Mountain views: These are the best scenic spots in the Smoky Mountains

Blue ridge mountains

Some of the best mountain views can be found simply from the road. Above: The Appalachian Mountains on the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina (photo by Jadimages/shutterstock.com)

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You could spend a lifetime searching the Appalachian mountain range for the most gorgeous views. 

In fact, you could catalog them by state, separating the spectacular views from the merely beautiful views. 

For instance, are the best views of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina or Tennessee? 

What about the panoramic views of the mountains in Georgia? Are there better views in Virginia? 

Are the best views from the highest peaks? Or is it preferable to take in the incredible views from a distance, seeing the majesty of the highest point in the Eastern United States from afar?

The truth is, ranking the gorgeous mountain views is an impossible task. In fact, the mountains are littered with great views. 

There are dozens of incredible views along I-40 between Cocke County and Asheville. And you don’t even have to get out of your car. You don’t have to slow down.

Beautiful mountain views everywhere you look.

For example, there’s a rest stop, the Haywood Rest Area, not far across the state line into North Carolina. The area has scenic views that rival some of the best picnic areas in the mountains.

The only thing that stops me from planning family outings there is the stigma of traveling specifically to a rest stop. 

What is the best mountain town to visit?

Gatlinburg, of course, is one of the most popular mountain towns. The Smokies are home to the most visited national park.

Some of our staff members have also visited the Rocky Mountains in Estes Park, Colorado.

Aspen or Park City may be on your list if you’re looking for the best place to ski or snowboard.

There’s also Jackson Hole, Wyoming and our cousins in Branson, Missouri.

But if you’re looking for a place to soak in the beauty? That’s easy to do here in East Tennessee and Western North Carolina.

It’s just not hard to find a spectacular mountain view in the mountains, particularly in the Smokies. Heck, you can even find beautiful views amid the crass commercialism of Pigeon Forge.  

Read Also: Rocky Mountains vs Smoky Mountains: Comparing elevation, views, wildlife

It’s all a matter of knowing where to look. And while we haven’t been methodically cataloging views over the course of a lifetime, certain places leave their mark. In other words, we know where to look. 

So here are some of our favorite places to soak in the majesty of the mountains in the Great Smoky Mountains, our number one choice for mountain views.  

Cliff Top at Anakeesta
Anakeesta is an attraction that offers some of the tallest views of Gatlinburg, where you can dine indoors or outdoors (photo by Daniel Munson/TheSmokies.com)

7. Anakeesta

There’s something to be said for the view from downtown Gatlinburg’s theme park. And it’s also the perfect place to experience the luxury of dining out, having a few drinks and soaking up the majesty of the mountains from Anakeesta’s Cliff Top Restaurant.

Anakeesta gets bonus points for ease of accessibility. This is the only in-town view on our list that gets the nod because you turn away from the city. The category is views of the mountains, not views of Gatlinburg.

If you visit Anakeesta, remember to check Tripster for discounts.

Read Also: 17 top webcams to see live views of Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg

View from Cades Cove
Cades Cove is a popular destination for stunning views of the mountain as well as spotting wildlife (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

6. Cades Cove

The front half of the loop of Cades Cove offers some of the most beautiful views in the mountains. When the sun and clouds and sky are right and the mountains are a verdant green or filled with a rich tapestry of fall colors, the view is spectacular.

The only downside is you can’t see the wider mountains from inside the Cove. You’re essentially at the bottom of a bowl. A beautiful, picturesque bowl, but it’s not the same as standing atop the highest peaks and seeing the vast mountains spread out below. 

Max Patch view
A visit to Max Patch can make you feel like you’re on top of the world (photo by Doug Ash/shutterstock.com)

5. Max Patch

This under-appreciated bald located near the Tennessee-North Carolina line has both relatively easy access – provided you don’t try to drive in from the wild Tennessee side – and majestic beauty.

A bald is essentially a mountaintop that was cleared of trees long ago, allowing a grassy meadow to grow. And so the result is a clearing for a 360-degree panoramic view of the mountains around.

Located on the Appalachian Trail, it’s a short walk from the parking area to the bald, where it can feel like you’re on top of the world. 

Blue Ridge Parkwaky
The Blue Ridge Parkway has some of the best views without ever leaving your car (photo by Anthony Heflin/shutterstock.com)

4. Blue Ridge Parkway

Speaking of feeling on top of the world, seeing the best mountain views while on a scenic drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains is a great way to experience the best views of the region. 

The Parkway runs from Virginia into North Carolina, but I’m partial to the areas around Maggie Valley and Cherokee. As you wind through the mountains, you never know when the foliage is going to open up and reveal just how high and far you’ve gone. 

Certainly, it’s a great way to experience the Carolina side of the Smokies. 

Read Also: 7 Gatlinburg scenic overlooks: Best scenic routes for beautiful views

View of Alum Cave in the Smoky Mountains
The view of Alum Cave in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park requires a hike, but it is worth it (photo by Melinda Fawver/shutterstock.com)

3. Alum Cave Trail

Why are we picking the hike to Alum Cave and not Mt. LeConte?

Technically, you can do both in one hike if you’re up for it.

Mt. LeConte offers magnificent views. But there’s something about sitting under the protection of the Alum Cave – which are really massive cave bluffs – that adds to the experience. And it makes the hike truly worth it.

There are other places in the mountains that are more easily accessible than Mt. LeConte where you can get comparable views. There is nothing in the Smokies or beyond quite like the Alum Cave Bluffs.

Plus you can hike there without the steep ascent and elevation gain of the final push up to LeConte. 

newfound gap
Newfound Gap is the lowest drivable pass through the Smokies (photo by SeanPavonePhoto/stock.adobe.com)

2. Newfound Gap Road

The road that runs through the national park from Gatlinburg to Cherokee is awash with beautiful views. At an elevation of 5,046, it cuts through the lowest drivable pass in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Particularly, with its multiple overlooks where you can stop and soak in the views, it may have the best percentage of natural wonder to drive time of any road east of the Rockies.

If you catch the Morton Overlook at the right time of day, as the sun hangs low, you can’t find many better views in a lifetime of searching.

Both the Charles E. Webb and Chimney Tops overlooks also offer magnificent mountain views.

The Carlos Campbell Overlook isn’t bad either.

There are great picnic spots at either end. There’s the Chimneys picnic area on the Tennessee side and the Oconaluftee Visitor Center on the North Carolina side, where you can see the park’s wild elk. The drive is well worth your time.  

clingmans dome at sunrise
Clingmans Dome offers one of the best views in town for a Smoky Mountain sunrise (photo by Jason Sponseller/shutterstock.com)

1. Clingmans Dome

As the highest mountain in the Smokies, Clingmans Dome is the third tallest peak east of the Mississippi. The observation tower which is atop a steep paved trail is the best in the mountains.

On clear days you can see over 100 miles but often air pollution limits the view to 20 miles or so. The road leading to the tower closes in the winter, but you can hike the seven miles from Newfound Gap Road to the Dome parking lot. 

Do you have a favorite place to view the mountains? Share it with us in the comments.

Disclaimer: While we do our best to bring you the most up-to-date information, attractions or prices mentioned in this article may vary by season and are subject to change. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any mentioned business, and have not been reviewed or endorsed these entities. Contact us at [email protected] for questions or comments.

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