That misty range of the Appalachian Mountains that is affectionately called the Smoky Mountains has always exuded a sense of magic and wonder. This special mountain range derives its name from the ethereal blue mist that has captivated generations. Long before its most recent moniker, the Cherokee referred to these plans as Shaconage, which translates to “land of the blue smoke.” That famed blue mist owes its existence to a distinct combination of chemicals released into the high-vapor atmosphere by native plants, a perfect combination that results in the mesmerizing effect of a lingering smoke.
This effect becomes all the more enchanting when you realize that the Appalachians are one of the oldest mountain chains in the world. Older than the dinosaurs, older than the rings around Saturn, and older even than the very first trees that ever rose from the dirt. And so if you are looking for somewhere special to take an engagement photo, few other places can have as wondrous of a subtext and as beautiful of a backdrop as the Smoky Mountains. Here, you have a natural wonder that has withstood so much time (and will continue to withstand so much more time and elements) and whose beauty is solely unique to it due to complementing natural forces.
Okay, so you’ve decided upon the Smoky Mountains as the location for your engagement photos. Now, the question is just where within this mountain chain is right for you?
Consider the following great locations within this mountain range that offer that perfect setting for your special photo session:
1. Clingmans Dome
Clingmans Dome is the name for a unique observation tower that features a long ramp up to a circular tower that offers full 360-degree views of the Smoky Mountains. Stand at the top of this tower, and you stand at the highest point in all of Tennessee and atop the third-highest mountain east of Mississippi. Plus, getting those spectacular views is fairly easy as you can drive to the base of the dome’s ramp during the warmer months.
2. Cade’s Cove
Some of the best views of the Smoky Mountains aren’t taken from above, but rather from within the heart of one of its river valleys. Cade’s Cove is exactly such a valley! This is a gorgeous valley full of large fields of wild grasses with towering mountains surrounding every side. Go during that magical sunset hour for some truly spectacular photo-taking possibilities.
3. Cherokee Orchard Road and the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
This scenic drive offers a collection of picturesque spots that are ideal for beautiful engagement backdrops, including moss-covered bridges and an old mountain retreat called the “House of the Fairies” just a short walk from the trailhead.
4. Pull-off on the Foothills Parkway
If you’ve got your eye on a big vista of the mountains, then we recommend choosing one of the many outstanding pull-off locations found along Foothills Parkways on the 16-mile stretch between Wears Valley and Walland, Tennessee. As with elsewhere, sunrise and sunset along this route are especially picturesque.
5. Grotto Falls on the Trillium Gap Trail
Grotto Falls is located within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and is named such because the water crashing over the cliffs here has created a gorgeous little cave behind them. This is a very picturesque location, especially if you can get it with just a touch of snowfall or when the waters are truly rushing following the spring snow melts.
6. Townsend Wye
This is a river location that you’ll find near the Towsend entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We love it because you get that natural forested beauty of the mountains, but you don’t have to go very deep into the mountains to do so. Plus, there are places to lay out a picnic or enjoy a quick dip in a water hole.
7. The Old Mill in Pigeon Forge
Sometimes, the best Smoky Mountains photo shoots are those in which mountains aren’t so prominent. The Old Mill in Pigeon Forge offers an iconic historic backdrop with the river, falls, trees, and those gorgeous mountains in the distance. This is especially true if you can set up on the bridge and have your photographer take the pictures facing aligned with the river.
8. Rainbow Falls
This one will require a short hike, but the 80-foot waterfalls may just be that perfect Smoky Mountain backdrop you’ve been searching for. Try and schedule your picture day on a sunny day so as to see the beautiful cascade of colors that gave this waterfall its name. Rainbow Falls is pretty popular, however, so we recommend going during the weekday for a more intimate photoshoot.
9. Cataloochee Valley at the Cataloochee Valley Overlook
This Great Smoky Mountains National Park lookout spot is a must for animal lovers as this valley is really, really popular with elk. Turkey, deer, and bear have also regularly been sighted here. Just note that the road out the overlook is not the best maintained (nor is it paved all the way), so make sure you’re taking something with gusto before going to this less-frequented location in the park. The benefit to that drawback is that you’ll have a lovely backdrop for your engagement photos and won’t have to fight any crowds for it.
10. Gatlinburg Sky Lift
This one might be tricky to set up, but this scenic chairlift takes riders up Crockett Mountain and affords beautiful views of Gatlinburg and the mountains as it does so. Time it right and it just might be the perfect place for your engagement pictures.
Learn More About Where to Stay & What to See
We hope this list of ten top places to take engagement photos has inspired you and your fiance! Make sure to also check our other pages to learn more about other unique facets of the Smoky Mountains, including top places to stay during this special vacation to America’s most magical mountain chain.