Great Smoky Mountains National Park is by far one of our favorite parks in the US, especially for elopements. Not only is this national park a lush, green place to get married in spring and summer, but the autumn colors of trees in fall can’t be beat.
This national park is located on the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, making it a fantastic destination for many couples along the east coast or from other areas in the Appalachian mountains.
And for anyone who loves waterfalls, forests, creeks, wildlife or the outdoors in general, it’s a super dreamy place for adventure elopements and small weddings!
Because we love visiting this park (and would love to go back for elopements in the future!), we’ve put together this how-to guide below for anyone hoping to celebrate their elopement in the Great Smoky Mountains.
1. Understanding wedding permits in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Just like most (if not all) other national parks in the U.S., there is a specific process to go through for wedding permits.
First, a non-refundable $50 fee should be submitted along with a Special Use Permit at least 14 days prior to your dream elopement date. You can download the application here, and view other guidelines online here. You can apply to hold an event at the designated locations up to 1 year in advance, and with it being a popular destination, we highly recommend booking as soon as possible, especially if a date is meaningful for you.
2. You’ll also need to select a pre-approved ceremony location within the park.
Luckily, there are dozens of them! There are about ten locations alone along the Foothills Parkway, a few near Cades Cove, and plenty of others along 441 inside the heart of the park.
Please note that Cades Cove Loop road closes at official sunset, to all permits must conclude at least one hour before sunset in order for you and your guests to exit the loop.
The park also does not allow permits on Saturdays and Sundays in Cades Cove for the month of October (probably because the colors in fall peak this time of year, and thousands of visitors come from all over the US to see them!). As with any popular elopement destination, it’s why choosing a weekday date is ideal for your elopement.
Check out this map to see all of the approved ceremony locations in the national park.
3. The best wedding locations inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Some of our favorite spots within the park for elopements include:
Cades Cove | The Wildlife Overlook and LeQuire Cemetery Overlook are two beautiful outdoorsy options with great views!
Spence Cabin | A rustic, yet romantic spot surrounded by the forest and full of history; also located near the banks of the Little River!
Foothills Parkway | There are a variety of overlooks alongside this route, and so many of them with sweeping views of mountains, forest, and access to waterfalls and creeks nearby.
Appalachian Clubhouse | Looking for an adorable spot that includes a small indoor space for an intimate dinner with your guests? The Appalachian Clubhouse is a great option for that!
Cataract Falls | We LOVE the idea of waterfall elopements, and Cataract Falls is very easy to access! A short, flat walk will get you there from the visitor’s center, but it is pretty open to any onlookers, so aim for an early morning on a weekday to avoid too many people around.
4. Book your wedding vendors.
Once you have a date set and a location reserved through the national park, be sure to start reaching out and securing the date with your dream wedding vendors! Elopements are just as special as traditional big weddings, and you deserve to find the perfect balance of planning all the details from things like the photography, videography, table decor, ceremony archways, florals, an officiant/pastor, or anything else you dream of!
5. Reserve your lodging.
Some of the best places to stay near the park can be found on Airbnb and VRBO, but there are also plenty of hotels and other lodging options in areas like Cherokee, Bryson City, Gatlinburg, and Pigeon Forge.
Contact an Adventure Elopement Photo + Video Team
Skyewater Photo + Film is a photography and videography team based in Colorado that specializes in destination weddings and adventure elopements all across the US. And the owner, Kaitlyn, has traveled to the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina dozens of times in her life while her grandparents lived there (in a tiny town called Franklin!), so she knows the area pretty well. 😉
Whether you’re looking for a meaningful wedding video or an adventurous elopement photographer, contact Skyewater Photo + Film for your big day!