With its gorgeous position against the northwestern flanks of the Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg, Tennessee holds its own in the scenic-setting department with just about any town in America. And it looks just about its best at day’s end when a blazing sunset reflects against the high slopes and kindles the evening clouds to dazzling effect.
Here are five of the very best spots to take in the sunset dramatics in this gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
Gatlinburg SkyLift Park
The original Gatlinburg SkyLift opened in the 1950s but got a major facelift in 2019 with the opening of the new and improved Gatlinburg SkyLift Park. We’d go so far to say this up-in-the-clouds complex offers some of the best sunset viewing in the country, let alone Gatlinburg itself. After all, it now includes North America’s longest suspension bridge: the aptly named SkyBridge, spanning close to 700 feet and positioned 140 feet up at its midpoint. The sightlines stretch from the heights of the Great Smokies to an awesome bird’s-eye prospect of town. Then there’s the SkyDeck atop Crockett Mountain, where you can toast the sundown show with a craft beer and revel in the last of the pink and purple mountainscape majesty on your ride down the SkyLift.
You’ll also have broad sunset views this time of year up at the crown of Anakeesta Mountain, where you’ll find the enchanting fantasyland of Firefly Village awaiting you. Getting there is half (at least) the fun: a roughly 14-minute ride 600 feet up in the Anakeesta “Chondola,” seated either in an open four-person chairlift with a safety bar or an enclosed gondola cabin seating up to six. There’s much to do at Anakeesta, from a ride on the single-rail mountain coaster to the treetop-skirting ziplines. And there’s also a lot of lovely twilight color to enjoy those times of the year when the early-evening closing times at Anakeesta coincide with the sunset window…
The Gatlinburg Space Needle
Gatlinburg’s signature landmark, the Space Needle—a half-century or so old—still serves as one of the very best sunset vantages you could ask for in the Great Smoky Mountains region. After all, it gives you front-row seats on a panoramic platform poised more than 400 feet above town. Watching the sundown spectacle play out across the slopes of Mount LeConte and the lights of Gatlinburg twinkle on—well, that’s just unforgettable!
Nearly as venerable as the SkyLift, the Ober Gatlinburg ski area opened in 1962 and welcomes Smoky Mountain visitors in all seasons. Its Scenic Chairlift ascending to the summit of Mount Harrison and its Aerial Tramway deliver their own unforgettable days end vistas.
The Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook
Set along the Gatlinburg Bypass, the Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook offers up one of the truly iconic views in the region—and yet another fantastic sunset perch! Pick out the Gatlinburg Space Needle and other town landmarks while admiring the looming backdrop of the Great Smoky Mountains, including the grand swell of 6,593-foot Mount LeConte. This third-tallest peak in the Great Smokies rises some 5,300 feet from the lowlands of Gatlinburg in a mere six miles or so: one of the more whopping expressions of topographic relief in the Appalachians. Whether donned in the lush leafy green of summer, the kaleidoscopic colors of fall, or snow-dusted winter white, this scene reaches pinnacle power fired by sunset.
A Sunset Safari in Gatlinburg
Given how breathtaking it is, it’s a heck of a deal that Gatlinburg’s sunset show goes down each and every day. Don’t just choose from the above vantages: Hit them all up for maximum sundown splendor!