The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a famous mountain range that borders North Carolina and Tennessee. It is well known for its diverse wildlife, beautiful fall colors, massive mountain ranges, and, of course, black bears. This vast range of open space gives photographers endless photo opportunities.
This guide gives visitors to the area a list of the best places to take pictures in the park. These are the best photography spots in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The gear we recommend is a good camera and the holy trinity. A wide-angle lens. 14-24mm or something similar. A 24-70mm or something similar and, of course, a 70-200mm or something similar. If you do not have these particular lenses, do not worry; something similar will be just fine. It would be best if you also had a tripod.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park Photography Guide
1. Clingman’s Dome
This is the highest point in the national park as well as the highest point in the state of Tennessee which means this is one of the best places to head for a panoramic view of the area. Expect your pictures to see up to 100 miles on a clear day, giving you breathtaking views and shots.
2. Blue Ridge Parkway
Blue Ridge Parkway is enjoyed by millions of travelers each year and is a scenic drive that spans the Appalachians. This is just around the corner from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and offers photographers some of the best landscapes in the country.
Waterfalls are a common sight in the Smoky Mountains and there are quite a few to add to your list of photo spots. Grotto Falls, Laurel Falls, and Abrams falls are just a few of the many options photographers have with other waterfalls scattered all throughout the park.
The park is a wildlife sanctuary with all types of animals with over 65 mammal species alone. With tons of birds, reptiles, and insects to spot, the budding wildlife photographer will have an exciting time exploring. Those that are lucky may capture the iconic American Black Bear, a symbol of the Smoky Mountains.
5. Sunrise at Trail Overlooks
Mountains call for amazing views and the Smoky Mountains certainly deliver on beautiful vistas to catch sunrises and sunsets from. With the wide expanse of trees, towering mountains, and blue skies, these are the best places to include on your photo tour. A couple of great lookout points to head include Campbell Overlook, Chimney Tops Overlook, and Morton’s Overlook.
The Photography Spots in the Great Smoky Mountains
6. Oconaluftee River
This pristine river runs 10 miles long and has an elevation change of over 2,000 feet. The Cherokee consider this river “sacred waters” and it lives up to its reputation. The river and its streams are easily accessible and are home to hundreds of thousands of trout.
7. Gatlinburg Bypass
This bypass is a 3.6-mile route that is maintained by the National Park Service and considered a part of the Great Smoky Mountains. This winding road gives photographers beautiful shots from all angles whether from above or straight on. The massive trees lining the roadway just adds to the ambiance of the national park.
8. Porters Creek Trail
Porters Creek Trail isn’t just a peaceful hike, it lets you get into the heart of the national park and explore its wooded areas. This hiking trail includes an old cemetery, historic buildings, a trickling creek, and a 40 ft waterfall to look forward to.
9. Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
This trail runs over 5 miles long and got its name from the mountain stream in the area. The best time to explore this area is after a rainstorm. You’ll find endless flowing streams and understand why they were an inspiration for the name “Roaring Fork”.
10. LeConte Lodge
These lodgings are secluded places to stay that are right on the slope of the Smoky Mountains. LeConte Lodge is the only place to stay in the national park. It not only gives photographers quick access to spots in the park, the lodge also makes for cool pictures against the backdrop of trees and the rest of the Smoky Mountains.
11. Newfound Gap
This mountain pass is one of the lowest points in the national park. There’s a wide variety of terrain and ecosystems across the pass with those that drive through seeing sights they’d find driving from Georgia to Maine. Those that hike up the mountains can catch a great view of the pass.
12. Clingmans Dome Observation Tower
While Clingmans Dome is a must-visit location, the observation tower is just as interesting of a sight. Located at the summit of the dome, the observation tower offers 360-degree views of the Smoky Mountains. Creative photographers can practice with the cool angles the tower offers.
13. Chimney Tops Trail
This is one of the most popular trails in the park and offers steep climbs, stream crossings, and a great view of Mount LeConte. This trail offers spectacular views of the park and follows Sugarland Mountain until you reach the first “chimney top”.
14. Cades Cove
Cades Cove is another popular location in the Smoky Mountains because there is a large variety of sights to see from historic buildings to waterfalls to looping roads. This area is rich in history and is also brimming with wildlife with frequent sightings of black bears, coyotes, and deer.
The Tremont area within the park is an education center, wildlife observation area, and an outdoor reaction center. There are many points of interest in Tremont from the Tremont Institute to the Upper Tremont area to the Middle Prong Trail. Look for Indian Flats Falls and old railroad beds that can be seen from the trails in the area.
16. Observation Towers
There is no shortage of observation towers in the national park. Other than the one at Clingmans Dome, there are plenty of other observation and fire towers in the area that offers great shots of the park as well as cool architectural features. The AnaVista Tower and the Mt. Cammerer Fire Tower will provide beautiful views and are also great subjects for photos.
17. Blue Ridge Mountains
The Blue Ridge Mountains are the mountain ranges that the Smoky Mountains are a part of. It also includes the Great Balsams, the Roans, the Blacks, and the Brushy Mountains. The isoprene that the mountains release into the air is what gives them a bluish tint and foggy appearance which shows up beautifully in pictures.
18. Cades Cove Log Cabins
Cades Cove holds significance in history for being a location that early settlers used to live at. Not only are there older cabins there from back in the day, there are also newly built log cabins for visitors to stay in. These log cabins give photographers a picturesque view of life in the woods.
These are the Best Photography Spots in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
If you enjoyed the list, please leave a comment below and share it with your friends. Feel free to stick around and check out our other photography guides. Please remember to check back as we are continually updating our guides.
Tours you might enjoy: