I got to visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park in October 2018. This popular National Park captured my heart. I would love to go back one day. As I love landscape photography, I’ve created my top list of the best photo spots at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, including pictures! While this is not an all inclusive list, it represents my research as well as my first hand experience in the park. Keep reading to find out the best photo spots at Great Smoky Mountains National Park!
Elevation Gain: 585 ft. | Distance: 2.6 miles round trip | Best Time of Day: Early morning or on a cloudy day
I fell in love with Grotto Falls the moment I saw it. Located along the Trillium Gap Trail, Grotto Falls is a waterfall you can walk behind! This soft flowing beauty creates a magical photography opportunity and is well worth the hike! Click here to read more about how to find and photograph Grotto Falls! For a tutorial on how to photograph soft and silky waterfall pictures, click here!
Newfound Gap Overlook
Elevation: 5,046 ft. | Distance: Right next to the Newfound Gap Overlook parking lot | Best Time of Day: Sunrise
The Newfound Gap Overlook is located between North Carolina and Tennessee along the Newfound Gap Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This location faces East and would provide great sunrise photography opportunities. Even if you go during the day, it is worth a visit. There is a spot where you can stand in two states at once as well as lots to do and see! Click here to learn more about the Newfound Gap Overlook!
Morton’s Gap Overlook
Elevation: 4,783 ft. | Location: Overlook on the Newfound Gap Road | Best Time of Day: Sunset
I WISH I could take credit for this amazing photograph of sunset at the Morton’s Gap Overlook, but I can’t. Sadly, we had limited time at Great Smoky Mountains National park and I decided to go to Clingman’s Dome for my sunset photographs. That said, Morton’s Gap is one of the top sunset locations at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The above photograph is used with permission from photographer Zack Knudsen. Check out his website here or follow him on Instagram @zack_knudsen for some amazing landscape photography inspiration! You won’t regret it! To get more information on where to find the Morton’s Gap Overlook, click here!
Parking at Mp14.4 Overlook
Elevation: 5,039 ft. | Location: Right next to the pull out, just past the Morton’s Gap Overlook | Best Time of Day: Sunset
This little pullout is not labeled but is the overlook just past the Morton’s Gap Overlook. On the map it is called “Mp14.4.” (For directions, click here!) While less popular of a location, because it is facing west, I believe that sunset here would be spectacular. I love how the trees frame the Appalachian mountains in the distance. If nothing else, I would definitely stop to look and take a picture as you drive along Newfound Gap Road!
Oconaluftee Valley Overlook
Elevation: 4,905 ft. | Location: Parking area #4 along the Newfound Gap Road | Best Time of Day: Sunrise
Here is another shout out to amazing photographer Zack Knudsen. Used with permission, this photograph of the Oconaluftee Valley Overlook is just one of many in his collection. Check out his website here or follow him on Instagram @zack_knudsen for some amazing landscape photography inspiration and to order prints! Because I didn’t have enough time at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I had to choose between photographing the Oconaluftee Valley Overlook at sunrise and hiking to Grotto Falls. I chose the waterfall, but hope to return to this magnificent National Park one day to watch the sun rise over the Oconalufee Valley Overlook. A large print photograph of this location was featured at the Sugarlands Visitor Center just when you walk in. Gorgeous view! Click here to get directions and to see a map.
Trillium Gap Trail
Elevation gain: 3,401 ft. | Distance: 6.5 miles | Best Time of Day: Early morning, Evening, or on a cloudy day
The Trillium Gap Trail is beautiful every direction you look. After 1.3 miles of hiking, you will arrive at Grotto Falls. From there, you can turn around or keep on hiking. If you go in the early morning, you can get a beautiful misty fog which provides stunning photography opportunities. Going early also allows you a chance to find parking as this hike is extremely popular and is located on the one-way Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. Click here to get directions and to see more photographs from the Trillium Gap Trail! If you take the Trillium Gap Trail all the way to the end, you will hike to the top of Mt. Le Conte!
Clingman’s Dome Parking Lot
Elevation: 6,647 ft. | Location: Next to the parking lot | Best Time of Day: Sunset
Sunset at Clingman’s Dome is spectacular! While I loved hiking to the top of the Clingman’s Dome Observation tower (and highly recommend it), the view from the parking lot at sunset was equally amazing. I will always remember the blue and purple hues that emanated from the Great Smoky Mountains as I watched the sunset. For directions to Clingman’s Dome, click here.
Elevation gain: 314 ft. | Distance: 2.6 miles round trip | Best Time of Day: Early morning or evening or on a cloudy day
Laurel Falls is also a fabulous photography location. The hike is easy to moderate and the cascading falls are beautiful. Make sure to bring a wide angle lens as the foot bridge crosses directly over the falls. Sadly, I hiked here during the day and so most of my photographs have harsh lighting. That said, Laurel Falls is definitely worth a visit! Click here for directions!
Clingman’s Dome Observation Tower
Elevation Gain: 332 ft. | Distance: 1 mile round trip from the parking lot | Best Time of Day: Sunrise and Sunset
Clingman’s Dome did NOT disappoint! The hike up to the observation tower was shot but steep. That said, the views were incredible! Clingman’s Dome is a popular location for both sunset and sunrise photographs. This was taken at sunset, but because the observation tower gives you a 360 degree view of the Great Smoky Mountains, sunrise is also beautiful here. On a side note, early morning at the Great Smoky Mountains this high up can bring in a lot of cloud cover, so plan accordingly. Due to heavy snow and icy conditions, access to Clingman’s Dome is closed in the winter. For directions to Clingman’s Dome, click here!
It’s no wonder why Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most popular National Park in the United States! No matter where you go in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you will fall in love with it! I hope you have enjoyed learning about my best photo spots at Great Smoky Mountains National Park and that you get to visit this beautiful National Park yourself. If not, at least you can see it through my photos! Thanks for reading and sharing my adventures with me!
Do you love National Parks as much as I do? Click on the map below to follow my blog and get a
To purchase some of my photographs through the stock agency, visit Shutterstock or contact me today!
Please note, this website contains ads and affiliate links. Thank you for your support and for making this site possible!