Gatlinburg SkyPark takes visiting the Smoky Mountains to new heights. Ascend to the summit of Crockett Mountain on the iconic yellow chairlift for panoramic views of Gatlinburg and the surrounding Smoky Mountains.
Once 1,800 feet atop the mountain, a slew of more sky-focused activities await. You’ll be high above the crowds of the Parkway and get a chance to walk on the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America.
Gatlinburg SkyPark does not just hold the longest-running attraction in the city. It’s also a modern marvel that keeps growing. Let’s see what you can expect on your next Smoky Mountain getaway. You’re not afraid of heights, right?
Things to Do at Gatlinburg SkyPark
Gatlinburg SkyPark is accessible from the Parkway, but all you’ll see at the street level is the ticket office and yellow icon riding up the hill. The SkyLift is the only way to get to SkyPark. It’s also important to note that one ticket gives you access to everything we discuss in the next few sections.
The lift offers 92 chairs with three seats per chair. The ride 500 feet up the mountain takes nine minutes before allowing guests to into SkyPark. The top of the lift is 1,800 feet above sea level.
The chairlift seats aren’t enclosed, but there is a safety bar. Dogs are even allowed on the lift. While children are welcome, strollers can’t make the ride up the mountain. Young children and babies must ride on an adult’s lap.
At the top of the SkyLift, you’ll have two options. Surprise! They took your photo while riding the lift. Vendors are waiting to show you the picture and sell the memory to take home. Also, you can visit the SkyCenter for snacks, souvenirs, and drinks.
While the food is nothing fancy, the layout is designed for maximum views. The center is climate-controlled for warm air in the winter and a/c in the summer. Plus, the windows roll up garage door-style for picture-perfect weather days.
Immediately after walking off the SkyLift, you’ll face the various levels of the SkyDeck. About 60 stairs weave through the rise to the next big adventure. You’ll find rocking chairs, benches, and stone amphitheater seating to take in the views along the way.
Find a spot by the firepit or waterfall. This isn’t a place you need to rush around. Enjoy the view from all the different levels.
At the top of the stairs, you’ll come to the entrance to SkyBridge Gatlinburg. There’s plenty of space here if you’re getting a little nervous about the heights. The bridge is nearly 700 feet long, and 30 feet of that in the center is glass where you can look down 500 feet.
The bridge isn’t enclosed, but there are high railings to prevent any falls. The bridge is wide enough for people to walk in each direction.
Whether you’re too afraid of heights to walk the SkyBridge or just want to explore another feature of SkyPark, a walk around the SkyTrail offers another unique experience.
The trail spans 1/3 mile, connecting each end of the SkyBridge without having to walk across it. Half of the trail is on a paved pathway, and the other half is an elevated boardwalk at the edge of the mountain.
Along the way, kiosks detail the history of the SkyLift and SkyPark. Emotions can run high on this trail, as it was burned in a 2016 fire.
From the SkyTrail, two more bridges lead to Tulip Tower. It’s named after the state tree — the Tulip Poplar Tree. However, the reason the name was chosen from all the trees that grow in the Smokies is a little more endearing:
When 17,000 acres burned in 2016, claiming 14 lives and destroying nearly 2,500 businesses and homes, a lone Tulip Poplar survived.
The tower has four viewing platforms, and each level tells a different story about the Smokies and the fire. It’s 70 feet tall at the highest level and offers views of the bridge with Gatlinburg in the distance.
NOTE: Tulip Tower is only open during daylight hours.
SkyPark Retail Options
Several stops along the way offer novelty items for your SkyPark visit. The retail shop at the mountain’s base is the easiest stop, but you’ll find more shopping at the SkyCenter and the end of the SkyWalk. Surprise! They took your photo again on the SkyWalk! Feel free to purchase that photo too.
TIP: You can take your own photos or videos anywhere in SkyPark for free.
SkyPark Seasonal Events
While Gatlinburg SkyPark stands on its own as an amazing attraction, special events throughout the year make it all the more desirable.
