The fall foliage in Gatlinburg is a welcome sign that the scorching temperatures of summer are finally coming to a close. Visitors love coming to the Smoky Mountains around this time of year because it’s as beautiful as it is comfortable. The changing air brings a refreshing bite of crispness to each breath, while the colors add to the richness and depth of each spectacular view. If you’re wondering just where to take in this natural splendor, we’ll take you through the top five spots.
The Gatlinburg SkyLift was opened in 1954, and was originally intended to be a ski area lift. Recently renovated to include a SkyBridge and SkyDeck, SkyLift Park has the reputation of being the top overlook area in Gatlinburg. Let yourself be swept away in the SkyLift towards the peak of Crocket Mountain, traveling 500′ feet up. Each SkyLift chair is designed for up to three riders and has a drop bar that can be used for a little extra security along the way. Ride the SkyLift to the pedestrian bridge and take a unique walk through the trees. At 680 feet long, the bridge reaches a height of 140 feet at its center. You can also visit the SkyDeck, a brand-new experience that provides a fabulous view from the comfort of your patio chair.
If you visit the theme park known as Anakeesta, you’ll have a chance to witness the foliage from a far more active viewpoint. Take a zipline through the treetops to see some serious views of the sheer variety of colors. The dueling zipline gives you a chance to take it all right alongside a loved one of your choice. Or take the rail runner, a thrilling single-rail coaster, down the side of the mountain. With plenty of dogwoods, spruces, and hemlocks, Anakeetsa puts you in the heart of some of the best colors in the Smoky Mountains. (The name of this park comes from a Cherokee word that refers to the rock layer that surrounds many of the Smokie’s more famous peaks.)
Ober Aerial Tramway
The Ober Aerial Tramway runs through the peaks of the National Park as well as over the town of Gatlinburg. You can take the tramway primarily as a way to view the foliage or use it to visit the adventure park for a day of wall climbing and wildlife encounters. The cars of this tramway leave once every 20 minutes or so, and the lines can get long at the more popular times of the year. Cars are standing-room-only and may swing back and forth from time to time, though there are straps available to help riders keep their balance. You’ll be riding along for around two miles, so there’s plenty of time to take in the view.
Gatlinburg Space Needle
The Space Needle was built for visitors to see and enjoy the Smoky Mountains from 407′ high. Perfect for the whole family, the panoramic views of Mount LeConte and the greater park are too stunning to miss. As you take a ride up to the top, you’ll learn more about the ride, the town below you, and the mountains beyond. The Space Needle may not be the most rugged way to see the fall foliage, but it can be one of the most fun — especially if you’re traveling with the younger members of the family. Take the kids to the Space Needle’s 25,000 square-foot arcade for a game or two and follow it up with a slice of pizza or a calzone at its quick-service parlor Slice Pizza Bakery.
Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook
The Gatlinburg Scenic Overlook is a free activity located along the Gatlinburg Bypass (running between Gatlinburg Spur and the National Park). As you ride along the Bypass, there will be plenty of chances to exit your car and stay for a while. There are four areas to park along the Bypass, but visitors may want to aim for the 2nd and 3rd parking areas for the best views. People love this overlook during the fall because the red, orange, and gold colors of the leaves are especially vibrant from this vantage point. If you want to get a few photos, you’ll likely have the most luck from up here. Come during sunset so you can capture the full breadth of nature’s canvas.
Visiting the Gatlinburg area during the fall isn’t just a way for visitors to see a landscape worthy of a poem, it’s also an incredible reminder of just how much beauty there is to be found in nature. Use these spots as a way to inspire you and your family to appreciate and celebrate the beauty of the outdoors. You may just find yourself seeing the changing of the seasons in a whole new light.