The Great Smoky Mountains are a great source of inspiration and peace. They look beautiful in photographs at anytime of the year. However, there is something especially magical about these mountains when they are illuminated by a morning sunrise or an evening sunset. Seeing Smoky Mountain sunsets and sunrises should be on everyone’s bucket-list when they visit the area. Auntie Belham’s Cabin Rentals know some of the best places in the Smokies to see both.
1. Clingmans Dome
Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Smoky Mountains at 6,643ft! Clingmans Dome has a parking lot area along Newfound Gap Road. Once you park you will have to walk up the paved path to the observation tower. From there, you will be rewarded with a 360-degree view of the Smokies. This panoramic view means that Clingmans Dome is perfect to watch both sunsets and sunrises over the mountains from any time of year.
2. Cades Cove
Cades Cove is an 11-mile motor trail located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The land is like a small valley with meadows, rolling hills, and many historic structures located on it while mountains surround the valley in the distance. This area is picture perfect any time of year, any time of day. We recommend seeing a sunset or sunrise here especially though because it adds a beautiful glow to the area and a wonderfully peaceful feeling.
Tip: This is a popular area in the park, so make sure if you plan to visit that you include travel and traffic time.
3. Mt. LeConte
Mt. Leconte is the third highest peak in the park at 6,593ft! Mt. Leconte can only be reached by hiking trails. There are several trails that lead to the summit of Mt. Leconte all that vary in length and difficulty. All of these trails, though, lead to the Mt. Leconte Lodge. It’s here that you can rest your feet and watch inspiring Smoky Mountain sunsets and sunrises. Hiking up to Leconte is an experience we promise you will never forget or regret!
4. Oconaluftee Valley Overlook
You will find the Oconaluftee Valley Overlook about a half mile from Newfound Gap going towards Cherokee. This overlook faces east making it an excellent place to watch a sunrise in the mountains. Oconaluftee is a calm place to watch the sunrise, and you can get some great pictures here.
5. Morton Overlook
The Morton Overlook is a very popular place to see the sunset in the Smokies. The overlook is located less than a mile from the parking area on the Tennessee side of Newfound Gap.
Tip: Plan to arrive at least an hour early due to the high popularity and limited parking at this location.
6. Foothills Parkway
The Foothills Parkway is divided up into several sections and connects several major highways. It is an ideal detour to see the Great Smoky Mountains during a road trip. A particular section located near Townsend, TN facing west is a great spot to watch the sunset. Since the overlook here faces west you will get to watch the sun disappear across the Cumberland Plateau in the distance.
Tips for Watching Smoky Mountain Sunsets or Sunrises
There’s no doubt that a Smoky Mountain sunset or sunrise will be the best view you have on your vacation. If you’re hoping to catch one while you’re in town, we have a few helpful tips for you to keep in mind!
- Arrive early. Like we mentioned for a couple of the locations listed above, you’ll want to arrive early to wherever you plan on watching the sunset or sunrise. This is because most of the areas get crowded during these times, and arriving early is the only way to guarantee you have a great vantage point. Check to see what time the sunrise/sunset is scheduled to occur so you know what time you should arrive at your destination.
- Bring your camera. You’ll want to make sure you have your phone or camera handy when you go to watch a Smoky Mountain sunset or sunrise. The view will be unlike anything you’ve seen before, and you’re going to want to cherish it forever!
- Enjoy it. Although snapping at least one photo of the breathtaking sight is a must, make sure your eyes aren’t glued to your phone or camera the whole time. Put the phone away and just enjoy the beauty of the Smoky Mountains!
If you don’t want to battle with waking up really early or staying out late, you can always watch Smoky Mountain sunsets and sunrises from the comfort of your cabin with a mountain view! You and your loved one can have a cup of warm coffee together watching the sunrise, or you and your kids can marvel at a picture perfect sunset that evening together.