mom and son at Waterrock Knob Overlook
The views of the Blue Ridge Mountains from Waterrock Knob will make you giddy too!


Welcome! If you’re looking for an outdoor adventure that is as exhilarating as it is family-friendly, the Waterrock Knob Trail in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, should be at the top of your list. Enriched with a vibrant history and breathtaking views, this trail is an unmissable gem nestled in the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Waterrock Knob holds a special place in the hearts of many, as it’s one of the best things to do near Asheville, and was named after the nearby Waterrock Spring, a source of crystal clear water that has quenched the thirst of travelers for centuries. This trail is known not only for its historic significance but also for its incredible scenic beauty.

views from Waterrock Knob Trail
Just one of the many views you’ll enjoy!

Its family-friendly nature stems from its well-maintained path, interactive visitor center, and the many natural wonders you’ll find along the way. If after you experience Waterrock Knob you’re looking for something quite a bit more challenging, consider hiking The Pinnacle located in Pinnacle Park in Sylva.

In any case, if you have any questions/comments about all of this, leave us a message below, and in the meantime, happy hiking!

Trail Information – Fast Facts

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Distance: ~1 mi (~1.6 km) round trip
  • Elevation Gain: ~500 feet
  • Duration: Allow 1 hour for the complete hike, depending on your pace and breaks

Trail Description And Points Of Interest

The path of the Waterrock Knob Trail itself is a spectacle to behold. As you ascend, each step reveals a stunning new view of the surrounding valleys, mountains, and, on a clear day, even the Smoky Mountains in the distance.

Smoky Mountains off in the distance from the Waterrock Knob Trail

As you near the summit, you’ll arrive at the Waterrock Knob Overlook. Here, the 360-degree view of the surrounding mountainscape is simply breathtaking. This is the perfect place for you and your family to take a break, catch your breath, and immerse yourselves in the panoramic beauty of nature.

Waterrock Knob Bonus Experience – An Idyllic Family Picnic Spot

If you’re keen to experience Waterrock Knob, but you’re not in the mood for a hike, just imagine unpacking your family picnic at one of the many picnic tables amongst the breathtaking natural beauty surrounding the Waterrock Knob Visitor Center.

family picnic near the Waterrock Knob Visitor Center
Who doesn’t like a good ol’ fashioned mountaintop picnic?

The fresh mountain air enhances the flavors of your meal while the panoramic vistas provide a stunning backdrop. Your kids can explore nearby while you relax, taking in the serenity of the environment.

two boys playing in the grassy part of the parking lot near the Waterrock Knob Visitor Center
Peri and Kai seldom miss an opportunity to kick around a ball.

This picturesque setting offers not just a meal, but a memorable experience.

husband and wife taking selfie at Waterrock Knob Visitor Center
We are grateful for each other and the immense and accessible beauty of Waterrock Knob.

Recommended Gear

Hiking the Waterrock Knob Trail is a fun and rewarding experience, but it’s also important to come prepared. Our gear recommendations are what we recommend in our day hike packing guide, but distilled, below are some essential gear items for your hike:

  • Comfortable hiking boots with good ankle support
  • Light, layered clothing suitable for changing weather conditions and the naturally cooler weather up at ~6,200 feet!
boy hiking on the Waterrock Knob Trail
Year-round, we bring our warm layers. It gets cold up at elevation.
  • A hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen for sun protection
  • Plenty of water and high-energy snacks
  • A map and compass for navigation
  • A basic first-aid kit

Family Hiking Safety Tips

While the Waterrock Knob Trail is indeed family-friendly, safety should always be your top priority. Here are some tips to ensure your hiking experience is safe and enjoyable:

  • Always stay on marked trails to avoid getting lost.
boy walking on side trail
We do our best to stay on the main trails, but sometimes we let the boys explore a bit.
  • Keep a close eye on children, especially near steep or rocky areas.
  • Take regular breaks to rest and stay hydrated.
father and son taking a break while hiking the Waterrock Knob Trail
Kai loves stopping to enjoy a few spruce bows!
  • Watch out for wildlife and maintain a safe distance.
  • Check the weather forecast before setting out.

