If you think Smoky Mountains, you might also think of the sky, and in particular, the Gatlinburg SkyLift, SkyDeck and the SkyBridge which offer visitors the opportunity to experience unbelievably beautiful mountain sights they would otherwise not be able to see without some serious hiking.
A subrange of the Appalachian Mountains and part of the Blue Ridge Physiographic Province, the Smoky Mountain range runs along the Tennessee, North Carolina border in the south-eastern United States with a history which spans thousands of years, from the ancient Paleo Indian tribes to the European settlers in the 1800s to modern day.
Established in 1934, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park protects most of the range and is the most visited national park in the US. A designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and part of an International Biosphere Reserve, the Smokies are home to approximately 187,000 acres (76,000 ha) of virgin forest and in the lower elevations, the cove hardwood forests are among the most diverse ecosystems in North America.
Gatlinburg’s first settlers, Martha Jane Huskey Ogle and her seven children moved from South Carolina in the early 1800s and built a cabin in the area which became known as White Oaks Flats. Initially pioneer settlers and later, veterans of the Revolutionary War moved from North Caroline and settled in White Oaks Flats. In 1850, Noah Ogle established the first general store in the village. Radford C Gatlin, a preacher, settled in the village in 1854 and opened the town’s second general store and established a post office in his store which resulted in the town’s name changing to Gatlinburg in 1856. Gatlin was apparently a controversial figure and was eventually banned from the area.
The Gatlinburg Sky Lift was opened to the public in 1954 and is one of the oldest continuously operated attractions in the Smoky Mountains and located across the street from Ripley’s Believe It or Not, one of many popular attractions in downtown Gatlinburg.
When in Gatlinburg, the SkyLift is definitely a must do. The ride starts in the middle of town and travels up towards the top of Crockett Mountain, a vertical ascension of 500 feet. It’s a 20 minute round trip with spectacular views and an option to stop at the mountain-top SkyDeck.
The SkyDeck was added to the park in 2019 and offers sweeping views of the Smokey Mountains where you can stroll around for a panoramic view, relax on a patio chair on the deck and perhaps avail yourself to delicious snacks and craft beer from the café before, or after, stretching your legs with a walk on the SkyBridge.
The SkyBridge, completed in May 2019, promises an unforgettable experience with more awesome views and some excitement thrown in. The bridge spans 680 feet, and reaches a height of 140 feet at its midpoint and is the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America. Visitors can stroll across the bridge at their own pace and, while many hesitate walking across the glass panels placed periodically along the bridge, the view beneath your feet is definitely worth experiencing. Don’t forget to take a picture as proof and a reminder that you ‘braved the glass’!
The park offers all-day passes to enjoy the facilities at your own pace. Gatlinburg has plenty of other great attractions to visit, and accommodation for those who wish to linger a while longer.
For accommodation info, visit gatlinburg.com
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