Gatlinburg SkyBridge | Just a Little Off, in all the Right Ways

When RTX Traveler visited Gatlinburg, Tennessee last year, the Gatlinburg SkyBridge was being constructed, but wasn’t open yet. A massive feat of engineering, the new SkyBridge is the longest suspension footbridge in the United States and straddles two peaks overlooking downtown, offering a commanding view of the commerce below and the looming mountains ahead. We wanted to update our coverage of Gatlinburg and let you know of the ins and outs of the new SkyBridge, another cool attraction in this quaint mountain town set in a dramatic valley in the Great Smoky Mountains.

SkyBridge 8

The Gatlinburg SkyLift chair lift has existed since the 1950s, taking visitors up Crockett Mountain for a great view on the return trip, day or night. In 2016, the wildfire in Gatlinburg scorched much of the mountain, forcing a redesign and subsequent expansion of the attraction into the SkyBridge that we have today. With all new chair lift infrastructure, multiple viewing decks and chairs, and a gift shop with music space and cafe, this attraction is better than ever and is a new rival to Anakeesta, found across the valley.

Walking up to the actual SkyBridge, you notice how overbuilt everything is, with super heavy duty cabling holding everything in place, and huge metal nuts strapping everything down. There are safety features after safety features, cables after cables. This bridge isn’t going anywhere.

SkyBridge 2

Stepping out onto the 680 foot long span tricks your brain a tiny bit into forgetting all these reassurances. For me it was just a little off, just a tiny bit unsettling feeling that very minor sway underneath my feet as I walked the bridge. Clearly this is not a place for someone afraid of heights, the bridge being 140 feet over the rugged mountain side below, but it gets even more challenging as you approach the center. There are three (very thick) pieces of glass that you step on as you traverse the bridge. This is the part where you a corner of your brain says “What are you doing? Danger!” But the rational part of your brain soldiers on, certain that the thick glass will hold you in place. (And it does.) It’s a long way down – take a peek at the floor below and it will look like your feet are floating in place. Pretty cool.

SkyBridge 9

Reach the other side and there is a small sheltered area with seating, and soda and water for sale. And of course, the view. The layered mountains ahead are impressive, with peaks rising to 6,600 feet straight ahead. It’s hard to see what a dramatic valley Gatlinburg lies in until you get to look down upon it. Take the bridge back to the chairlift to enjoy the gift shop, cafe, bar, and more outdoor viewing areas.

You can hike to views around Gatlinburg, you can certainly drive to views. Taking a chairlift and walking the bridge is probably the most accessible way to see a terrific view, while still being adventurous. You just have to trust the bridge and enjoy.

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About the Author

About the Author: Pat Barcas serves as Creative Resources Manager for RTX, based in Asheville, NC. You can find him hiking the mountains of Asheville, gardening, traveling, and hanging with his growing family. His favorite RTX exchange destinations are Rangeley, Maine, Lake Tahoe, Banff, Canada, New Smyrna Beach, Florida, Cape Cod, and Orange Beach, Alabama. .


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