During spring, the Smoky Mountain Sunrise events are great ways to see the first light from this vantage point. The leaves changing in autumn brings Fall Fest.
The Lights Over Gatlinburg event brings the holiday spirit 1,800 feet high during the holiday season. New in 2023, the lights on the SkyBridge cover the entire span — not just 300 feet as in years past. A nearly 40-foot-tall Christmas tree is there, and even Santa stops by.
A New Year’s Eve Party is held with the best fireworks view in town. This is for VIP Ticketholders only, so contact the park for more information.
History of Gatlingburg SkyPark
Gatlinburg SkyPark’s history goes back to the 1950s and another historic place in town — the Historic Gatlinburg Inn. The owner wanted a skylift built on the mountain out back. He was inspired by a Michigan man, Everett Kircher, who had done the same thing for a ski resort there.
Kircher bought a ski lift from the Sierra Nevada resort Sugar Bow. By 1954, the SkyLift was the first year-round scenic chairlift in the South. A new version arrived in 1991.
Recovering from the Ashes
Tragedy struck 62 years after the first chairlift ride. Gatlinburg was on fire in 2016, the Monday after Thanksgiving. Flames rendered the lift useless, and everything at the top of the mountain burned down.
Just six months later, the lift was operating again — but only the lift. It took two more years to rebuild the upper portion of the SkyLift property and allow guests to walk around.
The SkyBridge opened in 2019, three years late. As fate would have it, that bridge would’ve burned down, too, if construction had been completed on time.
While Gatlinburg grew from the ashes of the tragedy, SkyPark expanded to include the SkyWalk and SkyDeck. That’s one of the most emotional parts of visiting Gatlinburg SkyPark — seeing how the past is still etched into the attraction in several ways. In fact, the devastation of the fire afforded many of the now unobstructed views.
What’s Near Gatlinburg SkyPark?
Once you visit Gatlinburg SkyPark, you’re close to several other attractions in the city:
- Gatlinburg Space Needle
- Ripley’s Believe It or Not! (check for special Ripley’s/SkyPark combo prices)
- Hollywood Star Cars Museum
- Old Smoky Moonshine Distillery
RELATED: Moonshine Distillery Tasting & Tours
Parking is available at 510 River Road, a short walking distance from the SkyLift entrance. Parking fees are in addition to ticket prices.
FAQs About Gatlinburg SkyPark
What are the hours of operation for Gatlinburg SkyPark?
Gatlinburg SkyPark is open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., with extended hours until 10 p.m. during the summer months.
The park remains open through most holidays except for Christmas Day. Also, it closes early on Christmas Eve.
How much do tickets cost for Gatlinburg SkyPark?
Tickets to Gatlinburg SkyPark for a single visit can be purchased online or at the park entrance. Adult tickets are $35.95, senior tickets are $28.95, and junior tickets (ages 6-11) are $21.95. Children under the age of 5 are free.
All prices are as of December 2023.
Those with a SkyPass will pay a little more but can enter and leave SkyPark repeatedly on the day of admission. You’ll get a discount if you purchase a ticket online at least three days ahead of time.
Is Gatlinburg SkyPark wheelchair accessible?
Guests requiring wheelchairs or mobility devices, such as walkers or crutches, can purchase Restricted Access tickets at the SkyPark ticket window.
These tickets allow guests to access the SkyDeck, the main level of the SkyCenter snack bar and gift shop, and the elevated boardwalk portion of the SkyTrail.
Visit Gatlinburg SkyPark Anytime
If you’re still on the fence about the heights, you can check out videos, live camera views, and photos to see how safe the experience is and other people who have enjoyed it.
Keep in mind that this attraction is built into the wilderness. That means bears could be nearby or roaming through. Check out this video of a bear caught on camera walking across the bridge!
NOTE: Do not approach, feed, or run from a bear. Always back away slowly, saying “Hey Bear!” in a conversational voice.
While there’s so much to see in Gatlinburg, SkyPark symbolizes the history, perseverance, and tenacity of the Smokies that can’t be paralleled. We’d love to hear about your experience at Gatlinburg SkyPark in the comments!