Attractions

A walk between the trees in Tennessee at Anakeesta: Prices and location

Anakeesta’s world-renowned Treetop SkyWalk in Tennessee reminds me of one of my favorite moments in literature.

In J.R.R Tolkein’s “The Hobbit”, trudging under the dark canopy of the mighty Mirkwood forest, the Hobbit Bilbo and his Dwarven companions are sullen and angry and nearing despair.

Seemingly abandoned by the wizard who’d promised to lead them, they are trapped in a dark, foreboding, seemingly endless forest that does not allow light to enter or air to move. It is oppressive and they feel increasingly trapped. 

Finally, they send Bilbo, the lightest and most nimble of the traveling party, to climb through the canopy and see if he can get a bearing.

Bilbo pokes through and for a few moments is allowed to soak in the sun and enjoy the breeze. Butterflies flit around the treetops and all of the weight he had felt moments before is lifted. 

But Bilbo’s revelation does nothing for the dwarves below whose burden grows heavier upon hearing of the reprieve that is so near but unattainable for them. 

It’s a lesson in the importance of perspective, one that is driven home throughout popular culture. Think of the “O Captain! My Captain!” scene from “Dead Poet’s Society.” 

Perspective can be everything. 

It’s the difference between walking through a forest and walking above it, and that’s the experience offered by the Treetop Skywalk at Anakeesta. 

What is the Treetop Skywalk at Anakeesta?

Anakeesta bills itself as a mountain-top theme park located in Gatlinburg, Tenn.

The park offers a variety of Smoky Mountain themed activities, but it’s the Treetop Skywalk that tends to be the real show stopper – the hanging bridge that allows guests to take a walk between the trees.

Anakeesta’s Treetop Skywalk is the longest tree-based skywalk in North America.

Treetop skywalk at Anakeesta
The Treetop Skywalk at Anakeesta is suspended 50 to 60 feet in the air (photo by Bill Burris/TheSmokies.com)

What it’s like to experience the Treetop Skywalk

I like the idea of treehouses. From Pippi Longstocking to the Swiss Family Robinson, there’s something about being among the treetops that makes me feel like Bilbo during his few moments in the sun.

Being romantically predisposed to enjoying a Treetop Skywalk, I especially looked forward to experiencing the Skywalk despite my fear of heights. The 880-foot walkway is suspended 50 to 60 feet in the air, after all. 

I liked it immensely. It’s romantic in the idealistic sense of the word. 

But the truth is I think I would have preferred to have it to myself. 

Walking along the swinging ropes over the bright green canopy, my mind wanted to wander. I wanted to find a spot along the course somewhere alone, where I could pull out a chair, sit and think. 

It would be a great place to ruminate, to loosen a few mental shackles and exercise the mind. But, that’s hard to do in the middle of Gatlinburg’s theme park. 

There are couples taking the walk hand-in-hand, families and kids running ahead of their father briefly heeding admonishments to wait and slow down.

The Skywalk offers a sense of joy and wonder

The Skywalk was a place I really wanted to be alone, but that would be a poor business model. 

Not that I begrudged the others the experience. They paid for their ticket as well, after all. 

But there were places built to exercise the mind, and I felt like the Skywalk really could be one. 

Still, as walks through – or above – nature go, the Skywalk is a notch above. 

There is a sense of joy, of wonder, in the changed perspective. It’s a sense of adventure walking from treetop to treetop on rope bridges and wooden planks. And a sense of possibility.

And there are dozens of opportunities to take great pics for the ‘gram. 

Read Also: Is Anakeesta worth it? An honest review

Treetop Skywalk at Anakeesta
While sturdy, the Skywalk will sway a bit if you are around a more rowdy crowd (photo by Bill Burris/TheSmokies.com)

Is the Treetop Skywalk between the trees wheelchair accessible?

Accessibility is an issue. There are stairs down to the Skywalk and then a couple of flights back up and out. It isn’t arduous but if stairs present an issue for you, they are worse upon exit – which is nearer the Anakeesta Chondola – than they are upon entry near the rear of the park. 

