If we start a discussion of the best scenic overlooks near Gatlinburg TN, we should begin with a caveat.
You don’t have to leave Gatlinburg at all for great mountain views.
To illustrate, there are several great views located just a short walk from downtown Gatlinburg.
Anakeesta offers majestic views of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park as well as Gatlinburg below.
Ober Gatlinburg’s aerial tramway offers views along the trip as well as a spectacular view once you reach the ski resort, amusement park and scenic mountain getaway. And it is a great way to enjoy amazing views. In addition to the great views from the parking lot, Ober offers a skylift to the top of Mt. Harrison, which may be the best single view in Gatlinburg.
The Gatlinburg Sky Needle often referred to as the Gatlinburg Space Needle, features a 407-foot observation tower. And it also offers a great vantage point to see the surrounding mountains.
The Gatlinburg Skylift Park and its SkyBridge also offer an observation deck and is also a great spot to get panoramic views of the Smokies.
And so, you can get great views on your vacation without ever leaving the confines of Sevier County. And you will have plenty of time to run over to Pigeon Forge if you need to.
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What are the best overlooks in Gatlinburg?
But, it should be said, as magnificent as these views from these popular spots are, they pale in comparison to the best places to get breathtaking views of the Smoky Mountains.
For the best views, you can get into the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
However, many of these will be located on roads that are closed during bad weather including snow or high winds. During the winter months, be sure to check the National Park Service website to make sure these fantastic views are accessible.
7. Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook
Located on the Gatlinburg Bypass, the Gatlinburg Overlook offers great views of … the City of Gatlinburg and the surrounding mountains.
I wouldn’t say the bypass is necessarily a beautiful drive – at least not compared to some of the best scenic drives around.
But the bypass offers two things, a relatively short drive and a good way around the downtown traffic as you make your way to the border of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
6. Cades Cove
Cades Cove is not a traditional overlook in the sense that the view across the Cove isn’t one that indicates how high up in the mountains you are.
Still, I would be remiss not to include the view from the front of the one-way loop road across the wide-open spaces of the valley to the mountains beyond. I believe that, at the right time of year, it is one of the best scenic views in the United States.
The fact that all you need is a packed lunch and a blanket to create one of the world’s greatest picnic areas is an added bonus.
5. Roaring Fork Interpretive Marker 1 Overlook
Like the Gatlinburg Overlook, the Roaring Fork Overlook isn’t the highest spot in the mountains to take in the view. But the view is spectacular nonetheless.
The Roaring Fork Overlook comes with the added bonus of traveling the one-way Overlook which is filled with old, historic sites, buildings and some of the best trails around.
Roaring Fork is an exceptional value in terms of time invested to get the best of the good stuff. It is located a short drive from downtown Gatlinburg. Therefore, you don’t have to hike the Appalachian Trail to see many of the amazing things the mountains have to offer.
4. Inspiration Point
Located on the Alum Cave Trail, Inspiration Point offers beautiful views of the North Carolina side of the Smokies. It is found just across the state line in Tennessee.
The Alum Cave Bluffs Trailhead is on U.S. Highway 441, which connects Gatlinburg to Cherokee, North Carolina. This road can be closed in inclement weather so be sure to check with the National Park Service before embarking.
Located along the Alum Cave Trail on the hike up to Mt. LeConte, the Alum Cave is one of the more unique sights in the Smokies.
Cave is probably a generous descriptor. In truth, Alum Cave is really just a giant space where the trail cuts under a humongous bluff. It can offer shelter from the weather to go along with the most amazing views.
3. Morton Overlook
Located not far from Inspiration Point as the crow flies, Morton Overlook is far easier to access. In fact, it’s essentially a pull-off from 441, offering a view from the high mountains down into the valleys below.
It is situated perfectly for sunsets – if you don’t mind driving the twisty mountain highway after dark.
The overlook’s view of the darkening mountains meeting the oranges, pinks, reds and yellows of the sky is like something out of a poem or an impressionist painting. On the right evening, there will be no more beautiful place in the world.
2. Mount LeConte
Maybe the least accessible popular viewing destination in the Smokies, Mt. LeConte, or Le Conte, is the third highest peak in the Smokies.
And it is also home to the LeConte Lodge, the highest elevation inn providing lodging for visitors in the Eastern United States.
Reservations go quickly in advance but it is possible to hike in and out on the same day if you have the stamina. There are five trails that lead to Mt. LeConte, none of them are what you’d call easy.
1. Clingmans Dome
At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the National Park, the highest point in Tennessee and the third highest mountain east of the Mississippi.
From the observation tower, you can get 360-degree views. On clear days, you can see over 100 miles, but due to air pollution, the view is often less than 20 miles.
Clingmans Dome Road is located off Newfound Gap Road and the site has plenty of spaces in the parking area. While you’re there, be sure to check out the Rockefeller Memorial from which President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke at the park’s dedication.
The walk up to the observation tour is paved but it’s not easy. Strollers and/or wheelchairs are not allowed on the path which is quite steep. Clingmans Dome Road closes seasonally.