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Sunrise/Sunset locations in the Smokies in winter

Frank Kimble , Dec 29, 2003; 03:03 p.m.

Well the subject line pretty much says it all. I will be coming up from Atlanta area thru Chattanooga and will have one morning and one evening and was wondering if there are any "best" places for sunrise/sunset shots. Thanks

Responses

Weston Harries , Dec 29, 2003; 04:35 p.m.

The lookout tower at Clingman's dome is the highest spot in the park. For sunset shooting, the parking lot below the tower has a good view to the west. At sunrise you'd actually have to go up in the tower to get a view to the east. Keep in mind that everyone goes there to photograph the sunset/sunrise so your shots will most likely be far from original, but it is very beautiful none the less. There are a few old fire towers along the Appalachian Trail that make for good shooting perches since on the ground, even at the higest elevations, there are too many trees to get a clear view. This would require hiking and most likely camping to get the sunrise. I backpacked the 70 miles of the AT that goes through the park and expected to get sunset/sunrise shots every day since the trail follows the highest ridge line, but there really are very few clearings wide open enough to allow you to get a clear view without a very long lens to cut between the trees.

Doug Andrews , Dec 29, 2003; 05:51 p.m.

As a follow-up response to the above answer, the road to Clingman's Dome is closed to vehicle traffic from about Dec. 1 thru Mar. 31. Unless you're willing to hike, snowshoe, or cross-country ski the 7 miles to the parking lot and tower on Clingman's Dome in the dark, there are other more easlily accessible places. Newfound Gap and Morton's Overlook are good sunrise and sunset locations.

Craig Bridge , Dec 29, 2003; 06:29 p.m.

Also beware that snow/ice chains are often required on 441 through the park (park rangers ticket vehicles with out them when the signs are out) so pickup a set long before you get near the park. Of course if you are carrying them, you probably won't need them.

Ken Dunn , Dec 29, 2003; 11:28 p.m.

Newfound Gap is good for sunrise, Mortons Overlook is great for sunset, but it is too far south in the winter. The Smokies dont have that many sunset/sunrise spots, and they are usually smogged in. Some places on the Blue Ridge Parkway are much better. And yes Clingmans Dome road is closed off.

Lawrence Palumbo , Dec 31, 2003; 11:43 a.m.

clingmans dome is indeed closed in the winter. i just got back last night from the smokies. i would suggest the drive along route 28 next to fontana lake for sunrise. check out the views in and around the fontana dam area. also notable was sunrise at the newfound gap overlook. i preferred the fontana dam area better for sunrise than the newfound gap overlook. best sunset i saw was from morton overlook off 441. be careful if you decide to check out the blue ridge parkway. i drove the "detour" route marked by road signs. unfortunately, these signs didnt say that the blue ridge parkway would be closed. i blew a sunset because of it. id hate to see you lose one too.

can any nature photographers tell me if cades cove is a joke? it looked to be an 11 mile ONE WAY bumper to bumper traffic jam. i didnt go through the whole loop because if i wanted to sit in traffic i wouldve stayed in ny. did i miss anything by skipping the traffic jam at cades cove?

Bill Shackelford , Jan 01, 2004; 02:50 p.m.

Doug and Ken are both correct that the best sunrise location will be Newfound Gap and the best sunset will be Morton’s Overlook although the sun sets directly in the “V” between the mountain peaks in the summer not the winter. Hwy 441 through the park is often closed overnight because of ice on the road and many times opening to vehicles with 4-wheel drive or chains only before it is opened to all traffic. Even if you have a 4-wheel drive get some chains because 4-wheel drive is no better on ice than 2-wheel drive. On Tuesday 2 wrecks because of ice shut down the road. I have been over that road several times in a 2-wheel drive truck with chains when it was closed to general traffic and had no trouble while 4-wheel drives were sliding around on the ice. For road closures call 865.436.1200 or go to NPS Road Info

richard baumer , Jan 02, 2004; 10:36 a.m.

Regarding Cades Cove: Cades Cove has some pretty spots, but the traffic is pretty much as you described it. I have made the mistake of trying it twice. It may be worse than NY because people have no cumpunction about stopping right in the middle of the one way road to get of their car and photograph deer. There is a camp site within the Cove and an internal loop that encompasses about half the distance (I think - the connector might only go one way - need to check). If I ever get motivated to photograph the Cove again, i will camp. The loop road doesn't open until seven. If you were camping you would get about an hour during the summer before the road opened up.

Frank Kimble , Jan 05, 2004; 09:19 a.m.

Best time I've found for the Cove is Mon thru Fri not during the summer or fall. Thats when the tourist are there in droves.

Michel Laurent , Feb 05, 2004; 09:12 a.m.

Unless you want haze or smog you should wait for a strong cold front to sweep through. Good luck.

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