At the time of this writing, while many parts of Anakeesta are wheelchair accessible, the Treetop Skywalk is not.

Is the Treetop Skywalk recommended for people who are scared of heights?

The Skywalk course is plenty sturdy. I never felt remotely unsafe.

But it is a rope bridge, it’s gonna jostle and sway. If you get a rowdy batch of teens, you might feel like Indiana Jones in the Temple of Doom. As long as no one is holding a giant scimitar and promising to help you meet an ancient god, you should be fine.

With that said, guests who are deathly afraid of heights might want to skip attraction. 

Location and pricing information

Though Anakeesta’s main course is just a hundred yards or so away and the main strip of Gatlinburg is within view, if you can get a moment’s peace on the Skywalk, it feels successfully remote, appropriately wild. 

They say you can watch nature, and might see wildlife – including a bear – on the forest floor below.  I think you’d be better off watching the birds flit through the treetops.

Read Also: Black bear takes walk on Treetop Skywalk

A general admission ticket to Anakeesta includes access to the Skywalk. At the time of this writing, general admission tickets are $28.99 for adults, $21.99 for seniors and $19.99 for kids (ages 4-11) on Anakeesta’s website. Children 3 and under are free. However, you can usually find a better deal and save a couple of bucks per ticket when you book through Tripster.

Anakeesta is located 576 Parkway, Gatlinburg, TN 37738.

Does Anakeesta offer any military discounts?

Yes – Anakeesta offers a 10% off daily discount to active/retired military and their immediate family. Guests most show a military ID at the gate.

Again, Tripster usually offers an even better deal than the military discount, plus you’d save yourself from a long line at the ticket booth. Always check Tripster first.

On special occasions, (usually on or around Veterans Day) Anakeesta will run limited-run promotions granting free admission to active/retired military as thanks for their service and sacrifice to our country.

Have you taken a walk between the trees at Anakeesta’s Treetop Skywalk attraction? Let us know in the comments!

Click here to view the web story version of this article.

Is Anakeesta worth the money? An honest review

Anakeesta is one of Gatlinburg’s new jewels.

It sits atop a mountain offering spectacular views of both the village and the mountains. Sunsets can be breathtaking and the ride down the chondola at night is especially cool.

But, the more I talk to people about Anakeesta, the same question arises: Is Anakeesta worth it?

The answer is both simple and complicated.

Yes, it’s worth it. But also, it might not be. It all depends on your point of view.

Anakeesta, which bills itself as an award-winning theme park, is very much a work in progress.

A food truck at Anakeesta
Anakeesta offers many tasty places to eat, including food trucks (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

How much does Anakeesta cost?

Your $28 ticket (prices vary for seniors or kids) to ride to the top of the mountain buys you access to spectacular views, the newly added AnaVista Tower and the truly cool Treetop Skywalk. And you can usually find discounted tickets on their Tripster page.

For the kids, a ticket includes access to the TreeVenture Challenge Course, an interactive treehouse designed to entertain children of all ages and the BearVenture Challenge Course, a black bear-themed challenge course designed with young children in mind.

Seasonal experiences can add value as well.

Two years ago, Anakeesta featured a spectacular haunted walk around Halloween that just wasn’t possible last year due to all the 2020 in the air.

At Christmas, they decorate the place with lights that really add a little something to the value of your admission.

But after that? You’ll need to break out the wallet. Nearly everything else costs extra.

BearVenture at Anakeesta
BearVenture is included in the admission price at Anakeesta (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

Which features cost extra at Anakeesta?

At the time of this writing, the Dueling Zipline experience runs around $84 and the Mountain Coaster is around $13.

When you buy a zipline ticket online, it does include the price of general admission, which makes the deal a little sweeter. Especially compared to other prices for ziplining in the Smokies.

But the tickets for the Rail Runner are only available for purchase at the park.

The prices can start to add up since most kids do not expect to only ride a single ride and call it a day. However, you can always ride again for half off.

