7 Epic Places to See Sunrise and Sunsets in the Smoky Mountains

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has some of the best natural beauty of anywhere we’ve been.

The landscape makes for some beautiful views 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!

Quick Pick

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

clingmans dome

This place is unbeatable for a sunset.

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

cades cove

This valley is one of our favorite places in the area.

At dawn, the sun rises over the mountains and lights up the valley, for some great views.

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.

It’s a great time to bring a bike and ride around the loop!

3. Morton Overlook

morton overlook sunset

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

anakeesta view of gatlinburg

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 at sunrise time but is a good option for sunset.

5. Foothills Parkway (Look Rock Firetower)

foothills parkway

Enjoy amazing views without needing to hike.

Along the new elevated Foothills Parkway (a great scenic drive), there are some great places to stop and park.

Most of the overlook stops have plenty of parking, too.

look rock firetower

A bit further west along the Foothills Parkway, the views are great from Look Rock Firetower.

Look Rock is just a 10-minute uphill hike (more of a walk, really) from the parking lot. We’ve been here many times and never had a problem finding a parking spot.

Tip: Its elevated position above everything provides a great view, perfect for capturing the moment.

6. Max Patch

max patch sunset north carolina

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 to backpackers for overnight camping, but the park service closed it in 2020 after trash and cleanliness problems.

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

roaring fork overlook

The second and higher stop on the scenic Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail drive makes another great view, but the parking lot is small.

Like most stops on this scenic roadway, there’s only room for 3 or 4 cars.

There are also not really any backup parking areas, as it’s a narrow one-lane road. So once you’re past the parking spot, there’s no going back!

Tip: The drive along Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is scenic; it’s one of our favorite scenic drives in the area.

Combine this drive with a stop here at sunset (if there’s room!)


The Great Smoky Mountains National Park makes an amazing backdrop for sunrise and sunsets.

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