AnaVista Tower in Gatlinburg

Know Before You Go: Guide to Anakeesta Mountaintop Adventure Park

Spend a few hours at Anakeetsa above Gatlinburg, and suddenly, you become very jealous of birds. From the second you arrive 600 feet higher than you started at the ticket office on the Parkway, you are transported to a magical and adventurous treetop world.

The beauty of Anakeesta goes beyond the idyllic background of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It also comes with a mountain adventure park that is as welcoming for grandparents as grandkids or as welcoming for weddings or weekend getaways.

Even those who are afraid of heights have no reason to avoid playing among the branches of this ever-growing adventure park.

What is Anakeesta Mountaintop Adventure Park?

Anakeesta Mountain Adventure Park is a family-friendly amusement park in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Its name comes from the Anakeesta Formation, meaning “place of the balsams” but also interpreted as “the place of high ground.”

The Anakeesta Formation is a distinct geological formation found in the Great Smoky Mountains. It’s a rugged landscape found at places like Chimney Tops. Mount LeConte and Charles Bunion.

Given that the name honors the Cherokee who lived on this land for centuries before settlers and describes a rock formation unique to this region, the name fits in many ways.

Also, it’s pronounced just how it looks – “ann-uh-KEYS-tah.”

How to Get To Anakeesta

Anakeesta is on the Parkway just east of the Cherokee Orchard entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The address is 576 Parkway. Ripley’s Aquarium is right across the street.

One ideal part of this location is the large parking garage just 500 feet east. An adjacent parking lot is another option, but this lot is owned by a business other than Anakeesta. That could make prices higher than the city lot.

The ticket window and entrance lines cover the Parkway level section of the park.

How to Get Anakeesta Tickets

Tickets can be purchased online or at the ticket booth, but booking ahead is always ideal. Adult tickets are for ages 12 to 59, children are ages 4 to 11, and the senior pricing is for anyone 60 and older. Children 3 and younger are free.

While prices can always change, the average adult ticket is around $35 as of early 2024. Children’s tickets run about $23. Annual passes are available, and Tennesse residents get an annual pass for the price of one day at Anakeesta with additional discounts. No mountain coasters are included in the general ticket price.

However, as with any amusement park, there are add-ons:

  • One dueling zipline ride
  • Two mountain coaster rides for the price of one
  • Astra Lumina nighttime experience

Going Up the Mountain

One benefit of Anakeesta vs. SkyPark is that you have two choices to go up to the top. SkyPark only offers the ski lift. Anakeesta has a chondola (chairlift & gondola combo), which takes up to 20 minutes to ride to the top, or the Ridge Rambler, a military truck that goes through the forest and includes a 20-minute guided tour.

AnaVista Tower in Gatlinburg
Anavista Tower I photo credit: Courtesy of Anakeesta

Things to Do at Anakeesta

The village at the top of Anakeesta leads to different paths of exploration, from fast coasters to chill scenic views.

Anavista Tower

One could argue that Anavista Tower is the best view of the region outside of Clingman’s Dome. Standing nearly 2,000 feet above sea level, you get views of three states (Tennessee, North Carolina, and Kentucky) with front-row seats to the Smokies unfolding before you. Turn around, and you’re overlooking Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

The top of the tower also has a glass bottom section where you can look down if you’re brave enough. Anavista was designed to look like a tulip blooming, sticking with the nature theme across the park.

Treetop Skywalk

Spend as much time as you’d like walking through the length of 2.5 football fields at the Treetop Skywalk, with conveniently located rest points around tree trunks or at platforms along the way. The Treetop Skywalk is open until the closing hour, which is usually after dark.

Once the sun goes down, the suspended pathways light up for a unique evening experience among the branches. The trail scoops along the southern edge of the park, with great views below where you might see bears.

Treehouse Adventure Play Area

This separate treehouse area resembles the ultimate backyard treehouse with connecting short pathways to explore. The path leads to a bird nest above the walkway, and different connecting paths increase in difficulty, like walking along net-supported ropes.

Bird Venture

With an Alice in Wonderland vibe, you walk through three different birdhouses with interactive exhibits along the way. This entertainment zone celebrates the endemic birds of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Within the birdhouses, you’ll get a personality overview of the various birds, and some have climbing areas to reach the top. Several slides drop as much as 50 feet to the platform below, with lighting at night for an extra special experience.

NOTE: It’s important to note the slides are tubes in case anyone has issues with tight spaces. They are large enough for kids and adults.

Mountain Coaster

Anakeesta is home to two mountain coasters, and both cost extra from the general admission ticket. The add-on offers the opportunity to ride each one once or your favorite one twice.

The Rail Runner is a single-rail spanning 1,600 feet on a whirlwind ride through the woods. Speeds peak at 25 miles per hour up and down 400 feet of elevation changes. With a weight limit of 230 pounds, not everyone will be able to ride tandem. Children must be 48” tall to ride.

The second and newest coaster is the Hellbender, named for the Hellbender Salamander that lives in the Smoky Mountains waterways. The weight limit is better for tandem rides here, with a 375-pound limit. You control the speed with your hands as you move through 3,350 feet of track with 200 feet of elevation change along the way. Like the Rail Runner, speeds top out at 24 miles an hour.

