No matter what time of year it is, there are always beautiful and unique things to see in the Smokies. Rushing waterfalls, trickling streams, blooming wildflowers, historic houses, old white chapels, historic cemeteries, rolling hills, dipping valleys, black bears, deer, birds, salamanders, city lights, big attractions along the Parkway, blues skies, and rainbows, and sunbeams from heaven…
The Great Smoky Mountains are great because of all these things. Photographers flock to the Smokies for a chance to snag the perfect pic, and as an amateur photographer, we know you want the best shot, too. So whether you’re looking for wildlife, wildflowers, or the buzz of the city, read on for some of the best places to snap a great shot.
- Clingmans Dome – Make your way to the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains for truly incredible views overlooking the trees and spanning out over the mountains. It’s a 7-mile drive up Clingmans Dome Road and then a steep walk up to the observation tower. Even the parking area boasts stunning mountain views, giving you those classic shots with rich greens in the foreground and varying hues of blue fading off into the distance.
- Gatlinburg Space Needle – If you’re looking for some awesome city shots, try the top of the Gatlinburg Space Needle. You’ll take a glass elevator up 400 feet for 360-degree views of the city and the Smokies. It’s a great chance to try your landscape shots, or you can go for panoramas.
- Abrams Falls – This smaller waterfall (20 feet) in the national park is a bit easier to grab a shot of than the taller falls. When the water’s at its peak, enjoy amazing views of the rushing water with lots of greenery all around. It’s about a 5-mile roundtrip hike and considered moderately difficult.
- Laurel Falls – Laurel Falls is one of the most popular waterfalls in the park, featuring an upper and lower cascades with a place to walk along the middle. It’s also a shorter hike, just 2.5 miles roundtrip. There are a few steep areas, but the shots you can get of the rushing water are worth the hike.
- Cades Cove – Probably the easiest place to get some amazing shots (and a huge variety of them) is in Cades Cove. You can find some wonderfully photographic spots along the 11-mile loop, with treats like black bears, historic homes and churches, fields of wildflowers, and peaceful streams around every corner. If you’re an amateur photographer just getting started, you’ll find there are plenty of easily accessible places for memorable photos.
- Newfound Gap – Running from Gatlinburg all the way to Cherokee, North Carolina, Newfound Gap Road is easily accessible and provides many opportunities for great photographs. Get a sunrise photo in the Newfound Gap parking lot, spend the day trekking along the Appalachian Trail or find a lovely spot along the Little Pigeon River or the Oconaluftee River. Catch some fishermen casting a line, get some amazing photos of the water running across the smooth river rocks, or get a closeup of the mountain laurel growing along the water’s edge.
- Mount LeConte – If you’re willing to make the trek, the views from the top of Mount LeConte (on a clear day) are ones you don’t want to miss. It’s a strenuous hike up, about 5 miles from the Alum Cave trailhead. Be prepared for a full day of hiking, packing plenty of snacks and water. The top, however, will be worth the climb. You’ll get awe-inspiring views from the third-highest point in the Smokies.
Of course, these are only a few of the hundreds of fantastic places to get photos. Take a drive along the Parkway in Pigeon Forge (or ride the trolley), and you’re sure to find some unique places for photographs. Or you can explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that boasts 800+ miles of trails, a diverse wildlife population, wildflowers, and much more.