2017 Smoky Mountains Solar Eclipse

When Is The 2017 Smoky Mountains Solar Eclipse?

The highly anticipated 2017 solar eclipse is the first of the 21st century and will happen on August 21, 2017. The eclipse path, which will be 67 miles wide, will stretch from Oregon to South Carolina. The total solar eclipse will treat viewers in 14 states to total darkness during daytime hours!

The entire western half of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will be within the path of the solar eclipse making this the perfect time to visit the Smoky Mountains! For the majority of the viewing points in our area, expect to see the beginning of the partial eclipse at 1:00 pm eastern and the total solar eclipse around 2:30 pm eastern.

What Is Causing The Solar Eclipse?

Smoky Mountains Solar Eclipse

To understand what causes a solar eclipse, it is necessary to understand how the sun, earth, and moon are related. Each 365.25 days, the earth makes an orbital trip around the sun. Simultaneously, the moon orbits the earth every 27.32 days.

Although it is rare, sometimes the moon’s orbit will place it between the earth and sun – this causes a solar eclipse (see image above). A total solar eclipse is simply the moon blocking the sunlight and casting a shadow on a small portion of earth.

If you are at the center of the moon’s shadow, the sky will become totally dark similar to nighttime. The center of the eclipse path will produce a near-darkness experience.

The effects of the eclipse will last several hours, but the total eclipse will only last approximately two minutes.


Where Is The Best Spot To Watch The Solar Eclipse?

2017 Gatlinburg Smoky Mountains Eclipse

Clingmans Dome (SOLD OUT)
Clingmans Dome, which is located approximately seven miles from Newfound Gap, is the official viewing spot for the total solar eclipse. The large parking area is being converted to an event site complete with experts, educational displays, and story tellers.

However, a ticket will be required to enter the exhibit and viewing area. To purchase tickets for $30 each, visit Recreation.gov. The ticket will allow you to board a National Park bus in either Cherokee, NC or Gatlinburg, TN and provide transportation to the Clingmans Dome area for the 2 hour and 30 minute event.

UPDATE: Clingmans Dome total solar eclipse tickets are sold out. If tickets become available due to cancellations, they will be made available first-come, first serve at the link above. 

Great Smoky Mountain Railroad (SOLD OUT)
Looking for a unique way to experience the solar eclipse of 2017? The Solar Eclipse Train is difficult to beat! This excursion provides a roundtrip train ride from Bryson City, NC to Dillsboro, NC where you will watch the eclipse. The entire event is five hours long with a total of two hours in Dillsboro, NC.

The cost is $59 for adults and $35 for children and include safety viewing glasses for the eclipse.

UPDATE: Great Smoky Mountain Railroad tickets are sold out for this event. If you have questions concerning updated availability, please contact them directly.

Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
There will be several informal eclipse viewing sites throughout the National Park and Cades Cove is a great option! The large open field in front of the Cades Cove Visitor Center and the Dan Lawson Place will make ideal viewing spots.

Since advance tickets will not be sold and vehicular traffic will be limited, we recommend arriving at least several hours prior to the eclipse. On a normal summer day, Cades Cove is one of the busiest places in the National Park – expect insane crowds and traffic jams with this special event adding to the madness!

Oconaluftee Visitor Center
The Oconaluftee Visitor Center in North Carolina is located near Cherokee and does not require an advance ticket. The visitor center is adjacent to a large and open field that provides an ideal viewpoint.

Since advance tickets will not be sold and parking is limited at this location, we recommend arriving at least several hours prior to the eclipse.

Bryson City, North Carolina Downtown Area
This quaint mountain town, which is a little over one hour from downtown Gatlinburg, is known for being the home of the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad. However, even if you choose not to ride the ‘Solar Eclipse Train,’ Bryson City is an ideal setting for watching the eclipse.  The Travel Channel recommends Bryson City as the top spot in North Carolina to watch the eclipse!

The town has decided to create a weekend itinerary for those coming into town for the event – the events start on Friday evening and last until after the eclipse is over on Monday. A few of the highlights include a themed Smoky Mountain Railroad excursion, County Fair with food trucks, live music, and more! Our favorite place to watch the solar eclipse is at Swain County Park. You can purchase a parking pass here.

The total eclipse, which will start at approximately 2:35 pm eastern in Bryson City, will last approximately 1 minute and 57 seconds. The partial phase will start at 1:06 pm eastern and last until 4:00 pm eastern.

Dillsboro, North Carolina Downtown Area
Although Dillsboro is approximately one hour and thirty minutes from Gatlinburg, it is worth the drive! This mountain town is nestled on the banks of the Tuckaseigee River and offers visitors a picturesque experience.
The downtown area features five blocks of historic buildings and stores. While you are waiting on the solar eclipse, why not explore the town, eat a meal, or grab a treat at the old-fashioned soda fountain in the general store?
The total eclipse, which will start at approximately 2:35 pm eastern in Dillsboro, will last approximately 1 minute and 49 seconds. The partial phase will start at 1:06 pm eastern.
To view the event from Dillsboro, you do not need tickets. However, the area is expected to be very busy and we recommend arriving several hours early.

While each of the above options will provide a memorable solar eclipse viewing experience, the total eclipse will NOT be viewable from downtown Gatlinburg. The path of the total eclipse is to the west of Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg. If you are visiting the area, consider arriving early or making a reservation at one of the above spots.

Are There Any Safety Considerations With Solar Eclipses?*

Smoky Mountains Solar Eclipse

Yes, it is absolutely imperative that you protect your eyes! During a total eclipse, there is a short time period that you can directly view a total eclipse without solar filters. However, the remainder of the time you will need to view the uneclipsed and partially eclipsed sun through solar filters or “eclipse glasses.”

According to NASA, Rainbow Symphony, American Paper Optics, Thousand Oaks Optical, and TSE 17 are reputable brands.

It is important to note that homemade filters and ordinary sunglasses do NOT provide proper protection. Here is the official NASA webpage concerning eclipses and eyesight safety that we highly recommend reading.

*This document does not constitute medical advice. Readers with questions should contact a qualified eye-care professional.

We are excited about the 2017 Smoky Mountains Solar Eclipse and hope you can join us for this historical event. If you need lodging for the solar eclipse, check out our selection of Smoky Mountain vacation rentals here.