Morton Overlook is a vantage point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and has become one of my favorite spots. It faces west so, in my opinion, it’s the best place in the Great Smokies to catch the sunset.
The overlook is named after Ben A. Morton, a civic leader and conservationist of Knoxville, Tennessee. He was one of the voices behind the preservation of the Great Smokies. Located just off U.S. Route 441 on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, Morton Overlook is roughly 14 miles from the nearest town, Gatlinburg, Tennessee, where you can find lodging, dining and entertainment.
Gatlinburg was a travel spot I had often visited growing up and continue to go to today. Morton Overlook is about a 30-minute drive from the town, and it’s a drive filled with elevation changes, twists and turns, and wildlife. Take into consideration that traffic, weather and other drivers taking in the scenery may prolong your commute time to the overlook.
On your way from Gatlinburg to Morton’s, you’re also given multiple opportunities for pull-off locations to shoot the ridgeways, mountain peaks and creeks. If you have children or family in tow, Morton Overlook is an easy spot to stop and sit for a while. If you plan on capturing the sunset, get there well before, as this pull-off doesn’t allow for much parking. Other cars will also stop once they see multiple tripods set up capturing the sunset, so it can get quite crowded. We photographers are like a magnet to the common traveler, as they’re curious to see what we’re shooting.
The climate of the Great Smoky Mountains is ever-changing. I‘ve spent hours perched out at Morton Overlook to witness complete fog coverage disappear in minutes and transform to sunny skies. I have seen moody weather dissipate to allow a break in the horizon. If you’re going in the summer months, be prepared for warm weather, but bring a light jacket or sweater when you make your way into the mountains. In the fall when the Smokies’ deciduous forests change colors, be sure to bring warmer jackets, as the weather gets quite cool.
Photo Experience At Morton Overlook
Any lens you bring will capture this view, but since there is a valley flanked by ridgelines and peaks, I recommend bringing your wide-angle lens with you, as it won’t disappoint. Also bring a tripod because it can get quite windy. The best recommendation I could offer is to be patient—I have witnessed photographers pack up their gear and head to dinner while I stayed behind to capture a break in the clouds revealing sunrays and spectacular skies.
My favorite time to explore the Smoky Mountains would be in the late spring before the rush of school getting out and in the fall when the leaves change color. The prices for nearby lodging tend to rise in the summer months and in peak fall season as well, so those factors play into my decision-making process of when to visit.
Contact: National Park Service, nps.gov/grsm.
See more of Brian Koprowski’s photography at briankoprowski.com.