Anakeesta also offers great dining options from the sit-down options at Cliff Top, Smokehouse, Tap House or the Bar at the Top of the World, to quicker options at the Kephart Café, Pearl’s Pie in the Sky or the Snack Shack.

These, of course, add an additional cost to your trip, but no theme park in the world offers dining options for free so it seems ill-conceived to blame Anakeesta for that.

Same with Anakeesta’s shopping, which is fine, but I can’t imagine anyone paying a $28 entrance fee just to shop up there.

And there lies the rub.

Anakeesta, in my opinion, is pretty great. But it suffers from a split personality complex.

Anakeesta adventure course
For the kids, a ticket offers access to the TreeVenture Challenge Course, an interactive treehouse designed to entertain children of all ages and the BearVenture Challenge Course, a black bear themed challenge course designed with young children in mind (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

What can you do at Anakeesta?

Anakeesta is a theme park that charges extra for the rides because many of its visitors aren’t coming for thrills.

It’s also a dining and shopping destination that charges an admission fee because many of its visitors don’t come to dine or shop.

It is an enigma, wrapped in a riddle and placed inside a conundrum but with spectacular views.

Anakeesta’s operators have been very open from the beginning that the park is a work in progress.

Read Also: 4 Anakeesta secrets revealed at the AnaVista Tower grand opening

I think it suffers a self-inflicted wound by billing itself as a theme park – just a few miles from one of the world’s truly great theme parks.

It’s an unfair comparison, but an inevitable one when you call yourself that.

To my mind, Anakeesta is a unique destination but it’s not a theme park. It’s all theme and very little park.

I think eventually, Anakeesta would be served by two-tiered pricing at the start. One level for those who don’t want to ride the zip line and coaster and another price for those that do.

Now, in fairness to Anakeesta, they seem to be doing very well without my input. Most nights I’ve been by, especially when the weather is pleasant, they’ve done a very good business.

Music at Anakeesta
Anakeesta also occasionally offers live music (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

But is Anakeesta worth it?

But if you’re asking me is Anakeesta worth it? It depends on your point of view.

For my wife and I, we’d pay $28 each (or $25 on Tripster) to ride the chondola, soak up the mountain views, do a little shopping, and grab some dinner and some drinks. Yeah. Sure. Totally worth it.

The extra $50 off the top hurts, but I figure those views and the atmosphere are worth it.

For my family, with three kids who will be bored of the views in 30 minutes? Who had their fill of the tree walk and the playgrounds in another hour?

Nah.

Once you pay for admission, a zip line each and a couple of rides on the coaster, we could have gotten into Dollywood and had access to unlimited age-appropriate rides.

I like Anakeesta. I think it’s really cool. But if I want a $100 theme park experience, I’m going elsewhere.

Read Also: Anakeesta vs. SkyLift Park: Which attraction is better? 

For more information on Anakeesta, visit anakeesta.com. Click here to book your tickets.

Do you agree with our review? Let us know in the comments!

To view the web story version of this article, click here.

How do you access Max Patch NC? Tips on hiking, wildlife, what to wear

There are experiences that are fairly universal to visitors to Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and the Great Smoky Mountains.

Dollywood? Check. The Ripley’s Aquarium? Sure thing. Max Patch? Huh?

You can visit East Tennessee dozens of times and have a lot of fun never getting off the beaten path.

But if you’re looking for a vacation experience a little bit out of the norm, then there are plenty of things to do in the mountains that don’t involve go-karts or watered down “moonshine.”

Max Patch isn’t exactly a secret. But there are a lot of locals who either have a vague idea of Max Patch or have never heard of it at all.

It’s a bald, essentially a treeless meadow on a mountaintop, located in the Pisgah National Forest at the North Carolina-Tennessee border. 

Max Patch is a bald – essentially a treeless meadow on a mountaintop – located in the Pisgah National Forest at the North Carolina-Tennessee border (Martina / stock.adobe.com)

How do you access Max Patch?

