5 Best Places to Shoot Photos in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a wonderful place for photographers of all kinds to visit including people who enjoy shooting landscape, nature, and wildlife photography. I have complied a list of 5 of my favorite places to go to when visiting the Smokies to take pictures. Located in Tennessee and North Carolina, the park straddles the ridgeline of the Great Smoky Mountains and contains expansive mountain views that often include wildflowers, diverse plants, and wildlife native to this area.
1. Cades Cove
Cades Cove is known for being one of the most beautiful sections of the Great Smokies. This lush valley is surrounded by mountains providing both early morning and evening photographic opportunities. Bring your long lens and capture great pictures of the wildlife the park boasts, like black bears, white tail deer, turkey, coyote, elk, groundhogs, raccoon and more diverse wildlife all surrounded by trees and rolling green fields. Attracting many photographers each year, spring is a great time to capture vivid bright greens and colorful wildflowers. Cades Cove is open year round from sunrise to sunset. The 11 mile slow paced single lane loop road runs through the picturesque valley offering visitors a variety of photo taking opportunities. The scenic driving tour through Cades Cove takes about 2-4 hours to complete and you will want to stop along different areas to get out as there are many historic building including old pioneer log homes, restored historic churches and barns. Also in the park are amazing trails that lead you to beautiful waterfalls offering numerous options for pictures along the way. Cade Cove also offers a campground facility making it even easier to capture sunrise.
Tremont is located in the region of northwestern Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Situated on the Middle Prong of Little River, Tremont is a watershed area between two mountain ridges that run perpendicular to the main crest of the Great Smokies rising several thousand feet above. It offers several hiking trails and streams, cascades, waterfalls and scenic views. Upper Tremont Road is a fantastic scenic drive with several places where you can park next to the water to go explore and enjoy the Smokies without the crowds. This road begins where the pavement ends so there are fewer people that make the trip. This out of the way place is a hidden secret, and I recommend you take a couple of hours in the “Peaceful side of the Smokies” to enjoy the wildflowers, trees and streams in this remote wilderness.
3. Roaring Fork
Roaring Fork is a narrow winding motor nature trail that runs along side Roaring Fork river in Gatlinburg. Access right from downtown at Light #8 the road leads you directly into the virgin forests, winding up and around scenic mountain top ridges down through lush green old grown forest taking you away from the hustle and bustle in downtown Gatlinburg. The one-way loop road is a little over 5 miles and takes approximately 2 hours to drive, although you will want to stay longer to spend time pulling off the trail to take pictures of the mountain scenery including mountain overlooks, rushing streams, cascades, small waterfalls, mills and historic buildings. There are waterfalls you can access from the many hiking trails, and even some accessible by car. A popular time to go is during the fall due to the mountain views of many deciduous trees. The steep and winding road is covered in a shady canopy of the forest. The forest road is closed from December to Mid-March but can be accessed by foot year round.
4. Newfound Gap
Located near the center of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Newfound Gap Road is the lowest drivable pass situated on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee. There are a few great overlooks with long range mountain views. Our favorite spot for sunrise is the Oconaluftee Valley Overlook, and there's no hiking necessary for this one as the parking lot is located right at the overlook. For sunset we love Morton’s Overlook with it’s long range view of the mountain ridges looking westward, and the deep valley that strecthes out in front of you which is frequently filled with rolling fog and other atmospheric conditons.
5. Clingmans Dome
Clingman’s Dome Road leads you to the highest peak in the Great Smokies National Park. Located off of Newfound Gap Road, this 7 mile road leads you straight to a large parking lot and visitor center where you will find spectacular mountain views of the spruce fir forest. For other photo taking opportunities you can choose to take the steep 1/2 mile hike up to the Observation Tower that has a 360 degree view of the mountains. The road is closed from Dec until April. Temperatures can be as much as 20 degrees cooler there so make sure to bring a jacket no matter what time of the year you go.
I hope these tips will help you to improve your own photography. Use the links to navigate forward, backward, or go to the "Main Menu"