There's just something special about an incredible view of the mountains. Maybe it’s the endless expanse of beautiful forests, the gentle features of mountains, or the vivid colors produced by sunrises and sunsets, but these scenic vistas are just good for the soul.
Whatever the case, it's clear that many Smoky Mountain vacationers come to the national park to witness jaw-dropping views. To help you experience best scenic overlooks in the Smokies, we've made this helpful guide with a map of where to find them.
Grab your camera and hop in the car for a beautiful drive to the highest peaks in the Tennessee mountains!
The Best Overlooks in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
For the most part, the best overlooks inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park can be found along the Newfound Gap Road. This curvy mountain route climbs nearly 3,000 feet to Newfound Gap, a relatively low point in the main ridge of the Smokies.
Starting from Gatlinburg and Sugarlands Visitors Center, you can easily reach all of these scenic pull-offs by driving towards Newfound Gap towards Cherokee.
1. Campbell Overlook
The first major view point on this scenic drive can be found just 2 miles after Sugarlands Visitor Center. This overlook is named in honor of Carlos Campbell, an early promoter of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
At this scenic spot, you can see the towering face of Mt. LeConte sloping down to Gatlinburg. Two smaller nearby peaks, Balsam Point and Bullhead, are also visible. This overlook is ideal for observing the different forest types at different elevations. Here, you can see cove hardwood forests at lower elevations gradually turn into northern hardwood forests and spruce fir forests near the summit of Mt. Leconte.
2. Chimney Tops Overlook
At the 4.5 mile mark on US Hwy 411 (aka Newfound Gap Road), you'll reach this overlook. The Chimney Tops are one of the most iconic peaks in the Smokies. They sit nearly 2,000 feet above the river and are easily identified thanks to small rock outcroppings that extend from the mountain. The Cherokee named this place "forked antler" for its resemblance to the antlers of a deer, but European settlers thought they had more in common with the chimneys on their cabins.
The steep mountain side across the river has many dead hemlocks that are victims of the invasive wooly adelgid fungus.
A short distance further, you'll find the trailhead for the Chimney Tops Hiking Trail. After that, you'll drive through "The Loop," an ingenious feature that allows US 411 to ascend the mountain through a narrow section between a ridge and the Little Pigeon River.
3. Morton's Overlook
After the tunnel but before New Found Gap Parking Area, at mile 13 drivers will reach Morton Overlook.
At this point, you can fully appreciate how high you've climbed in the mountains. This pull-off offers a clear view of several layers mountain ridges that gradually drop off into the Tennessee Valley. On a clear night, the lights of Pigeon Forge and Sevierville are visible from this spot.
4. Newfound Gap
Less than a mile after Morton Overlook, you'll find Newfound Gap as one of the best overlooks in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This parking area straddles the high ridge of the mountains and as a result, it offers beautiful views of both Tennessee and North Carolina.
The Appalachian Trail passes by Newfound Gap, so if you're interested in exploring a short section of America's famous long-distance hike, this is a great chance. Additionally, the Rockerfeller Memorial commemorates the spot where President Franklin Delano Roosevelt Commissioned the park in 1940.
5. Oconoluftee Valley Overlook
If you continue on US 411 towards Cherokee, you'll find another great overlook only a mile further. This overlook of the Oconoluftee Valley provides a grand view of the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains. Additionally, this east-facing overlook is a great place to watch sunrises during certain times of the year.
6. Clingmans Dome Parking Area
From the Newfound Gap parking area, you can also drive to the highest peak in the Great Smoky Mountains – Clingmans Dome. The Clingmans Dome Road is closed in winter, but in the summer, you can easily reach some of the highest elevation places in the park.
Simply drive 7 miles further to the parking area near the Clingmans Dome parking area. Here, you can see excellent views of the North Carolina side of the park. Since 800 square miles of wilderness surround this area, Clingmans Dome is a popular destination for star gazers who come here to see the night sky unhindered the dulling effects of light pollution.
If you're ready for a short, but very steep hike, you can walk to an observation tower at the mountain's summit that offers a panoramic vista.
Final Thoughts on Overlooks in the Great Smoky Mountains National park
For the most part, the best overlooks in the national park can be reached by driving along the Newfound Gap road. Taking a driving tour on this scenic route is a great way to quickly survey the beauty of the Tennessee mountains, but be sure to take the time to explore some hiking trails to see even more incredible views of the mountains!
Some great hikes to explore for fantastic views are Andrews Bald, the Jump Off, and Charlie's Bunion.
To have plenty of time to explore the natural wonders of the national park, why not plan a vacation to the Smokies and book a cabin rental in Pigeon Forge, TN? Our cabins offer a terrific value for your stay and keep you close to all the best sights in the mountains!
Written by Adam Shafer