Dueling Zipline Anakeesta
Dueling Zipline I photo credit: Courtesy of Anakeesta

Dueling Zipline Adventure

Fly through the trees side-by-side with family or friends on this guided zipline tour. Three zips and two rappels up to 50 feet offer an exhilarating but not terrifying experience. Plus, the add-on price is much lower than some other separate ziplines in the Smokies.

Additionally, this zipline doesn’t have user-operated hand brakes. You just sit back and enjoy the ride while experts guide the way. In addition, you’re flying over nothing but wooded areas so bears might be watching you ride.

NOTE: One bonus of booking this zipline at Anakeesta is access to the Express Lane for the chondola ride. That could shorten a wait of 30+ minutes to five minutes.

Astra Lumina

Astra Lumina at Anakeesta is an enchanting nighttime adventure that transports you into a surreal celestial world. As twilight descends, participants embark on a mesmerizing journey through illuminated pathways and captivating installations nestled amidst the lush forest canopy of the Great Smoky Mountains.

This is an add-on experience in a separate section of the park. You can only find the Astra Lumina experience in New York, L.A., and Gatlinburg.

Clifftop Restaurant-Anakeesta
Clifftop Restaurant I photo credit: Courtesy of Anakeesta

Places to Eat at Anakeesta

Come hungry or just pick up a snack, as Anakeesta is designed for all appetites, budgets, and scenic preferences.

Black Bear Village and Firefly Village are two of the top dining and shopping sections of this treetop park. The stone and wood accents bring an idyllic setting to any meal, backed by great views of the Smokies at varying levels. Along the way, find beer gardens, firepit gatherings, and picnic tables to enjoy a treat among the trees.

THAT’S LIT: As a cool aside, the firepits are automatically programmed to light up when the temperature hits 55°F.

Clifftop Restaurant

As the only enclosed restaurant, Clifftop is about as fancy as Anakeesta gets. Choose from burgers, steaks, apps, and good old Appalachian desserts (bourbon pecan pie, anyone?). Ask to sit on the outside deck if the weather is nice. No reservations are taken here, but you also don’t have to wait in line. The waitlist technology sends you a text message when they’re ready to serve you.

Smokehouse Restaurant

Barbecue with epic views comes from the Smokehouse Restaurant, where food is cooked over a wood-burning fire. The menu is small but scrumptious, and the Bar at the Top of the World is an extension of the smokehouse.

Rocky Top Canteen

Over in Lumina Village, before you enter the attractions, Rocky Top Canteen serves adult- and children-sized portions of Mexican food. Good old Rocky Top serves a simple menu of nachos or tacos.

Tennessee Sidecar

If you’ve never tried a Tennessee Walking Taco, this food truck is a must-see. Taco fixings are dumped into a bag of Fritos or Doritos, and you walk around eating right from the bag. Shake the bag as needed to mix the ingredients.

Kephart Cafe

A simple snack stop for pizza, hot dogs, or a drink. All food is to-go, but you can grab a seat at Black Bear Village. This dining delight is also where the Ridge Rambler picks guests up for the trip down the mountain.

Mimi’s Creamery

If you don’t eat Blue Bell Ice Cream in the South, did you even go there? Mimi’s Creamery mixes your favorite flavor in three different ways while offering fried pies. It’s the sweetest stop in Anakeesta!

Vista Garden Walk
Vista Garden Walk I photo credit: Courtesy of Anakeesta

Best Photo Ops at Anakeesta

Everyone needs to get a photo with Willow, Keeper of the Forest, on the Vista Garden Walk. The kind-eyed tree creature sits waiting for people in a perfect pose.

Just a few steps away is a heart-shaped vine frame with Mount LeConte in the distance.

A sunset at the top of Anavista is another unforgettable moment.

The best fall foliage in the Smokies happens mid-September through early November. Since Anakeesta offers views of various elevations, you will get great colors no matter when you visit in that timeframe.

So Much More to Explore at Anakeesta

Along the way to the major attractions, you’ll pass through the Vista Gardens Arboretum and Memorial Forest Walk, detailing the devastating fire of 2016 and how the community rebounded. The walk is in a section of the park impacted by the fires, which delayed Anakeesta’s opening until 2017.

Several shops, from unique crafts to traditional souvenirs, fill the villages. For example, Great Outdoors Trading Company brings a unique Smokies brand inspired by Anakeesta, and Catching Fireflies is the charming and eclectic mix of must-haves for wild imaginations.

Treetop Skywalk Anakeesta
Treetop Skywalk I photo credit: Courtesy of Anakeesta

Is Anakeesta Worth It?

We love that Anakeesta has thought through so many different aspects for mass appeal. You don’t have to love mountain coasters to enjoy your time here. Those afraid of heights aren’t left shielding their eyes all the time. Adults who are kids are heart can still access all the treehouses and treewalks.

In addition, the price of two mountain coasters surrounded by all this beauty is less than the price of some single-ride coasters in the region.

Finally, expansion plans at Anakeesta are ongoing, so you never know what’s waiting when you get there. As of this publication, Stone Village’s next phases are in the works, so be sure to check out the Anakeesta website before your trip.

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