Stunning scenery abounds throughout Gatlinburg and forms the basis of many of the area’s top tourist attractions. Often, the struggle is not finding somewhere with great views, but rather, narrowing down the long list of options.
This is particularly difficult with local scenic drives and hikes (with dozens of each available) but can also prove surprisingly challenging when planning visits to niche attractions such as suspension bridges. The SkyBridge and Anakeesta’s Skywalk, for example, are both well-regarded, but tourists often struggle to determine which of these is more deserving of a visit.
Both attractions have significant claims to fame: Anakeesta offers North America’s longest treetop skywalk, while the SkyBridge gets the honor of being North America’s longest pedestrian cable bridge. Based on reputation alone, these are about equal. The same goes for ratings and reviews, as both consistently receive top marks. The same is true of the larger attractions in which they’re found: locals and tourists alike adore both Anakeesta and the Gatlinburg SkyPark.
Ultimately, no one attraction is truly superior — a lot depends on what you want from the experience. These attractions are actually quite complementary and, if you have the time, it’s more than worth your while to add both to your itinerary.
If, however, you are forced to choose, you will want to take the following considerations into account:
Both the SkyBridge and the Skywalk offer mesmerizing views of Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains. This is made possible, in part, by the sheer power of elevation: it takes a lift (or, at Anakeesta, the Ridge Rambler truck) to reach the attractions in the first place. Even without setting foot on the SkyBridge or the Skywalk, the views will still be amazing.
The thrill of the experience largely stems from the height of each bridge experience. Heights vary considerably: at Anakeesta, the Skywalk involves a suspension height ranging anywhere from 50 to 60 feet, while the SkyBridge reaches 140 feet at its midpoint.
For some visitors, the Skywalk’s lesser height lends a definite advantage: anybody afraid of heights will find the Skywalk a lot less intimidating. Thrill-seekers, however, will likely prefer the added height of the SkyBridge, even if the swinging bridge at Anakeesta delivers its own unique form of excitement. The SkyBridge, however, is nearly three times the height and feels even taller at times due to its glass floor panels.
Heights do not always determine the quality of the view and, although it’s a bit closer to the ground, Anakeesta’s Skywalk is certainly gorgeous. This walk involves getting up close and personal with the lush foliage, which looks lovely in the summer and especially spectacular during the fall months.
If you crave panoramic views, the SkyBridge may be a bit more your speed. This is just enough removed from the trees that you can gaze at the mountain scenery from afar. If you prefer this type of view and you’re committed to Anakeesta, however, you’re in luck: Anakeesta also is home to the AnaVista Tower, which is the highest point in downtown Gatlinburg. Surrounded by botanical gardens and featuring glass panel floors, this is a great complement to the Skywalk experience.
Scenic experiences are a lot more enjoyable when they are actually accessible. Sometimes, however, the very features that make them so exciting also make them difficult for many people to navigate. Such is the case at Anakeesta, where, while the gondola definitely accommodates wheelchairs, only select experiences at the top are available to all. The Skywalk is one of many that visitors with mobility impairments will need to skip.
This is also a concern for the SkyBridge which, based on its appearance, may initially seem more accessible. In reality, however, the steep grade of Crockett Mountain makes this a poor fit for many visitors. The good news? There is a great substitute at the Gatlinburg SkyPark: the SkyTrail’s elevated boardwalk portion. There is also good news for those with mild physical impairments or restrictions: once actually on the SkyBridge, it’s long but otherwise easy to navigate, given its impressive width.
The SkyBridge and Skywalk are enjoyable, but they don’t take all that long to navigate. Chances are, you will want to make the most of your lift by partaking in other activities. Thankfully, both locations have a lot to offer: dining, shopping, and a variety of activities.
Anakeesta excels with its family-friendly offerings, which are sure to keep kids of all ages happy. Add ziplining, a challenge course, and even a mountain coaster to the mix, and you should have no trouble making a full day of it at this kid-oriented destination.
The SkyPark also has a few decent complementary attractions worth checking out. The SkyTrail, for example, connects the ends of the SkyBridge and provides an excellent hiking experience. The Tulip Tower tells compelling stories on each themed floor and also provides amazing views. The SkyDeck amphitheater is always a top choice for relaxing with loved ones.
Clearly, the offerings are quite different at the Gatlinburg SkyPark and Anakeesta. The former is a better option for leisurely visits and will be especially appealing with groups of friends or for a unique date. Anakeesta, while less thrilling specifically on the Skywalk, is more thrilling nearly everywhere else — and it is definitely the better option for visiting with kids.
Choosing an Attraction
There is no easy choice when you’re interested in checking out Gatlinburg’s SkyBridge and Skywalk. To make the best choice, consider what type of view you want and how you hope to spend the remainder of your time at SkyPark or Anakeesta. No matter which attraction captures your fascination, you’ll be glad you took the time to see and experience the best of Gatlinburg.