The Gatlinburg Sky Lift takes you to 1800 feet to the top of Crockett Mountain, far above the hustle and bustle of Gatlinburg below. Work began on this massive undertaking in 1953 with the shared vision of Rel Maples and Everett Kircher. When the decision was made to bring a lift to Gatlinburg, the project cost 3000 dollars for the lift, plus the expenses of putting it in. If you go, you will be amazed by the effort required to build such a structure on the sheer mountain face. The yellow, two-seater lift seats have become a Gatlinburg trademark. It appears on nearly every piece of promotional material that is sent out to the public. It is easy to forget how revolutionary it was putting a lift in this part of the country 60 years ago.
It is an experience that everyone should try at least once. It is even better in the evening when the lights on the mammoth poles guide your way up the mountain and you can see the glimmering town of Gatlinburg below. It is not the least expensive experience in town at 14 dollars for adults and 10.50 for children, but it is a truly unique experience. As you make your way up from the station, the town of Gatlinburg gets smaller as you look behind you. It feels at times that you are perilously close to the ground as you pass over the traffic on River Road, but you are of course in no danger. As the ascent begins to steepen, you will feel the change in altitude as the breeze gets a little cooler with each station you pass. You know you are in for some great fun as you pass smiling people descending the lift from the top to your right.
As you get close to the top of the station, it is time for a picture. There is an automated picture machine that will let you know when it is picture time. It is very similar to a ride photo in a theme park, except that you know when it is coming. These can be purchased in the gift shop at the top.
Once you arrive at the top, you can walk around and get a sense of just how high you are as Gatlinburg seems small below you. They have coin binocular machines at the top so that you can really see some detail in the area around you. There is also a small gift shop at the top with many souvenirs including the photo you just took and a small amount of snacks and drinks. There is also a restroom at the top if needed. Other than this, that is really all that is there. Many people expect an expansive space with more to do or places to hike when you arrive. Not so. This is simply a place for you to enjoy the view and they hope, spend some money. The views at the top are gorgeous though, and should keep you occupied for some time.
A few pointers for you if you decide to go:
They are open year round, depending on weather. Snow and ice as well as storms and heavy wind can shut them down. Be sure to check all that out before you go.
Bring your cameras. There are so many opportunities to take pictures that you will kick yourself if you leave it at home.
If you are traveling with a party larger than two, you will have to take separate chairs up unless you are traveling with one small child. However, you can turn around and take pictures of the chair behind you easily, so make sure you go up as a group.
Bring your own binoculars. If you have them, bring them. You won’t have to pay for the coin operated machines and you can use them whenever and wherever you want. It’s worth lugging them around town to have them at the top.
If you are a flip-flop wearer, be careful. If they fall off your feet going up or coming down, you are out of luck. I suggest sitting on them in your seat if you do decide to wear them just to be safe.
It can be cooler at the top than on the ground below. The temps are a little lower, and the wind whips much more than in town. This often forces people down earlier than they would like to go. Bring warmer clothing or a jacket.
Take your time. There is no time limit for your stay. You can go up and stay for hours if you like. Watch the sun set over the town. It is the prettiest time of day.
Check for discounts. Occasionally you will find small discounts in promo magazines in town, in your hotel room, or if you combine with another attraction. Check them before you go. The largest knock against the attraction is the cost. Save yourself money if you can.