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.
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.
Is the Treetop Skywalk walk 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.
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!
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