A local offers his opinion on the famous glass-bottomed bridge in Gatlinburg
In recent years, the Gatlinburg SkyPark’s glass-bottomed SkyBridge has become one of the most iconic attractions in the Smoky Mountains. As a local who has had a first-row seat to witness how the Gatlinburg skyline has transformed in recent years, I can understand why.
It is not only an attention grabber from the Parkway but it’s become the stuff of legends. In fact, it’s become somewhat of a tradition in recent years for locals to scare family visiting from out of town as they cross the iconic glass panels mid-bridge as they tell the tale of “that one time the glass cracked.” Which of course, never fails to strike fear into the heart of that one person in your group who, for some reason, came to the mountains with a fear of heights.
The SkyBridge at Gatlinburg SkyPark is an attraction that is certainly worth visiting unless you’re afraid of heights. It’s the longest pedestrian cable bridge in North America and features a glass-bottom center. It famously cracked in 2020 when a guest did a “baseball-style slide” and cracked the glass bottom with his keys. Of course, no one was in danger and the glass has since been fixed. The SkyPark also offers a restaurant, a SkyTrail and other scenic attractions.
IN THIS ARTICLE
- Things to do at the SkyBridge
- Did the Gatlinburg SkyBridge really crack?
- Is the SkyBridge safe?
- Do you have to take the chairlift?
- How long does it take to walk across?
- Is there a restaurant at SkyPark?
- Did the SkyPark burn down in 2016?
- How much does it cost?
- Conclusion: Is the Gatlinburg SkyPark worth it?
Things to do at the SkyBridge
The first thing to know is that the Gatlinburg SkyBridge is part of a larger attraction called the Gatlinburg SkyPark (formerly Gatlinburg SkyLift Park). The Gatlinburg SkyPark was founded in the 1950s, the famous yellow chairs of the SkyLift have been ferrying folks up to the top of Crockett Mountain for nearly 70 years. There are a variety of attractions at SkyPark in Gatlinburg including the SkyLift (chairlift), Tulip Tower (an observation tower), SkyTrail (a walking path), SkyCenter (a restaurant and gift shop) and SkyDeck (an outdoor amphitheater)
But of course, the highlight of SkyPark is the Gatlinburg SkyBridge, the longest pedestrian cable bridge in North America. The bridge stretches 680 feet across a deep valley. It is comfortable for walking with room for a leisurely stroll and for those who move at a brisker pace. At its highest point, the bridge is 500 feet above Gatlinburg and approximately 140 feet off the ground. The bridge offers breathtaking views – especially from the 30-feet of glass floor panels in the middle of the bridge.
Did the Gatlinburg SkyBridge really crack?
As I said before, you can’t really go to the SkyBridge without hearing the tale of the great SkyBridge crack of 2020. Did the glass really crack? Unfortunately, the rumors are true. And the glass really did crack. However, the tale has become somewhat exaggerated over time. Today, the story is mostly used as a tool to taunt families visiting from out of town and scared of heights as slowly make their way across the bridge 150 feet up in the air. Because ya know, they needed another reason to be scared. Isn’t family great?
Here’s the real story. Guests were way up in the air, minding their own business, taking in views of Gatlinburg when a man attempted what was described as a “baseball-style slide” across one of the glass panels. Upon impact, it is believed that the keys from his pocket cracked the glass. And also, I imagine, freaked a whole bunch of people out. But it should be noted that no one was ever in any danger. There were multiple levels of redundancies that prevented something bad from happening. He cracked the upper layer of one of the glass floor panels on the pedestrian bridge. There were several other layers remaining, and the bridge has been long since repaired.
Is the SkyBridge safe?
In short, yes, the Gatlinburg SkyPark is safe. But there may be restrictions for certain individuals. For example, it’s recommended that infants ride the chair lift in a baby harness or wrap attached to the parent. Dogs are also allowed as long as they are leashed for the visit. Owners must also be able to securely hold their dog while riding the lift. The chairs can fit up to three individuals, but guests are welcome to ride one or two per chair if preferred. Operators will make sure you get in the chair comfortably. And while parts of SkyPark are wheelchair accessible, the SkyBridge is unfortunately not.
Do you have to take the chairlift to get to the SkyBridge?
Yes. Guests at SkyPark must take the chair lift to gain access to the attraction, including access to the famous SkyBridge. Anakeesta, on the other hand, offers a truck to help guests get up to the attraction in addition to the chair lift. So, if you’re worried about the lift, this may play into your decision on whether or not you should go.
How long does it take to walk across?
Not very long, but of course, it depends on how much you stop to take photos along the way. On average, it takes about 3-5 minutes if you take a leisurely stroll across the bridge. During peak times, staff may be positioned near the middle of the bridge to gently encourage a steady flow of traffic just so everyone is able to get across.
Is there a restaurant at SkyPark?
Yes, you can grab a bite to eat on the second floor of the SkyCenter at SkyPark. Although, it’s less of a restaurant and more of a snack bar with incredible views and a spacious seating area. The menu features basic staples like hot dogs, ice cream and beer. Hey, we all have our own definition of staples, no judging.
Did the SkyPark burn down in 2016?
Yes, the Gatlinburg fire in 2016 temporarily destroyed SkyPark. To make matters worse, just as the SkyPark was rising from the ashes, Anakeesta opened offering a similar and rather competitive experience in an arguably more scenic and upscale location. However, the folks at SkyPark answered both challenges admirably. The SkyPark reopened in 2017 looking more beautiful than ever before with plans for expansion.
How much does it cost?
Ok. So how much for an admission ticket? Honestly, it’s not bad. There are multiple types of admission at SkyPark. And prices can go up or down depending on the day. The first is the unlimited reentry SkyPass (starts at $34 per adult, $27 per senior, $20 per kid 6-11). The SkyPass must be purchased at least 3 days in advance online. The second is the general admission Single Ride pass (starts at $27 per adult, $20 per senior, $13 per kid 6-11) – an online ticket that allows a single entry into the park. The Single Ride must also be purchased 3 days in advance online. Children under 5 are free. All tickets include access to the SkyLift chairlift and SkyBridge. Tickets are also available for purchase on-site. SkyPark also offers $3 military discounts at the ticket booth on-site for military members (with military ID). Local residents also receive special rates with proof of residency.
Conclusion: Is the Gatlinburg SkyPark worth it?
I think SkyPark is worth it – unless you’re terribly afraid of heights. Plus, they’ve added a lot of value to the price of your admission. I suppose the question is whether you choose SkyPark or Anakeesta. Personally, I prefer Anakeesta’s views of the Smokies. However, I will say that your ticket up the mountain at Anakeesta is really just a starting point. I feel like you’re ultimately likely to spend a lot more money on a trip to Anakeesta. I like to be able to look out over the mountains without seeing the town. Editor’s note: Read a full comparison of SkyPark vs Anakeesta here.
The Gatlinburg SkyPark is located at 765 Parkway in downtown Gatlinburg. For tickets or more information visit the website.
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