The Great Smoky Mountains are a true treasure of Appalachia, so it’s not surprising that around 350 couples head to their home National Park to marry annually.
Park premises hold 50 designated wedding sites, each with its own aesthetic charm—and its own list of rules and regulations. In this guide, we’ll cover our favorites of the bunch, so that you can pick the perfect landscape for your wedding ceremony:
We’ll also review the logistics of how to reserve your dream venue, plus what to expect when you arrive.
As an alpine landscape, most of the designated wedding locations in Great Smoky Mountains National Park boast magnificent views of the surrounding landscape—a breathtaking backdrop for any wedding ceremony.
The Foothills Parkway meanders 72 miles all the way from the Little Tennessee River to Wears Valley. There are a total of 18 approved wedding sites along the parkway, localized to the western and eastern stretches of the corridor:
Foothills Parkway West Overlooks: The western branch of the Foothills Parkway has 15 wedding locations with spectacular views of the blue-crowned mountains. Each one is designated with a number between one and 14 (one of them is, charmingly, 4½). These sites are easily accessible by Highway 321, from nearby Maryville.
Foothills Parkway East Overlooks: The Parkway’s east wing has four wedding locations, aptly numbered one through four. They are accessible by Highway 321 and I-40. Townsend in the west and Pigeon Forge (home of Dollywood!) in the east are the closest towns to the eastern Foothills Parkway.
Parking lots are a few meters from each location, so you won’t have to worry about cars getting in the way of your ceremony. The views from the Foothills Parkway are known to be spellbinding, and locals say if you can swing an early wakeup call, dawn is the best time to catch sight of the mountains haloed with morning mist.
Heintooga Overlook is in the North Carolinian hemisphere of the Great Smoky Mountains, closest to the Maggie Valley and Cherokee.
The elevation at Heintooga is high, but the drive up Balsam Mountain Road is smooth. Heintooga is known to be a sanctuary for springtime wildflowers, elk, and exquisite views of the sunset, so an evening wedding would be perfect for this location.
The elevation of wedding sites near Gatlinburg, TN is relatively lower (around 1650 feet), which makes it a lovely place to hold a wedding if accessibility is a consideration for you and your guests. There are three wedding venues off the Gatlinburg Bypass:
These overlooks are a short drive away from the nearby town of Gatlinburg, TN, which has tons of accommodations and attractions if you’re keen on heading right to your celebrations following your ceremony.
There’s also a fourth designated Smoky Mountain wedding venue nearby—Maloney Point, a 21060-foot overlook eight minutes down the road. It's a pretty, accessible location in the area that offers a touch more seclusion.
There are three major wedding locations deep into the park, all of which are accessible from Newfound Gap Road. These venues have the highest elevations of the bunch, and the beautiful drive isn’t just worth the trek—it’s part of the scenery’s magic.
Newfound Gap Parking Area: At 5,046 feet up, this mountain pass is pleated with rich, aromatic forests of evergreen spruce and fir. This venue will also enable you and your spouse to spend a lifetime quarreling over whether you were married in North Carolina or Tennessee, since the gap rests on the border of both. Note: Because of the elevation, this venue can be up to 10 degrees cooler than on the ground.
Oconaluftee Overlook: This is another impressive overlook, 17 miles south of Newfound Gap, which gazes over the Oconaluftee River. While you can’t see much of the waterfront from this location, it’s accessible with a brisk drive down the legendary Blue Ridge Parkway.
Clingmans Dome Parking Area: Clingmans Dome is the highest peak in Tennessee and the whole of Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It’s an ultra-popular (and very steep) hike, but the parking lot is spacious enough to accommodate hundreds of visitors. The air tends to be 20 degrees colder here and weather can be temperamental, but on days with high visibility the view of the surrounding areas can span up to 100 miles.
In general, the Newfound Gap locations tend to have higher traffic than some other venues in the Smokies, so plan ahead and apply with some alternative wedding dates in mind.
Lakeview Drive is one of the few venues at the southern rung of Great Smoky Mountain National Park. This venue overlooks a gorgeous ravine from approximately 2296 feet., perched over Fontana Lake.
Lakeview Drive is a densely forested corridor, and it’s a particularly special trip for enjoying the foliage at a fall wedding. This venue can accommodate larger wedding parties—up to 30 people and 15 cars.
Cades Cove is a valley fringed by the surrounding mountains, which means the elevation here is comparatively mild, and the terrain is uniquely accessible.
There are four wedding venues in the Cades Cove Loop, two of which are designated as overlooks:
Note that Cades Cove is another popular region of Great Smoky National Park, with particularly high traffic between April and October. Lastly, the area is known to be a Bermuda Triangle of WiFi and cell service, so be sure your guests are oriented and equipped with directions before your ceremony date.
To ensure everyone is adequately prepared, consider orienting your guests to your Smoky Mountain wedding with a website home base. Zola has a suite of free, simple, and sleek wedding website templates to get yours up and running in minutes and avoid any guests falling too far off the grid.
The Great Smoky Mountains have a rich Appalachian heritage, and many of the heirloom pieces of architecture still standing in the park are available to couples for their weddings.
Two cabins can be reserved for weddings near Gatlinburg, TN:
Spence Cabin: Spence cabin is a charming cabin outfitted with a porch, patio, and stone fireplace. Right next to the Little River, this venue can accommodate up to 40 people and may be used as a picnic spot, if requested. There is no permit fee for this venue, but you will still need a special use permit.
Noah Bud Ogle Cabin: This quintessential log cabin was built by “Bud” Ogle in the late 1800s. The homestead includes the log cabin, as well as a barn and a tub mill. The entire area is approximately 36x40 feet, with a facade and chimney dividing the space, and is patently the more rustic of the two reservable cabins.
Both venues are subject to seasonal closures. Between May 25th and September 7th, wedding services at the Ogle Cabin are restricted to 8 am through 10 am.
Three historic buildings in the North Carolinian region of Great Smoky may be requested:
Palmer Chapel: Built in 1898, Palmer Chapel is a Methodist church in the southern part of the Park. Only one event may be held here per day, but the venue can accommodate up to 10 cars and 50 people.
Smokemont Baptist Church: Nestled into an archway of trees, this 1912 church has looming ceilings, ecclesiastic acoustics, and its original church pews. Six cars and 40 celebrants are permitted for services held here.
Mingus Mill: Mingus Mill sits next to the Mountain Farm Museum and the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. It’s a high-traffic area of the park, so couples can’t hold weddings here between 9 am and 5 pm from March through November.
The NC historic buildings are hauntingly beautiful (and highly coveted spots) for weddings—both because of the clean, spartan architecture, and the exceptionally photogenic woodland surroundings.
If you’re able to land a reservation in one of them and take an enviable batch of wedding photos, make sure to memorialize the occasion with a wedding album. Zola’s customizable wedding albums can translate your photographs into professional-quality prints, so that you can keep mementos of your Smoky Mountain wedding for years to come.
Cades Cove has its own cluster of historic buildings to consider for your Smoky Mountain service:
Methodist Church: The Methodist Church and cemetery are available for rental Mondays through Friday, from 9 am to 12 pm. It can accommodate six cars and 50 celebrants. This venue may not be rented in October.
Missionary Baptist Church: A few leagues away is Missionary Baptist Church. In October, one event per day may be held here. Reservations may be booked between Monday and Friday from 9 am to 12 pm. Like the Methodist Church, this venue can accommodate six cars and 50 people.
Primitive Baptist Church: The second Baptist church on site, this location may be rented in October from Monday through Friday, 9 am to 12 pm. This is the most spacious venue of the three—it can hold 60 people, and 10 cars.
If you’re planning a fall wedding, Cades Cove’s historic buildings are sure to be serene, storied environments for your wedding ceremony.
Looking for a Great Smoky Mountain wedding location with access to a babbling brook? We’ll point you in the right direction.
Metcalf Bottoms lies at a relatively low elevation on the northern side of the park, right next to the murmuring Little River. Two designated wedding venues are here:
Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area: The picnic area is subject to date and time restrictions for wedding services. From May 25 through September 7 and all of October, reservations are restricted to 8 and 10 am.
Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Pavilion: This venue can accommodate a larger number of guests and vehicles (speak to a parks associate for details). Catering and alcohol use is permitted on the premises with vendors’ appropriate licensure.
If ceremony privacy is a concern for you, note that the Metcalf Bottoms locations are a popular place for families to congregate with their kids.
These wedding locations, within walking distance of one another, are near the Greenbrier Ranger Station east of Gatlinburg. The nearby Greenbrier Picnic Pavilion is also a reservable venue and is equipped for larger wedding parties.
Greenbrier #1 and #2 are adjacent to the Little Pigeon River, where couples are permitted to hold their ceremony on the beach. Be advised that no events may be held between 10 am and 6 pm between May 25th and September 7th.
There is a suite of larger designated venues at Great Smoky National Park, all with their own set of regulations:
Twin Creeks Picnic Pavilion: This venue is also close to Gatlinburg and can house up to 50 people. Catering and alcohol are allowed at Twin Creeks, but vehicles longer than 25 feet are prohibited from parking on the site.
Chimneys Picnic Area: This recreation area is a bit further down the road, alongside the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River. Reservations are limited to May 25th through September 7th and the month of October, between 8 am and 10 am.
Cosby Picnic Pavilion: Near Cosby, TN, this Pavilion can accommodate up to 50 people. You’re permitted to have catering and alcohol on the premises, making it a viable choice for couples who wish to hold their wedding reception on park grounds.
Collins Creek Picnic Pavilion: This Pavilion is located near Rock Wall Curve in the North Carolina Smokies. The Pavilion can hold up to 70 guests, if requested. Like Cosby, you may have catering and alcohol on the premises.
Deep Creek Picnic Pavilion: Deep Creek is a popular camping area on the southern side of Great Smoky. The pavilion on site can host up to 70 people and contains 15 picnic tables with charcoal grills for cookouts. There’s no electricity here, but catering and alcohol are permitted.
The last spacious Great Smoky Mountain location of note is the Appalachian Clubhouse. This venue is a 30-minute drive from Gatlinburg and is the largest venue in the whole of the National Park. The Appalachian Clubhouse measures 3,000 square feet and can accommodate 96 people.
The property, built in 1934, is accented with wooden beams, grandfathered by great stone fireplaces, and is set up for dining and caterers. It may be reserved from April 2 to October 31, from 10 am through 9 pm.
Each U.S. National Park has its own application process and regulations for individuals and groups seeking to hold personal services—weddings, vow renewals, commitment ceremonies, or memorials—on park grounds.
In Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the first item on your checklist will be to secure a special use permit (SUP). Parks officials strongly advise wedding couples to read about the application process and complete a checklist of guidelines before submitting their applications, given that each of the park’s 50 wedding locations has its own stipulations surrounding use.
Let’s cover some of the most important guidelines for getting married in the Great Smokies.
Your first order of business is to email the Great Smoky Mountain Special Use Permit office to confirm the availability of your chosen wedding locations on your preferred date. These can be made up to one year in advance of the event. If available, you’ll make a tentative reservation, which your application will cement if approved.
You’ll have no more than two weeks after you’ve made this initial reservation to submit your application and application fee. For specially-requested (non-designated) wedding locations, you’ll need to submit your application a minimum of three weeks in advance.
The required fees between different types of park locations vary:
Weddings and Vow Renewals at Pre-Designated Sites: Application fee: $50, Administrative fee: $0. Total payment: $50.
Events Held at Non-Designated Locations Specially Requested: Application fee: $50, Administrative fee: $100. Total payment: $150. These fees are higher, because the park must marshall extra personnel to travel to the site, assess whether it can accommodate a service, and ensure it’s in proper condition for personal use.
Events Held at a Historic Structure: Application fee: $0, Administrative fee: $0. Total payment: $0.
Applications Submitted With Fewer Than 14 Days’ Notice: Application fee: $50, Administrative fee: $100. Total payment: $150. These fees are higher, because the park must marshall extra personnel in a contracted review period to ensure the site is in suitable condition for personal use.
All application fees are non-refundable and can be paid as a check or online using your credit card, debit card, or PayPal account. If approved, you’ll receive your Special Use Permit in the mail. These must be signed to be considered valid for use.
Before reserving your location, you’ll need to know which vendors you’ll be working with for your wedding ceremony. These may include:
Your vendors will also need to obtain any inspections, licenses, or insurance required by Tennessee or North Carolina to perform their services. To minimize the hurdles that come with extra paperwork, we recommend taking a look at Zola’s roster of vetted vendors in Tennessee and North Carolina. Our affiliates are trustworthy and professionals in their craft, and they’ll know how to work with the bureaucratic elements that come with a National Park wedding.
Let’s review the main stipulations around a Great Smoky wedding that may impact how you navigate your ceremony:
Guests: Unless otherwise specified, designated wedding locations cap at 25 people (including both guests and vendors) and six cars. For longer guest lists, prioritize venues like the clubhouse, pavilions, or picnic grounds, and verify with a parks representative that the space can accommodate you. If you’re requesting a non-designated venue, be sure to clear your anticipated headcount with an associate.
Parking: Your transport vehicles must park in designated parking lots. Certain sites restrict parking for vehicles exceeding 25 feet in length, so check the park guidelines for which venues have special rules around parking.
Timing: All outdoor weddings may last no longer than one hour (including both setup and cleanup). This excludes historic structures, where ceremonies are limited to 90 minutes. After your wedding party disperses, you may use other areas of the park for photography, videography, or recreation.
Conduct: Your SUP does not guarantee you exclusive use of your wedding location. Some designated venues are quite popular places to visit, so expect to have some interlopers in your midst. In general, your conduct must respect the public nature of the National Park (so keep those noise levels to a minimum!).
Other Considerations: Music is limited to acoustic instruments or music played softly from your mobile speakers. You may bring floral arrangements to your wedding venue, but these must be gathered at the end of your reservation. A maximum of six chairs may be used for guests with limited mobility or special needs.
The golden rule for holding your wedding at Great Smoky Mountain National Park is to go ultra-minimal. As the Park Ranger adage goes, “leave no trace.”
Ready to be swept off your feet by a Great Smoky Mountains wedding venue? Before you get the swoons, make sure you’re anchored in a set of wedding planning tools that will lay a steady foundation for the national park wedding of your dreams.
Zola has a complete utility belt of wedding planning tools to help you plan your special day:
Before you take to the forest, get organized, get excited, and stay grounded with Zola, so that you can enjoy your ceremony when the day arrives (and ever after).