5 Unbelievable Smoky Mountain Views You Have to See
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What a sight the Smokies are to see! You don’t have to go far in the Smoky Mountains to find a picturesque place worth writing home about, especially those postcard-ready Smoky Mountain sunrises, sunsets and all the views in between. You could hike, climb and swim every day for years and still not find all the best views and lookouts that the Smokies have to offer. Luckily, we’ve run across a few Smoky Mountain views over the years that were more than memorable, so we’ve listed them below for your outdoor adventure needs. Some are easy to get to, and some are more of a challenge, but each and every one of them is definitely worth seeing. Let us know if you can choose a favorite – we bet you can’t!
1. Cades Cove
A favorite gem of the Smoky Mountains, Cades Cove is easily accessible by foot, bike and car, depending the the day and time. The pastoral scenery and low hanging fog are breathtaking, while early morning sunlight against the mountain backdrop offers a perfect opportunity for landscape photography.
How to see it: Cades Cove is located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and is clearly marked.
2. Tricorner Knob
One of most isolated points in the Smoky Mountains, Tricorner Knob is a mountain that lies on the Appalachian Trail. The Appalachian Trail and Balsam Mountain Trail intersect near the mountain’s summit, making it the great crossroads of the Eastern Smokies. The Tricorner Knob Shelter, which lies on the mountain’s Southern slope, serves as a vital rest stop for thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail. The shelter’s remote location in the dense spruce-fir forests of the Eastern Smokies has concealed stop from harm, leaving it relatively untouched.
How to see it: Very, very carefully. Tricorner Knob can only be accessed by lengthy hike. From the Cosby Campground, the Snake Den Ridge Trail winds 5.3 miles up the ridge to its junction with the Appalachian Trail. From this junction, Tricorner is 3.7 miles away, with the trail first crossing the slopes of Old Black and Mount Guyot. The Balsam Mountain Trail is a 6-mile trail connecting the Appalachian Trail in the west with the Benton MacKaye Trail to the east. The latter can be accessed via a sharp bend in Straight Fork Road, a rugged gravel road rising out of Cherokee, North Carolina. From this bend, Tricorner Knob is just over 10 miles away. A 15-mile section of the Appalachian Trail connects Tricorner Knob with Newfound Gap in the Central Smokies.
3. Abrams Falls
Although Abrams Falls is one of the lower falls in the park at 20 feet high, it’s one of the more spectacular Smoky Mountain views due to the ferocity of the water rushing over the falls and the deep, picturesque pool it falls into. The trail is considered moderate in difficulty and is 5 miles round trip. Hikers should allow 3-4 hours for the hike to the falls and back.
How to see it: The trailhead is located past stop #9 on Cade’s Cove Loop Rd. Abrams Falls can be found on Abrams Falls Trail.
For more Smoky Mountain views with waterfalls, read all about Smoky Mountain hiking trails with waterfalls.
4. Clingmans Dome
As the highest Smoky Mountain View in the national park at 6,623 feet – and the highest point in all of Tennessee – the popular viewing spot offers a stunning panoramic scene of the Smoky Mountains from the Clingmans Dome observation tower. There you will find 360-degree views that can extent more than 100 miles. And there is no match for the sunsets and sunrises you can see.
How to see it: Turn off Newfound Gap Road 0.1 mile south of Newfound Gap follow the 7-mile-long Clingmans Dome Road to the large parking area at the end. Once you arrive at the parking area, there is a moderately difficult half-mile hike to the ramp of the observation tower at Clingmans Dome, but it’s worth the effort.
5. Mount LeConte
In order to get to the third highest peak in the Smokies, Mount LeConte, you’ll need to climb 2,763 feet to reach it. There are five trails that take you to the summit – Alum Cave Trail, Boulevard Trail, Bullhead Trail, Rainbow Falls Trail and Trillium Gap Trail – with each one offering a completely different experience than the others. Both Alum Cave and Boulevard trails offer stunning overlooks and interesting geological features, while Rainbow Falls and Trillium Gap trails showcase waterfalls and streams. Alternatively, Bullhead Trail is ideal for viewing wildflowers and leaf color change in the fall.
Once you arrive at Mount LeConte’s summit, head towards the lodge to Cliff Top where you can spy Clingmans Dome and striking views of the rolling stretches of the Great Smoky Mountains.
How to see it:
- Alum Cave Trailhead – From the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, drive 8.7 miles south along Newfound Gap Road to reach the Alum Cave Trailhead. The parking lot will be on your left. Due to the popularity of the Alum Cave Trail, there are two parking lots for this trailhead. To ensure a spot, you may want to arrive early during peak season, or any nice weekend throughout the year.
- Boulevard Trailhead – From the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, drive 13 miles south along Newfound Gap Road to reach the Newfound Gap parking lot.
- Bullhead Trailhead – Starting from Light 8 in Gatlinburg, turn onto Historic Nature Trail / Airport Road. After driving 0.7 miles veer right onto Cherokee Orchard Road, upon which you’ll enter into Great Smoky Mountain National Park. After driving another 2.2 miles you’ll enter the one-way Cherokee Orchard Loop Road. After driving roughly 0.6 miles on the loop, the Bullhead Trailhead will be located on your right. If this parking lot is full, there’s an auxiliary parking area about a tenth-of-a-mile further down the road.
- Rainbow Falls Trailhead – Starting from Light 8 in Gatlinburg, turn onto Historic Nature Trail / Airport Road. After driving 0.7 miles veer right onto Cherokee Orchard Road, upon which you’ll enter into Great Smoky Mountain National Park. After driving another 2.2 miles you’ll enter the one-way Cherokee Orchard Loop Road. After driving roughly 0.6 miles on the loop, the Rainbow Falls Trailhead will be located on your right. If this parking lot is full, there’s an auxiliary parking area about a tenth-of-a-mile further down the road.
- Trillium Gap Trailhead – Starting from Light 8 in Gatlinburg turn onto Historic Nature Trail/Airport Road. After driving 0.7 miles veer right onto Cherokee Orchard Road, upon which you’ll enter into Great Smoky Mountain National Park. After driving another 2.2 miles you’ll enter the one-way Cherokee Orchard Loop Road. Drive 0.9 miles on the loop before turning right onto the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. The parking area for the Trillium Gap Trail will be on the left side of the road after driving roughly 1.6 miles along this one-way road. The trailhead is located just beyond the parking area on the opposite side of the road. Due to the popularity of this trail, there are additional parking spaces further up the road.
We could explore the mountains for days discovering new spots in the Smokies. What are your favorite Smoky Mountain views? Tell us in the comments below. We love hearing from readers!