There has never been a better time to visit Tennessee than in the winter months. With the leaves fallen, the sweeping views afforded from the mountains, waterfalls, fields and valleys are breathtakingly beautiful. Here are just a few winter photo spots to explore in Tennessee.
Take in the expansive views from the popular Clingmans Dome, deep in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains. Climb to the observation tower of Clingmans Dome for 360-degree views of mountains and spruce-fir forest. It's the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at 6,643 feet and is the highest point in Tennessee. The site is also the third highest mountain east of the Mississippi River. On clear days, you can see over 100 miles of views.
The Foothills Parkway's east and west routes, located just outside the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, are a must-drive. Take the Foothills Parkway East portion for a scenic drive down the historic highway for beautiful mountain views to the south and the valley to the north. The Foothills Parkway West portion will take you to unparalleled views of the Smokies, valley and ridge from the western section of the Chilhowee Mountain. Scenic pull-offs for many photos are along the way. About 10 miles into your drive, visit the observation tower at Look Rock, the section's highest point.
While in the Smokies, make time for the Gatlinburg SkyPark, home to the scenic SkyLift experience (Gatlinburg's longest running attraction), SkyBridge, the longest pedestrian cable bridge in North America, SkyTrail hiking path, Tulip Tower observation deck and more. There are plenty of ways to take in the beauty of the mountains.
Planning a hike in Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Plan an excursion to the stunning Rainbow Falls, an 80-foot high waterfall that produces a rainbow via mist on sunny afternoons. The 5.4-mile roundtrip hike is considered moderate.
Ober Mountain Adventure Park and Ski Area is a winter family-friendly destination. Take a ride on one of America's largest aerial tramways for stunning mountain views. Once at the top of the mountain, go skiing and snowboarding, ice skating, take a turn in ice bumper cars and enjoy indoor shopping, a meal at Seasons of Ober Restaurant and an adult beverage at The Ober Loft Lounge. Be there for special events like 25 Days of Ober which celebrates Christmas with carolers, crafts and more, the Ice Festival at Ober featuring towering ice sculptures, Ober Rocks, Tennessee Special Olympics Winter Games and Spring Fling 2023.
Seven Islands State Birding Park is a premier birding destination where you can spot more than 190 species of birds while on the trails. Over eight miles of scenic trails wind around the refuge, up the ridges and down to the waterfront. Spend time on the trails to watch wildlife and take in the beautiful winter scenes.
Scenic Views near Bristol, TN/VA
Make Northeast Tennessee your outdoor playground. Mountains surround you when you make your way to Roan Mountain State Park in Roan Mountain. At the base of Roan Mountain is the state park that is more than 2,000 acres full of rugged ridges, Doe River that runs through the center of the park and mountain views that will take your breath away. Stay in one of the cabins or tent camp at one of the 106-site campgrounds. Hike along the creeks and ridges on the 12 miles of trails or cross-country ski during the winter. Whatever activity you choose, you'll want to stop every so often to take in the beauty of the area and, snap a picture or 100.
Lamar Alexander Rocky Fork State Park offers expansive views of the southern Appalachian Mountains with 2,076 acres of outdoor adventure. Nearly 20 miles of marked trails provide views of the Southern Appalachian Forest and direct access to the famous Appalachian Trail. Multiple granite and quartzite cliff faces can be found in the park, making it a great place to rock climb. Make your way to Whitehouse Cliffs for nearly 40 routes currently developed or in development. A climbing permit for each climber is required.
Scenic Views near Chattanooga
A trip along the Cherohala Skyway, beginning near Tellico Plains, Tennessee and crossing the Cherokee National Forest is a drive full of scenery and unique stopping points. With the Great Smoky Mountains to the northeast and the Tennessee River Valley to the west, you're in for a scenic treat. Vistas, hiking opportunities in the Cherokee National Forest and many pull-over stops for a quick photo can be found along the skyway. Before you start your trip, visit the Cherohala Skyway Visitor Center where you can get help on mapping out your course and browse local area souvenirs and gifts.
Want to see views without the hike? Discover America's Most Amazing Mile by taking a ride on the Incline Railway in Chattanooga. The railway is a funicular railway system that's over 125 years old, offering daily departures from the lower station in St. Elmo. You'll see the city of Chattanooga and the mountains that surround it as you increase elevation. Once at the top of the mountain, soak in panoramic views of the Chattanooga Valley from the observation deck.
Part of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, Point Park is the site of the 1863 Civil War "Battle Above the Clouds" that helped the Union gain control of Chattanooga. Here, you can not only hear this Civil War Story, but also see the Tennessee River and the valley stretched below.
Scenic Spots Near Nashville
Rock Island State Park is an 883-acre park and features some of the most scenic views along the Eastern Highland Rim. Take some time to enjoy Great Falls, a 30-foot horseshoe cascading waterfall. Want to spend more time at Rock Island State Park, hiking and exploring? Rent one of the 10 three-bedroom, two-bathroom cabins, some of the finest cabins in Tennessee State Parks. The park also has two campgrounds with 60 different campsites for RVs, trailers and tents.
If you're staying in Nashville, make time for a hike and wildlife viewing at Radnor Lake State Park, located about 12 miles from downtown Nashville. The 1,368-acre park includes more than seven miles of trails used for hiking, photography and wildlife observation. The Lake Trail is accessible to people with all-terrain wheelchairs while the Otter Creek Road trail is pet-friendly and suitable for bicycles and jogging.
Enjoy the quiet winter scenery found at Cheekwood Estate & Gardens, 55 acres of cultivated gardens and expansive vistas. It's a botanical garden, arboretum and museum with art galleries both permanent and traveling exhibits. The property includes 13 gardens like the Blevins Japanese Garden and the Bracken Foundation Children's as well as a 1.5-mile woodland trail with modern and contemporary outdoor sculptures.
Book a lakeside houseboat, cabin, tiny house, Airstream or lodge room for a unique winter stay at Wildwood Resort & Marina. You can enjoy fishing, boating, stunning views of Cordell Hull Lake and live music. Wildwood even offers a spa with Swedish and deep tissue massages.
Scenic Spots Near Memphis
In late fall and winter you can hear the harsh calls of sandhill cranes at Hiwassee River Wildlife Refuge, gathered here on their way from nesting grounds near the Great Lakes to warmer Southern locations. Over 50,000 birds make a pit stop here each year. View thousands of congregating cranes from an observation deck overlooking the Hiwassee River where it joins the Tennessee River.
Reelfoot Lake State Park is home to Reelfoot Lake, a flooded forest, created by earthquakes in 1811-12. Now, it’s otherworldly with submerged stumps, standing trees and shallow areas. Canoes, kayaks and jon boats can be used to explore the waters. The park has five public boat launch ramps for fishing boats and small pontoon boats. There are a few local private businesses that rent out boats as well.
Big Hill Pond State Park in Pocahontas, Tennessee, approximately 92 miles east of Memphis, is potentially one of the most under-the-radar, backcountry hiking and camping spots in the state. With more than 4,000 acres of forested hills and swampy bottomlands visitors adventure on the 14 miles of equestrian trails, seven hiking trails and fish in Old Big Hill Pond. During the winter months, be sure to check out Turkey Call Trail’s Dismal Swamp Boardwalk, Tuscumbia Trail’s Lookout Tower, Fox Hollow Trail and Rocky Knob Trail.