6 Best Photography Spots in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The best way to capture your vacation is of course, with pictures. You see so many beautiful views when you visit the Smoky Mountains but where are the best photography spots in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park? If you want to stay in your car, there are some great scenic car rides in the Smoky Mountains but what about those other places within the national park?
With over 800 square miles, the Smoky Mountains offer a unique view of Tennessee and North Carolina. The Smoky Mountains offer a glimpse into the wildlife within the park that includes bears, deer, elk, turkey and more. To help with your vacation, we’ve put together a list of the best photography spots in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Follow this guide and your vacation will be full of memories that are sure to last a lifetime.
1. Newfound Gap
Newfound Gap is one of the easiest accessible spots in the Smoky Mountains. Newfound Gap Road runs from Gatlinburg to Cherokee, NC and there are plenty of places to stop and grab some great pictures. While Newfound Gap Road is one of the busier roads through the national park, there are some opportunities to explore and get away from the traffic.
The views from Newfound Gap start the second you pull into the parking lot. This is a perfect spot to grab a sunrise picture (if you make it up early enough) and you can access the Appalachian Trail from this parking lot.
The parking lot isn’t the only place full of photo opportunities. The north end runs along the Little Pigeon River while the south end runs along the Oconaluftee River. Both rivers give you a great chance for some pictures.
2. Clingman’s Dome
The highest point in the Smoky Mountains provides some of the best views you will ever see…period. Once you travel the 7 miles up Clingman’s Dome Road, the views become amazing. There’s a steep walkway up to the observation tower about half a mile from the parking lot. You will need to maneuver around once you arrive at the top due to tall trees in the way of your shot. If you make this trek in late fall however, the trees blocking the views are minimal.
If you prefer NOT to walk up the walkway, you can still get some great pictures from the parking lot area, but if you can make the walk…you should definitely try.
3. Mount LeConte
The 3rd highest point in the Smokies is also one of the most popular for hikers. You can get to Mount LeConte by hiking just under 5 miles from the Alum Cave Trailhead on Newfound Gap Road. There are several different trails that you can hike to reach Mount LeConte, but the trailhead from Alum Cave is the shortest hike. The drive to the trailhead is under 9 miles from Sugarland’s Visitors Center in Gatlinburg. There are two parking lots available for those wanting to hike to the top of Mount LeConte.
4. Cades Cove
Perhaps the most popular spot in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is Cades Cove. It’s very common to see deer and even black bears. The best way to get to Cades Cove is from Townsend using Laurel Creek Road. You can also access Cades Cove from Gatlinburg by taking Little River Road to Laurel Creek Road.
Once you get to Cades Cove, you can enjoy the 11 mile loop that will provide amazing pictures. While this loop is used for motorists, there are several places to pull over and get some great pictures. Aside from the great wildlife, there are several old buildings like homes, churches a mill and barns.
5. Chimney Tops
If you don’t mind hiking a little bit, Chimney Tops is another great spot to check out. Once you make the 2 mile hike to the peak of Chimney Tops, you’ll be treated with amazing panoramic views. There are also some places along the trail that have some greats views. The trailhead to Chimney Tops is off of Newfound Gap Road, 7 miles south of the Sugarlands Visitor’s Center.
There are several amazing waterfalls throughout the Smoky Mountains National Park. For that reason, we are combining them all into one entry on this list. Remember though, waterfalls aren’t in the middle of a parking lot and will require some hiking to get to.
While it’s not the tallest waterfall on the list, it certainly is one of the most beautiful. At just 20 feet tall, Abrams Falls provides a serene and beautiful setting for hikers. The trail is 5 miles roundtrip and is located at stop #10 on the Cades Cove loop.
If you make this hike on a sunny day, you’ll understand how Rainbow Falls got its name. This 80 foot waterfall is just before the entrance to the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and is 5 and a half miles roundtrip. A lot of the hike winds next to the LeConte Creek, so you’ll have great picture opportunities on your way to the falls.
One of the most popular waterfalls in the park has to be Laurel Falls. There is an upper and lower falls, as well as a walkway in the middle. The trail is only 2 and a half miles roundtrip and does have some steep places. The trailhead begins off Little River Road from Sugarlands Visitor’s Center towards Cades Cove for just over 3 miles.
These are just a few of the best photography spots in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Whether it’s hiking a trail to a majestic waterfall or never leaving your car, remember to always abide by park rules and regulations, never feed the wildlife and most importantly…have fun! Also, check with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park website before your trip as some roads are closed during the winter and others have specific hours of operation.
Other blogs you might be interested in…
Scenic Car Rides in the Smoky Mountains
Bear Safety in the Smoky Mountains
Hidden Gems: The Best Places to Eat in Pigeon Forge