Great Smoky Mountains National Park photo ops

In the heart of Appalachia, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park beckons photographers with its untamed beauty. The Smokies are a canvas of nature’s finest artistry, from majestic peaks touching the heavens to lush valleys dipping into the earth’s reservoirs. Amid this wild forestry, Gatlinburg, Tennessee, emerges as the gateway to photographer nirvana. Whether you’re a seasoned shutterbug or a casual insta-photographer, here is a curated list of the 5 best spots for taking Great Smoky Mountains National Park photos. Ready your lenses for an odyssey through landscapes that are guaranteed to elevate your portfolio with spellbinding imagery!

Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook

Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook

No place captures the heart of the Smokies quite like the Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook. It’s the spot that makes you say, “Let’s live here!” every time you visit. This easily accessible overlook offers a panoramic view of downtown Gatlinburg against the stunning backdrop of the Smoky Mountains. It’s a must-visit any time of year, with each season offering its unique shade of colors and elements. Besides, it’s absolutely free! Pro tip: Sunrise and sunset hours here can make your Great Smoky Mountains National Park photos look straight out of a fairytale. For a family-friendly hike that’s easy on the knees, venture up the Gatlinburg Trail. It is approximately 3.8 miles round trip, and the trailhead is located at the Sugarlands Visitor Center.

Mount Leconte silhouetted by the sunset

Mount LeConte

For those willing to embark on an adventure, Mount LeConte won’t disappoint. It’s the third-highest peak in the National Park, considered one of the tallest mountains in the Eastern United States! The five trails leading to the summit offer varying degrees of difficulty, but your sweat will turn into gasps of awe once you reach the top. Imagine endless ridges set against the orange hues of a setting sun or the soft pastels of early morning—pure magic for any photography lover. For a moderate hike with a scenic overlook, try the Alum Cave Trail. This 10-mile-long round trip can be strenuous, but it’s worth it for the views. The trailhead is located off Newfound Gap Road, about 8.6 miles south of the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg.

view overlooking the Gatlinburg SkyLift from Crockett Mountain

Crockett Mountain

Exploring the Smokies isn’t complete without visiting Crockett Mountain, accessible via Gatlinburg SkyPark. This peak offers a serene, unmatched view of Gatlinburg and the Smokies. The ascent features winding trails, glimpses of wildlife, and starry skies. The breathtaking view captures the neighboring peaks and valleys at the summit in exquisite detail. The misty mountain tops at dawn are a perfect backdrop for photography and peaceful thinking.

Perched atop Crockett Mountain is the renowned Gatlinburg SkyPark. Board the bright SkyLift and ascend 500 feet. At the peak, the panoramic views of the Great Smoky Mountains unveil a breathtaking picture that’s a photographer’s dream. The SkyLift itself deserves a snap or two. When night falls, the SkyPark experience transforms into a shimmery landscape of Gatlinburg’s lights, a must-have in your photo collection.​

view of the mountains at sunset from Clingman's dome

Clingmans Dome

Welcome to the highest point in the Smokies: Clingmans Dome. The observation tower at the top gives you 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains, making for breathtaking panoramic shots. On clear days, visibility can stretch over 100 miles! It’s a haven for sunrise and sunset photos, with the colors playing a symphony on the horizon. Remember, it can be chillier up there, so dress in layers. Clingmans Dome offers a paved hiking path, albeit steep. To get to it, you turn off Newfound Gap Road 0.1 mile south of Newfound Gap and follow the 7-mile-long Clingmans Dome Road to the large parking area at the end. At only 1 mile round trip, experienced hikers might consider it a brisk walk. 

the Chondola at Anakeesta Mountain

Anakeesta Mountain

Anakeesta Mountain is a treasure trove of photo ops, presenting a harmonious blend of natural beauty and whimsical charm. The journey begins with a scenic Chondola ride, where the sprawling views of lush greenery set the stage for what’s to come. Then, the Tree Top Skywalk sways you through the treetops, providing unique aerial perspectives for your lens.

At night, experience the Astra Lumina Enchanted Night Walk. Take advantage of the add-on to the daily admission and walk along the observatory grounds at night. Illuminated pathways and projection mapping create a cosmic atmosphere that freezes time.

Hollywood Wax Museum

Bonus: Local Attractions With Fun Photo Ops

Gatlinburg is renowned for its scenic views and mountain peaks, where visitors come from all over to take Great Smoky Mountains National Park photos. However, a short trip leads you to Pigeon Forge. In Pigeon Forge, the attractions aren’t just spots to visit but vibrant scenes to capture through your lens, showcasing the diverse appeal of the nearby area.

Hollywood Wax Museum Entertainment Center

Experience the allure of Hollywood in the heart of the Smokies! The Hollywood Wax Museum Entertainment Center offers more than just wax figures — it’s your VIP pass to the red carpet. Brush shoulders with A-listers, from the glamorous Marilyn Monroe to the charismatic Johnny Depp, all stunningly lifelike due to the meticulous craftsmanship of the artists​. It’s your chance to be seen in fabulous photos with icons, thanks to the museum’s props and costumes that add a dash of drama to your snapshots. While it’s not the natural backdrop of the Smokies, it’s a captivating detour where you can “meet” legends and create unforgettable memories. Dive deep into the lives of the stars, discovering everything from quirky facts to their philanthropic efforts. This isn’t just a museum; it’s an immersive journey filled with glamor, fun, and unbeatable photo ops!

Beyond the Lens!

Beyond the Lens!

Dive into pop culture, conspiracy theories, and interactive games at Beyond the Lens! This tech-driven attraction provides unique photo ops you won’t find anywhere else. Step into the Selfie Gallery for a photo adventure! Get ready to strike a pose and defy gravity as you levitate from a bed. Have a cameo with Bigfoot or hold a press meeting in the Oval Office—talk about one-of-a-kind vacation snaps!

decorative mural at Country Barn Photo Park in Pigeon Forge, TN

Country Barn Photo Park

Escape to a world where rustic charm meets artistic flair at the Country Barn Photo Park. This unique spot is a haven for photography enthusiasts and families alike, offering a picturesque setting with a twist. Here, vintage setups merge with the creative genius of local artists, resulting in stunning murals that serve as backdrops for your photos​. Perfect for whimsical selfies or themed photo shoots, the Country Barn Photo Park adds a layer of fun and fantasy to your photo albums. It’s a destination for imagination and joy in every camera click!

The Great Smoky Mountains and Gatlinburg aren’t just about picturesque peaks and lush forests. They’re also about the memories you make and capture in frames. Each spot offers a unique flavor and experience, promising not just fantastic photos but unforgettable experiences. Whether it’s the natural wonder of Clingmans Dome or the quirky charm of local attractions, your trip will be a collage of diverse, captivating snapshots. So, charge your cameras and clear your SD cards—it’s time to create visual magic in the Smokies!

Content on this page is subject to change. Please contact the locations mentioned to see if promotions, hours, pricing, etc. are still valid.

About Andy Rowe

Andy Rowe is an experienced Writer and Content Designer with a passion for storytelling. He earned his Masters of Business Administration while living abroad in Taiwan and has spent the past 6 years honing his skills in copy writing, social media content, and thought leadership. Andy has a talent for research and the ability to adapt this writing style to different audiences. When he’s not writing, Andy enjoys traveling, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and reading.

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