Smoky Mountains Artwork In Your Home
The calm serenity of the scenes in the Smoky Mountains makes for a wonderful addition to your home. Maybe it’s the Dogwoods in Spring bloom along the Little River, the John Oliver Cabin or Sparks Lane in Cades Cove, or the mountains from one of the overlooks like Clingman’s Done or the Foothills Parkway. You can Bring Home the Experience with just a couple of clicks.
Visiting and Photographing The Smoky Mountains
For those of us that grew up in the Eastern United States, there was likely a family vacation to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There have always been many opportunities for camping, hiking and other tourist activities, but I have since learned to love the area for its beautiful photographic possibilities. Let’s explore those.
The Park is in both North Carolina and Tennessee. As you head into the Park from the south side, just outside of the town of Cherokee, you will come to the Mingus Mill. This historic 1886 grist mill still functions and is a good place to learn about how mills work. In the fall, it is an excellent location for fall color photos.
The Oconaluftee River follows alongside US 441 as you head up into the mountains. There are several good places to stop along the way, such as at Collins Creek, Kephart Prong Trail, and Kanati Fork Trail. Take some time on these trails and you are sure to find good compositions of the rivers and streams.
Just before you get to Newfound Gap, you will come to the Luftee Overlook followed by the road out to Clingman’s Dome. This is the only place I know of anywhere that is set up so well for both sunrise and sunset photography with a double-wide sidewalk for both people and tripods. For mountain views, it’s the best there is.
As you proceed north and down from Newfound Gap, you will pass the Morton Overlook. The views and photographs from here are also excellent and extremely popular. Next down the road is The Alum Cave Bluffs Trail and the Chimney Tops Trail. Both are great to explore and photograph.
There are quite a few places to stop as you continue down the mountain to the town of Gatlinburg. I have learned over the years to just stop and get out to explore.
You have to take the road into the town of Gatlinburg to get to Cherokee Orchard Road that goes out to the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail. This is a leisurely one-way loop road. Highlights along the road is Grotto Falls, the Jim Bales barn, and the Ephraim Bales Cabin. There is a lush green feel to this area unlike other areas in the Park.
From the Sugarland Visitor Center, you head west on the Fighting Creek Gap Road to begin your journey to the west side of the Park. There are several Quiet Walkways worth exploring prior to arriving at Laurel Falls. The trail to the falls is slightly uphill and a little over a mile each way. It can be extremely crowded, so plan to get there very early to avoid people being in your photos.
The road changes to the Little River Gorge Road and is joined by the Little River that runs alongside of it. There are a large number of pullouts along the road as you pass Metcalf Bottoms and Meigs Falls.
Just after passing the intersection to Townsend, Tennessee, there is a stone bridge over the river that is one of my favorite places to photograph. This is also where you can go out Tremont Road, which runs alongside the Middle Prong Little River, with an excellent view of trees overhanging the river.
Back continuing on Little River Road, takes you to Cades Cove. This former settlement with fields and old cabins has more photographic opportunities than I can name. My favorite old structure to photograph is the John Oliver cabin, although there are many more. Take the time to learn about the history of this settlement, as it is quite fascinating.
My preferred location to base out of is Wears Valley, as I find it the most centrally placed location to get to a variety of areas in the Park. It is also close to the Foothills Parkway, which may be one of the most overlooked drives with scenic views in the Smoky Mountains. Check it out and you won’t be disappointed.
I recommend mid-April for Spring colors and Dogwoods in bloom. For Fall Color, the second and third week of October are usually good. The trees turn first at the top of the mountains and the changes in colors work their way down. You would just about have to be there for two weeks to get both.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in my opinion, is the prettiest place in the Eastern United States. Experience it again or for the first time!
Fun Facts About Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of 63 National Parks in the United States and was designated as such in 1940. The Park straddles both North Carolina and Tennessee. It covers over 500,000 acres and receives over 12 million visitors each year, more than any other National Park.
The Smoky Mountains are within the Blue Ridge Mountains which are a subset of the Appalachian Mountains. It where the highest peaks in the eastern United States reside. Although adjacent to tourist areas like Gatlinburg, the hiking trails, campgrounds, rivers, waterfalls and mountain views are the real attraction. In addition to the mountains in this park, see our gallery of Fine Art Mountain Photography. There is also some great Fall Color.