The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has some of the best natural beauty of anywhere we’ve been. And light and landscape create some magical moments at dawn and dusk.
There are some great places to see spectacular sunrises and sunsets, depending on whether you want to be on top of a mountain or have the mountains in the background. Here are some of our favorites!
View the sunset at Clingmans Dome, and sunrise at Cades Cove. The sunrise is amazing as it lights up the Cades Cove valley!
Best Viewing Points
1. Clingmans Dome
For a sunset, this place is unbeatable. The panoramic views at Clingmans Dome are breathtaking at the highest point in the Smokies. But check road closures on the National Park website, as this road is seasonally closed from December to March for snow.
Tip: For an unforgettable sunset, arrive early to secure the best spot at the observation tower. The observation tower is about a half mile from the parking lot. It’s steep but paved, so it’s suitable for the whole family.
2. Cades Cove
This valley is one of our favorite places to go in the whole area. There’s tranquil beauty and a historical ambiance at dawn as the sun rises over the mountains and lights up the valley.
Tip: Be there before dawn; you’ll likely have to wait in line for the park rangers to open the gate. Head to Sparks Lane for the best views. You’ll likely see many other photographers there waiting to take sunrise photos.
Cades Cove Loop Road is closed to vehicles on Wednesdays from May 3rd to September 27th. This is a great time to bring a bike and ride around the loop!
3. Morton Overlook
A stop just before getting to Newfound Gap, its dramatic end-of-day scenes have been featured in many pictures. It’s about a 30-minute drive from downtown Gatlinburg.
Check the road closures on the NPS website for this one, too; snow can also affect it since it’s at a high elevation.
4. AnaVista Tower at Anakeesta
If you’re staying in Gatlinburg and are not looking to go far, this tower at Anakeesta offers stunning views at any time of day, especially at sunset.
Tip: Check the operating hours; Anakeesta is not normally open in time for sunrises but is a good option for sunset.
5. Foothills Parkway (Look Rock Firetower)
Enjoy amazing views without needing to hike. There are some great places to stop and park along the new elevated Foothills Parkway. Most of the overlook stops have plenty of parking, too.
A bit further west along the Foothills Parkway, the views are great from Look Rock Firetower, which has plenty of parking and is just a 10-minute uphill hike from the parking lot. We’ve been here many times and never had a problem finding a parking spot.
Tip: Its elevated position provides a stunning backdrop, perfect for capturing the moment.
6. Max Patch
A bit further away in North Carolina, this bald mountain (no trees) offers 360-degree mountain views, making it a great choice for sunset watchers. It is a bit further walk, with about a 20-minute easy to moderate hike from the parking area.
This area used to be open for backpackers for overnight camping, but the park service closed it after trash and cleanliness problems in 2020.
Tip: This wide-open area is great for a picnic or for the kids or dog to run around. For longer stays, remember there are no bathrooms or facilities here.
7. Top Overlook on Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
The second and higher stop on the scenic Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail drive, this spot is nestled within the densely forested landscape.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a breathtaking backdrop for sunrise and sunsets.