Longest Suspension Bridge In North America Is A Pleasant, Fun & Unique Stroll In The Smokies
From the ground – and particularly from a distance – the Gatlinburg SkyBridge in Gatlinburg, TN, looks like something you would want to take a deep breath and even consider leaving a note to your next of kin just in case things go wrong before purchasing your ticket.
After all, it’s the the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America at 680 feet long. It’s 150 feet above the ground at its highest point – that is 1,800 feet above sea level – and three glass panels serve as the floor at one point, allowing you to look straight down below you.
Not only that, it sways!
But in reality, Gatlinburg Sky Bridge is a lot less scary than it looks and, from what I heard from others, far less so than some of the horror houses in this East Tennessee tourist town in the Great Smoky Mountains.
It is definitely worth a visit when you are in downtown Gatlinburg or even while you are in East Tennessee for that matter. It is certainly a unique experience, even in town with so many interesting attractions and things to do in it.
What it is instead is a nice walk across a span between two small peaks with a great view of the town. It’s a fantastic experience, a scenic stroll with enough of a thrill to satisfy the adventure side of you without the anxiety of thinking if you stumble you will go plunging over the edge.
The most nerve-wrenching part is taking the first steps onto the bridge – much like the most frightening part of skydiving would be getting out the plane – and after that it’s a breeze.
I have to admit that early on, I held onto the railing (while trying to look calm and cool at the same time, of course) but let go at about the halfway point. On the way back I felt so comfortable I didn’t use the railing at all and even paused to look down through the glass floor.
Piece of cake!
My sister was both excited and apprehensive about walking SkyBridge and was only slightly reassured of its safety by an employee who stations himself at the entrance with a bullhorn, used to encourage people to “keep moving.” He also tells people not to run and don’t jump up and down or try other things to make the bridge sway because “it moves enough on its own.”
When my sister asked if the bridge is engineered well, he said “it’s over-engineered.” He then added, “you couldn’t hurt yourself on it if you tried.”
I certainly did not want to put that last part to the test but needed not to worry. Plus, the bridge’s floor has a nice, soft and spongy surface that felt good to my feet.
Even my sister was calm. In fact, the most frightening part of the experience for her was taking the chairlift to the top.
You enter on one side and walk to the other side to a small observation deck with a tiny snack shop. We wanted to linger there for a bit but because this is such a popular attraction and this spot is a confined area, it was as crowded as Neyland Stadium for the Alabama game.
Better to hang out on the entrance side, as it has a great two-tiered balcony, as well as a gift shop and snack area. If anyone needs a bit of liquid courage before going across SkyBridge, there’s beer served at the bar. But I would recommend that for your high-fives afterward.
All this being said, I can imagine SkyBridge being a bit more attention-getting to the nerves on a day the wind is blowing, tho if it’s howling or there are other inclement weather conditions (like a snow storm, I suspect) it will be closed. You can also increase the daredevil element by doing the walk at night.
But you know what is the best aspect of the Gatlinburg SkyBridge? It’s the price. It’s just $20 if you get online in advance (which highly recommend because this attraction is so popular there’s a huge line at the day-of window) and $23.95 for those of you who want to do it on a whim.
And your ticket is good for all day and night.
Yes, you can walk across SkyBridge as many times as your nerves will allow. On a clear day – and we did this a pretty clear day – you can see 14 peaks of the Smokeys as well as down into the busy town of Gatlinburg.
SkyBridge is part of Skylift Park, the oldest attraction in Gatlinburg, in the center of town across from Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. Its website states finding it “is as easy as falling off a log.”
See what kind of friendly sense of humor they have at SkyPark? How can you not have a great time here!?