The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has become a trendy destination in the last few years. And rightly so; it is a beautiful slice of paradise not yet touched by the modern world. However, with over 500,000 acres, you might wonder, where are the best places to take family photos? Well, friend, I’ve got ya. The following are, in my opinion, the best locations for photos in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
However, before I get into each location, let me give you some tips on how and when to go. Since the Great Smoky Mountains have become such a popular destination, there are some tips that will help you enjoy your visit.
- Great Smoky Mountains will implement a parking tag program beginning in March 2023. You can find all the information about this program here.
- Go early! This is the best way to beat the crowds. Typically, the parking lots begin filling up around 10 am and sometimes earlier, depending on the season.
- Visit during the shoulder season. Though there seems to never be a slow time of year for the Great Smoky Mountains, there are fewer busy times to visit. The best times of year are spring and winter. Historically there are fewer people during these times. But keep an eye out for the weather, as the roads may close.
1. Cades Cove
Picture this, you’re in wide open fields with stunning mountains in the background, your kids are running around, and you and your boo are standing back laughing at it all. Not to mention the historic buildings that add a little extra character to the area. Cades Cove loop is an 11-mile one-way loop with various historic churches and buildings, including my favorite, the Dan Lawson House. This is an excellent place for playful photos with grand views, think of little people, and grand landscapes. Which is why it is one of the best locations for photos in the Great Smoky Mountains.
2. Foothills Parkway West
This is a popular place for more intimate photos, maybe for engagements or an anniversary. The stunning view from the overlooks offers beautiful backdrops for you and your boo on your special day. There may be a couple of extra spectators during your shoot. But regardless of the extra traffic, this place is worth it!
This is a local’s favorite place, but it’s their favorite for a reason. It’s probably one of the less visited locations in the park. It is off a dirt road and separated from the main body of the park. Greenbrier is more wooded, with a beautiful river flowing through it. This location will offer wild beauty with water-worn rocks and a powerful river. Watch out for the weather. This area can get washed out or flooded after a significant rainstorm!
4. Oconaluftee Visitor Center
A lot like Cades Cove but along the North Carolina side of the park. The visitor center is surrounded by by a large, beautiful meadow and commonly also full of elk! And let’s face it, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and the Appalachia area are full of history and beautiful historic buildings. And this area is no different. If you want a little extra oomph in your family photos, you’ve found it friend.
5. Newfound Gap
You can’t get more in the center of the park than this!! You can straddle both North Carolina AND Tennessee from this location. Not to mention, it is a pass, so you get stunning views overlooking both Cherokee and towards Gatlinburg. This means you can get both sunrise and sunset from this location.
5. Newfound Gap
You can’t get more in the center of the park than this!! You can straddle both North Carolina AND Tennessee from this location. Not to mention, it is a pass, so you get stunning views overlooking both Cherokee and towards Gatlinburg. This means you can get both sunrise and sunset from this location. And do not be confused, just because this is number 5, does not mean this is a subpar location for photos in Great Smoky Mountans, in fact ist quite the opposite! And if you are willing to hike a little ways up the trails, you will be see why this is one of my favoraite.
Bonus Location: Clingmans Dome
Clingmans Dome is the highest point in Tennessee, which means beautiful views, especially of the North Carolina side. It’s a short hike up to the observation tower where you won’t be disappointed by the views. This is another location where you can watch sunrise or sunset. And both of them are breathtaking, you can catch both if you want to stay up there all day. The only downside to this area, its closed between November and April every year.
The jist of it, no matter where you go, you can find beautiful locations full of powerful beauty, vast landscapes, and historical structures for your next family shoot. But these are probably, in my opinion, the 5 best locations for photos in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, plus they are a little easier to get to. But if you are looking for a little more adventure for your family portraits, or you are an adventurous couple, contact me here. Meanwhile, I would love to hear what is your favorite place to visit in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Comment below.