stars in the night sky in the Smoky Mountains
October 31, 2022

The Smoky Mountains are a perfect destination for stargazing, as there is very little light pollution from nearby towns to impact the views of the night sky! The remote location of the Smokies and the higher elevations allow you to experience our breathtaking galaxy like never before! While you can enjoy the celestial wonders from virtually anywhere in the area, there are several places that offer the best night views! Here are the top 3 places to visit in the Smoky Mountains for stargazing:

1. Newfound Gap Trailhead

One of the top places to visit in the Smoky Mountains for stargazing is the Newfound Gap Trailhead, which is situated 6,000 feet above sea level and void of any street lights! Once you arrive at the overlook’s parking area, simply head over to the furthest area of the parking lot and let your eyes adjust to the darkness. Before you know it, you’ll notice some stunning sights in the night sky! While any time of the month is a delightful time to visit the Newfound Gap Trailhead, you’ll be treated to some extra special views if you stop by during a new or full moon!

2. Clingmans Dome

Clingmans Dome at night

Clingmans Dome is both the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and in Tennessee, making it one of the most spectacular spots to see the stars! While you don’t have to leave the parking lot, some folks like to take the short walk up to the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower to enjoy panoramic views above the mountain peaks! You’ll see constellations, shooting stars, and other amazing sights with the naked eye, so it’s not even necessary to bring a telescope along! Note that you’ll want to dress warmly at this location because temperatures can be between 15 to 20 degrees colder than the valleys below, and the road to Clingmans Dome is closed in the winter due to the potential of ice and snow.

3. Foothills Parkway

The Foothills Parkway is also an exciting destination for stargazing as this scenic 72-mile stretch of roadway offers numerous places to pull over and enjoy the sparkling stars! You can make an entire day out of this activity, starting out early to experience the spectacular views of the sunrise in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! As nightfall approaches, head to any of the convenient pullovers to witness a gorgeous sunset and then watch the sky come alive with thousands of stars!

Tips on Making the Most of Your Stargazing Activities

sunset and stars at Clingmans Dome

If you want to make the most of your stargazing activities, there are a few simple tips to follow! You’ll want to keep a careful eye on the weather forecast for a clear night, as clouds can block the overhead views. While it can take over an hour for the stars to appear after sunset, patient stargazers are well rewarded as the best views generally begin after 11 PM when all the light has completely left the sky! If you want to identify the constellations that you see, consider bringing a star chart along or downloading an astronomy app on your phone!

Now that you know about the top places to visit in the Smoky Mountains for stargazing, learn about some of the interesting places to visit in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park during the daylight hours! We look forward to seeing you soon in the Smokies!