two boys at the start of the Flat Creek Trail in Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Peri and Kai were psyched at the start of the Flat Creek Trail!

Discover the unspoiled beauty and breathtaking allure of the Flat Creek Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In this comprehensive guide, you’ll find everything you need to know to embark on this family-friendly hiking adventure. From trail information, gear recommendations, safety tips, and more, we’ve got you covered. So pack your backpacks, tie your hiking boots, and let’s set out on the Flat Creek Trail!

Trail Information – Fast Facts

When planning your adventure on the Flat Creek Trail, it’s essential to understand what you’re up against. Here are some key details to keep in mind:

  • Trail Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Distance: Approximately 5 mi (8 km) out and back
  • Elevation Gain: About 1100 feet
  • Duration: Roughly 3 to 4 hours, depending on pace

Trail Head And Route

The trailhead for the Flat Creek Trail is conveniently located on Heintooga Ridge Road – a short distance from the Blue Ridge Parkway. A small parking area signals the start of your adventure.

The trail itself is a simple out-and-back route, offering an intuitive path that winds through lush forests, grassy and mossy hills, over charming footbridges, and even has a turn-off to the enchanting Flat Creek Falls.

It starts off paralleling Bunches Creek and then later on parallels Flat Creek.

NOTE: At about 0.8 miles in, there is a sign to the waterfalls.

sign to flat creek falls
This is the sign where you turn off to get to the falls, supposedly.

We attempted to hike to the base of the falls in hopes that we’d get a nice view of them cascading downwards. However, the trail got too intense for the kids.

intense hiking trail with a toddler
The trail was too much, so we bailed.

So we turned back and simply enjoyed the more limited view, as well as a snack break, at the top of the falls.

Snack break at the top of Flat Creek Falls

If you have information on an easier route down to the bottom of the falls, we’d love to know about it, so leave us a message below, and thanks!

Route Map

If you’ve read any of our other posts, such as the one on the family-friendly hike at nearby Waterrock Knob, this might seem a bit redundant, but we recommend you download the offline navigation app called GuruMaps. For many reasons, it’s our favorite mapping app for offline navigation.

After you’ve downloaded the app, you can then download our route data (it’s linked in the map below), and then you’ll be able to upload the map file into the GuruMaps app. It sounds like a lot, but it’s really easy. Once you do it, you’ll be able to follow our annotated route map while you’re out on the Flat Creek Trail.

And our favorite part…It works even if you have absolutely no service or WIFI.

If you’re more comfortable with a Google Map however no sweat. But keep in mind, it won’t work when you’re offline.

Elevation Profile

Flat Creek Trail Elevation Profile

Trail Description And Points Of Interest

The Flat Creek Trail is a moderate, out-and-back trail spanning approximately five miles in total.

flat creek trail
The trail is quite mellow, and soft grass lines it for a while!

This beautifully diverse terrain takes you through thick, verdant forests, across bubbling creeks, and up into the hills, rewarding you with captivating views of the Smoky Mountains.

flat creek
The water was rushing the day we were here.

With an elevation gain of about 1000 feet, the trail offers just enough challenge to keep things interesting without being overly strenuous.

In spring and summer, the Flat Creek Trail offers a diverse landscape teeming with wildflowers, wildlife, and the mesmerizing sounds of nature.

We saw a handful of interesting creatures along the trail!

As you traverse the trail, you’ll come across an array of attractions that make this hike worth every step.

The trail ends at the Heintooga Overlook and picnic area.

Recommended Gear

As you prepare for your adventure on the Flat Creek Trail, packing the right gear is essential. Here’s a quick checklist to help you out:

  • Comfortable hiking shoes (waterproof ones if you’re worried about the few small stream crossings)
boy crossing log bridge over flat creek
Peri and Kai are finally seeming to understand the benefits of NOT getting their shoes wet in the streams.
  • Plenty of water and snacks
  • First-aid kit
  • Map or GPS device
  • Camera (optional of course, but we found a lot of beautiful photo spots!)

More broadly, if you check out our day hike packing guide, most of what we mention there – except for the sun protection-related items, as the Flat Creek Trail is almost entirely shaded by trees – would be useful here.

Family Hiking Safety Tips

The Flat Creek Trail is a family-friendly trail, offering easy navigation and a safe environment for explorers of all ages. Still, it’s crucial to prioritize safety during your outing. Here are a few tips to ensure your family’s hiking adventure is not only fun but safe as well:

  1. Stay on the trail: Straying off the path can lead to injury and harm to the environment.
  2. Check the weather: Be aware of the forecast and plan accordingly.
  3. Stay together: Keep your group within sight, especially children.
  4. Use caution near water: The area around Flat Creek can be slippery, so use caution when exploring.
Two boys near Flat Creek
Be careful near the slippery creek side.

In conclusion, the Flat Creek Trail offers a fantastic family-friendly hiking experience that brings together the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains and the thrill of exploration. Armed with this comprehensive guide, you’re now ready to conquer this trail and create lasting memories!


  1. Is Flat Creek Trail suitable for beginners?
    Yes, the Flat Creek Trail’s moderate difficulty makes it suitable for hikers of all skill levels.
  2. Can we swim at Flat Creek Falls?
    We don’t know, as we never made it there. If you find the falls, leave us a message below and let us know!
  3. Are pets allowed on the Flat Creek Trail?
    Pets are allowed but must be kept on a leash at all times for their safety and the protection of local wildlife.

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