blue Ridge for hiking with kids. Within an hour, you can see spectacular waterfalls, mountain overlooks, and even an island. You can hike with kids too, all the way to the beloved Mill Mountain Star.
For those eager to get the kids outside (as in, all of us), here are five easy hikes that will delight and engage little ones. They may even ask you to go hiking next time. Ah, to dream.
For hikers-in-training eager to tackle Virginia’s Triple Crown (Dragon’s Tooth, Tinker Cliffs, and McAfee Knob), a good place to start is Sawtooth Ridge.
This 1.9-mile out-and-back hike casually guides hikers on an easy-going southbound stretch of the white-blazed Appalachian Trail. Kids will love scrambling gigantic rocks and taking in far-reaching valley views at the overlook.
This hike shares a parking lot with the popular 8.0-mile McAfee Knob hike. This means you should plan to arrive very early for a parking space. No one wants to get shut out on a Saturday morning.
Roaring Run Falls
This short and sweet 1.7-mile waterfall hike at Roaring Run Furnace Day Use Area within the Jefferson National Forest in Eagle Rock is a rewarding hike that’s just right for kids and families.
Kids will love crossing wooden bridges, ascending steps, frolicking across sections of boardwalk, even taking in a history lesson at the noteworthy iron furnace that dates back to the 1800s.
Take the refreshing Streamside Trail, which runs alongside Roaring Run, to the gram-worthy falls, then return by way of the Woodland Trail for big mountain views. A waterside picnic area is just right for post-hike eats and treats.
Roanoke Star Trail
At 100 feet tall, the Mill Mountain Star holds the distinction as the largest man-made star. The iconic steel star has been welcoming visitors to the region since 1949.
This 3.3-mile out-and-back Star Trail hike at Mill Mountain Park allows you to see the star up close in all its glory. The star has even been called the Hollywood Sign of the East Coast.
From the overlook, savor breathtaking views across the Roanoke Valley, including Tinker Mountain and Fort Lewis Mountain. In the evening, the star illuminates in white lights until midnight.
Bottom Creek Gorge Preserve
Plan to wow the kids at Bottom Creek Gorge Preserve with scenic overlook views of Bent Mountain Falls. At a whopping 200-feet-tall, it’s one of the tallest waterfalls in Virginia.
Along the way, a short spur trail takes hikers to the edge of cascading Bottom Creek. Prepare to be awed by “The Kettles,” a stair-step series of waterfalls. Several large rocks make perfect spots to settle in for a snack.
For this 4.0-mile loop hike, you’ll have to leave your furry pals at home. No dogs are allowed at Bottom Creek Gorge Preserve. It’s okay, there are plenty of other pup-friendly hikes in the Roanoke Region.
Turtle Island Trail
Smith Mountain Lake State Park may be better known for water-based adventures, like kayaking and houseboating, but there’s much to love on dry land too, like the Turtle Island Trail.
This popular 1.4-mile loop hike leads to a small island and a path that circumnavigates pint-size Turtle Island. A small beach area precedes the footbridge to the island for kids who want to dig in the sand.
Look for placards early in this hike to sneak in a smidge of learning. These signs educate park-goers on how abandoned fields transformed into a wooded forest over 125 years.
About the Author
Erin Gifford is the founder of GoHikeVirginia.com, which she created in April 2020 to introduce fellow nature lovers to the hiking trails of Virginia. She is also working on a guidebook for Falcon Guides on the best family hikes in Virginia.