A major landmark on the Appalachian Trail, it’s accessible from the North Carolina side from Hot Springs on NC 209, and from Exit 7 on the North Carolina side of I-40. 

I’ve never come in that way and I’m told there’s quite a bit of gravel road involved. We took a third route, through Del Rio.

I have to believe, that either route is preferable to the route we took on a gravel road winding up mountains and along ridgebacks.

We didn’t know that when we set out to meet some relatives coming from the North Carolina side.

We simply followed the directions and set out for what we assumed was going to be a pleasant adventure in the mountains.

Is Max Patch easy to access?

Most mountaineering websites describe Max Patch as easy to access. I think that, in this case, easy is a relative term.

I would say if the weather has been rainy, don’t attempt to reach Max Patch from either side without a four-wheel drive.

And I’d get a fairly good idea of the predicted weather before taking a family for a picnic.

Is there cell service at Max Patch?

Because Max Patch is so remote, there’s no cell service so we printed out our directions and followed accordingly.

We drove to the tiny Cocke County community of Del Rio, to the aptly named Round Mountain Road.

It was evident we’d made a tactical error early on. But with no way to contact our family, we decided to press on.

We were never really in danger.

Max Patch
Max Patch is accessible from the North Carolina side of Hot Springs on NC 209 and from Exit 7 on I-40 (Get Lost With Ash / stock.adobe.com )

Is Round Mountain Road a scary drive?

Round Mountain Road isn’t one of those that hang along a precipice. But it is a windy mountain gravel road in the middle of nowhere. And our Ford Focus wasn’t exactly built for the job.

Every once in a while you read a story about someone following a Google Map glitch and driving into some precarious situation.

While I white-knuckled it past places like Rattlesnake Branch and Lemon Gap, I contemplated the possible headlines that might appear following our untimely demise.

The biggest issue was the uncertainty. Were we being led on a goose chase? If we were on the right road had we stayed on it?

Round Mountain Road had a few offshoots, usually unmarked. And while common sense dictated which gravel path was the main road, it felt like something of a crapshoot.

A couple of times we passed a car heading in the other direction and a smattering of summer cabins let us know we hadn’t left civilization entirely.

Although the feral donkey wandering alone amongst one nest of cabins suggested otherwise.  

Around the Round Mountain Campground we met a couple who assured us we were on the right path. Eventually, we pulled into the small parking lot, grateful for both the views before us and that we had survived to see them.

What time does Max Patch open and close?

Max Patch isn’t a place to come for a quick, pretty view.

It’s a place for lingering. And it’s perfect for a quiet picnic disconnected from the world, save for the few other souls who’ve come to get away.

It’s also a wonderful place to have a picnic, lounge, read a book and catch sunrises and sunsets, though I wouldn’t recommend trying the Del Rio assault under the cover of darkness.

Editor’s Note: On July 1, 2021, the Pisgah National Forest issued a two-year ban on camping in an effort to reduce congestion in the area. The ban will be in place until June 30, 2023.

Currently, Max Patch opens an hour before sunrise and closes an hour after sunset to hikers and picnickers.

Max Patch is open from sunrise to sunset (Martina / stock.adobe.com)

Can you view wildlife at Max Patch?

Wildlife viewing is possible at Max Patch. You will likely see elk and deer. You should treat bears with caution, as always and again, there’s a least one feral donkey. Be careful, they bite.  

How long is the hike for Match Patch?

The giant meadow atop a 4,600-foot summit comes with a 2.6 mile loop trail.

The views are some of the best in the mountains, better than even Cades Cove, in my opinion. 

It’s the closest that many of us regular Joe’s will come to experiencing life on the Appalachian Trail.

What do you wear to Max Patch?

If you go in the non-summer months, remember fall arrives early and spring comes late in the higher elevations. So even on a scorching day at lower elevations you may need to bring a jacket.

But, if you’re looking for an experience that doesn’t involve massive amounts of fellow tourists and truly offers a chance to disconnect, then Max Patch just might be the spot for you.

Have you ever been to Max Patch? Let us know about your experience in the comments below.