With its rich history, panoramic views, and family-friendly environment, the Waterrock Knob Trail truly is a unique outdoor experience. The memories you make here will last a lifetime. Now lace up those hiking boots, gather your loved ones, and embark on your Waterrock Knob adventure!

Trail Head And Route

Your journey begins at the trailhead located at the Waterrock Knob visitor center, located at milepost 451.2 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This visitor center is a starting point that not only provides access to the trailhead but also serves as an educational hub with detailed maps and engaging exhibits about the area’s natural and cultural history.

 The Waterrock Knob visitor center is small but interactive.
The Waterrock Knob visitor center is small but interactive.

From the visitor center, the trail winds its way up to the Waterrock Knob Overlook. The Overlook is the ultimate vantage point from which to appreciate the sweeping landscapes of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

views of the Blue Ridge Parkway from the Waterrock Knob Trail

Following the trail markers, your journey will at first lead you on a paved path.

the paved section of the Waterrock Knob Trail

Soon, however, the path turns to dirt.

the dirt section of the Waterrock Knob Trail

All along the way you’ll weave through picturesque forests and eventually up the rocky terrain to the top of Waterrock Knob. But don’t worry, the last bit that is rocky is still very mellow.

toddler hiking on the Waterrock Knob Trail in Maggie Valley North Carolina
If it’s Kai-friendly, you know it’s mellow.

As an aside, the Waterrock Knob Visitor Center is not just a starting point for the trail, it’s also a hub for the National Park Service’s Junior Ranger Program.

Waterrock Knob Visitor Center
Waterrock Knob Visitor Center

If you’re ready to deepen your understanding of nature and history while having a ton of fun, this program is for you.

boy marveling at mounted elk in waterrock knob visitor center
Kai liked the Elk in the Waterrock Knob visitor center.

As a prospective Junior Ranger, your journey will start with picking up an activity booklet from the visitor center. These booklets are brimming with engaging activities that will inspire you to learn and explore. You’ll be identifying local flora and fauna, understanding the importance of conservation, and even learning about the cultural history of the area.

two boys smiling while laying on the ground during a hike
Peri and Kai like to get up close and personal with all things Nature.

Once you’ve completed the activities in your booklet, bring it back to the visitor center. A park ranger will check your work, and if all is done well, you’ll be sworn in as a Junior Ranger. You’ll also receive a badge and a certificate – tangible reminders of your commitment to protecting our natural and cultural heritage.

Route Map

As we’ve said in many of our other posts, such as the one about the Midnight Hole (another family-friendly hike with a fantastic swimming hole and some mesmerizing waterfalls) 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 it, you can then download our route data below, and then upload the map file into the GuruMaps app. It sounds like a lot, but it’s really easy, and after you’re done, you’ll have a map to follow while you hike to Waterrock Knob.

And the best part…It works offline when you have no cell service or WIFI.

And just in case you’re more comfortable with a Google Map, we’ve got you covered.

Elevation Profile

Waterrock Knob elevation profile


From the informative Waterrock Knob visitor center to the stunning views at the Waterrock Knob Overlook, the Waterrock Knob Trail offers a unique hiking experience that is both engaging and family-friendly. So why wait? Start planning your trip now and create some unforgettable family memories on the Waterrock Knob Trail.


Q1: Is the Waterrock Knob Trail suitable for beginners?
Yes, the trail is rated as moderate, making it a good choice for beginners and families. However, remember that it’s always important to hike within your abilities and prepare appropriately.

Q2: Are there restroom facilities on the Waterrock Knob Trail?
Yes, restroom facilities are available at the Waterrock Knob visitor center at the trailhead.

Q3: Can I bring my pet to the Waterrock Knob Trail?
Yes, pets are allowed on the trail, but they must be kept on a leash at all times.

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