People enjoy coming to the Smokies for things like attractions, shows and outlet mall shopping. But if it weren’t for the Great Smoky Mountains themselves, none of those other things would exist. After all, it’s the mountains that have been attracting visitors to this area for decades.
The challenge sometimes is finding the places that will give you the best views of the mountains. So if you’re staying in one of our Pigeon Forge cabins in the near future, consider one or more of the following suggestions for places to enjoy the beauty of the Smokies at their grandest.
- From A Mountaintop
Sometimes, the best views of the mountains are afforded from the top of a mountain. For example, a hike to the peak of the Chimney Tops, (the trail begins just off Newfound Gap Road in the national park) gives you majestically high but up-close views of several nearby mountains. Similarly, if you make the trek all the way to the top of Mt. LeConte, there are offshoot trails near the summit that lead you to vantage points offering stunning easterly and westerly views. It’s a unique way to watch a sunrise or sunset if you’re staying at LeConte Lodge. And don’t forget about the Clingman’s Dome observation tower on Newfound Gap Road. It’s a short hike with a big payoff.
- Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway
Even if you don’t plan to visit the Ober Gatlinburg attraction, the ride to the top of Mt. Harrison on their Aerial Tramway is quite an experience. You’ll get great views of the mountains surrounding Gatlinburg, and traveling in a suspended gondola car is pretty fun too. If you do stay for the attractions up top, you can also enjoy long-range views from Ober Gatlinburg’s chairlift attraction.
- Foothills Parkway
There are several partial segments of this scenic drive that stretch for miles through Sevier and Blount counties. No matter which route you choose, you’ll pass a number of automobile pull-offs where you can park your car, stare out across the vast miles and get some great photographs in the process. One particularly scenic but also handy viewing area is the Look Rock observation tower, located along the stretch of Foothills Parkway that begins on U.S. Hwy. 321 between Maryville and Townsend, TN.
- Cherohala Skyway
Much like Foothills Parkway, this scenic autoroute has multiple pull-offs for roadside gawking. The Skyway begins in Tellico Plains, TN, which is accessible via Madisonville, TN. The route ends in North Carolina.
- Gatlinburg Space Needle
Just take the elevator to the top of this 407-foot-tall observation tower in downtown Gatlinburg and enjoy 360-degree views of the town and the nearby Great Smoky Mountains.
- Great Smoky Mountain Wheel
This giant Ferris Wheel can be found at The Island development in Pigeon Forge. This anchor attraction at The Island takes passengers up to 200 feet above the city in climate-controlled gondola cars for year-round enjoyment. From the top, you can see the expanse of the Smokies to the south and all the way up to Sevierville and beyond to the north.
- Helicopter Tours
Sevierville is home to a couple of helicopter tour operators that offer a wide range of packages at multiple price points. Rides can last from just a few minutes all the way to hours-long tours that cover up to 100 miles. Along the way, you can see sites that include the mountains, the national park, Gatlinburg, Wears Valley and Douglas Lake.