After a rich 24-hours of mountain-coaster riding, Parkway strolling, and Gatlinburg sightseeing, there is no better way to end a day in the Heart of the Smokies than with a picturesque sunset and someone special. Here are our most unique and memorable ways to see a glorious Smoky Mountain sundown in Gatlinburg.
The Gatlinburg SkyLift Park
The first stop on our recommendation list has you traveling five hundred vertical feet to the top of Crockett Mountain via the iconic Gatlinburg SkyLift, taking guests to gasp-worthy vantage points that can only be found atop the Gatlinburg SkyLift Park. From there, you can pair a spectacular hue-changing sunset with an exhilarating walk along the Gatlinburg SkyBridge - the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America. If you are looking for a more serene setting, be sure to catch the last rays of the day from the comfort of one of the rocking chairs that dot the newly opened SkyDeck, the park's sprawling observation deck. The beautiful deck acts as a launching point for the kind of detailed panoramic views you’ll want to come back and witness during the attraction's daytime hours as well.
Another fun and scenic way to gain some elevation on a Gatlinburg evening is a classic. Ober Gatlinburg’s Aerial Tramway has been soaring 11,000 feet above the ground for over 45 years and has transported even more passengers up to Ober Gatlinburg’s amazing year-round activities. The Tramway’s 2.1-mile ride up to the Amusement Park & Ski Area allows visitors a near 15-minute opportunity unlike any other - sweeping views of the park’s most famous peaks and plenty of time to watch the sun cling to their soft, rolling ridges.
But the magic moments don't stop there. Once they reach the top, visitors can ascend even higher with the help of Ober Gatlinburg’s Scenic Chairlift. While the Chairlift’s claim to fame might be as the longest Chairlift of its kind in the United States, its best features are the lovely scenes the attraction showcases on its journey to the peak of Mount Harrison. Here, you can see as far as Douglas Lake on a clear day or get a flawless sight of Mount LeConte as the summer sun dips below the horizon in a stunning display of ever-changing hues.
While every destination in the world offers its own palette of colors at dusk time, nothing quite compares to the “golden hour” of the Great Smoky Mountains. And there’s arguably no better place to watch the shades of the evening’s sunset unfold than from the top of Anakeesta, which is just a chondola ride away from the sidewalks of downtown Gatlinburg. Anakeesta’s ever-expanding outdoor amusement park offers something for everyone in the way of mountaintop bliss - from delicious summer-style cuisine at Cliff Top Grill and Bar to fire-pit sitting in the heart of Firefly Village. But the best of Anakeesta’s attractions might be its simplest: the view. Watch the sun slowly descend into the distant horizon from a number of the attraction’s great new gathering areas like the Overlook Beer Garden and Vista Garden Walk.
Gatlinburg Space Needle
Scaling 407-feet tall and offering 360-degree views of Gatlinburg and the surrounding mountains, you can’t find a more all-access way to catch a setting sun in the 'Burg. When the day starts to come to a close, make a beeline for the Space Needle's glass elevators to you take all the way to the top of one of Gatlinburg's most iconic structures. Get your timing just right and you will be rewarded with the shimmering lights of Gatlinburg's burgeoning nightscape as the sun blurs into layers of smoky, blue mountains.
Places to See a Sunset in the Smoky Mountains
Cliff Top at Mt LeConte
Cliff Top is hands down the best spot to watch the sunset just a few steps from Mt. Leconte. The overlook is the perfect place to watch the Great Smoky Mountains explode with colors.
At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains and an unmatched place to watch the sky change as the sun goes down. At this altitude, the colors linger for a long time. Take the short but steep hike from the parking lot up to the Observation Tower for 360-degree views. Don’t forget to take a flashlight for the walk back to your car! To get there, take U.S. 441 south from Gatlinburg and look for the Clingmans Dome road just one-tenth of a mile south of Newfound Gap.
Newfound Gap parking area
Halfway between Gatlinburg and Cherokee, N.C., you’ll find this parking area, which has views to the east and west. It’s a great place to watch the sunset as well as sunrise.
Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
Along many parts of the Motor Nature Trail, there’s too much vegetation for a good spot to view and photograph the sunset. But if you bear right toward the end of the trail rather than taking the loop, you’ll find lookout points that will reward you with amazing sunset views.
Morton Overlook on U.S. 441
You’ll want to arrive early to find a parking spot at this popular sunset viewing site. It’s well worth it, since a series of mountain ridges that fade to blue into the background make a fabulous frame for the sunset. As you’re traveling south on U.S. 441, start looking after you pass through the second tunnel outside Gatlinburg. The Morton Overlook is the second one on the right. If you’re going north on U.S. 441, the Morton Overlook is the third one on the left after Newfound Gap.