Great Smoky Mountains Elopement Guide [Updated for 2024]

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Hi, I’m Megan and your story matters to me. You deserve to break your wedding day from the traditional mold into something that is uniquely you.

I specialize in intimate mountain weddings and elopements and love working with people who are stoked to get married in nature surrounded by their closest family and friends. I am here for you and to organically tell your story. 

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couple walking along the river at their great smoky mountains elopement

Eloping in the Great Smoky Mountains is a great idea for couples who want a small, intimate wedding. The Great Smoky Mountains are truly stunning. They are surrounded by massive tree-covered mountains, and even calm waterfalls. It’s a perfect place to say your wedding vows. The Smokies let couples focus on their love for each other without any distractions. You could have a small wedding in a cabin, go on a hike and get married, or have a simple ceremony under the big open sky. It’s a fun and romantic way to celebrate love. 

In this blog you will find everything you need to know for eloping in the Great Smoky Mountains. Keep reading for all the details and more!

Why Should You Elope?

Eloping can be an excellent choice for many reasons:

  1. Simplicity: Eloping simplifies the wedding process. You don’t have to worry about planning a big event, which can often be stressful and time-consuming.
  2. Cost-Effective: Traditional weddings can be expensive. When you elope, you can significantly cut down these costs as you’re not paying for a large venue, catering for many guests, or other typical wedding expenses.
  3. Intimacy: Eloping allows the focus to be on you and your partner. It’s just about the two of you committing to each other without any distractions.
  4. Freedom: When you elope, you can get married wherever and however you want!
  5. Less Stress: Without the pressure to please family and friends, you can avoid potential conflicts or stress that can come with wedding planning.

Remember, it’s your special day. If eloping feels right for you and your partner, then it’s the best choice for you!

Where Are The Great Smoky Mountains?

The Great Smoky Mountains are a massive mountain range found on the border between North Carolina and Tennessee in the eastern part of the United States. The park around these mountains is very famous for its forests. You can enter the park from Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Cherokee, North Carolina, or Townsend, Tennessee. There are six ways to get into the park within 70 miles of the city.

Steps To Eloping In The Smokies:

Pick A Date

Think about what season you’d like to elope in. Each season brings different weather and scenery. The best time to elope in the Smoky Mountains is from April to November. For the most privacy I would suggest eloping in the morning or on a weekday. However, eloping in the winter can be just as beautiful and intimate due to less crowds!

Choose Vendors

You’ll need to find people who can help make your elopement special. This usually includes an officiant, a photographer, and possibly others like a florist or musician. You can get as many vendors or as little as you wish.

Obtain Legal Documents & Permits

To get married in Tennessee, you will need to get a Tennessee Marriage License which is currently $97.50. Additionally, for elopements anywhere inside the park you will need a Special Use Permit which costs $50. I can always assist with helping you find permits!

Explore Locations

There are many beautiful locations in the Smoky Mountains where you can have your ceremony. However, only certain locations accept weddings and elopements. Keep reading for details on all my favorite locations below!

Plan Your Adventure

After gathering all the essentials, the rest is up to you! Make your elopement as grand or as simple as you wish. Consider adding some activities to your elopement like canoeing or hiking. Always book your vendors, housing, and activities well in advance to make your elopement less stressful. 

bride and groom saying their vows at their great smoky mountains elopement

How Much Does It Cost To Elope In the Smoky Mountains?

Overall Cost:

Eloping in the Smokies is a very cost effective option compared to a traditional wedding! You will be paying $147.50 for the marriage license, and permit. Additionally, add in the cost of an officiant, photographer, attire, florals, vendors, housing accommodations, and anything else you need to make your elopement perfect. The average total cost for an elopement in the Great Smoky Mountains is under $18,000, compared to the average wedding cost of $35,000.

My Photography Packages:

For my complete pricing guide for your Smoky Mountain elopement click here. I help with more than just taking your photos and make sure you have the best experience possible!

Locations To Elope At In The Smokies

Below I have some of my favorite and most ideal locations to elope at in the Smoky Mountains. Additionally, some important info you should know about eloping there!

Cades Cove

Cades Cove is a beautiful spot in the Smoky Mountains with amazing views and wildlife. It’s a perfect place for an intimate, nature-filled wedding. For more info on how to specifically elope at Cades Cove, check out my blog here!

Distance From Gatlinburg: 32 Miles, 59 Minutes

Hiking Required: No

Maximum Guest Capacity: 25 Guests

Restroom Access: Nearby

bride and groom reading their vows during their great smoky mountains elopement

Noah “Bud” Ogle Cabin

Eloping at the historic Noah “Bud” Ogle Cabin offers a unique experience, immersing you in 19th-century charm among nature. Its easy accessibility, combined with the rich cultural history and rustic beauty of the cabin, barn, and mill, provide an intimate wedding backdrop.

Distance From Gatlinburg: 3.5 Miles, 14 Minutes

Hiking Required: 0.7 Mile Loop

Maximum Guest Capacity: 25 Guests

Restroom Access: Nearby

a photo of Noah "Bud" Ogle Cabin

Foothills Parkway

Foothills Parkway offers breathtaking views of the Smokies, it’s a scenic drive that’s perfect for a small wedding celebration. This gem is an ideal elopement destination with its panoramic views and serene surroundings. Highly recommend this location at sunrise!

Distance From Gatlinburg: 18 Miles, 32 Minutes

Hiking Required: No

Maximum Guest Capacity: 25 Guests

Restroom Access: Nearby

foothills parkway in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Greenbrier Cove

Greenbrier Cove in the Smokies is a stunning and private spot by a river, perfect for a small wedding. The beautiful mountains, rivers, and woods make it a great place to elope and add another setting to your elopement. Additionally, this area is well known for wildflowers in the Spring!

Distance From Gatlinburg: 4.5 Miles, 7 Minutes

Hiking Required: No

Maximum Guest Capacity: 25 Guests

Restroom Access: Yes

greenbrier cove in great smoky mountains national park

Cataract Falls

If you are looking for a unique location to add to your itinerary, consider stopping by Cataract Falls! Choosing to elope at a waterfall will add a different bit of nature to your photo backgrounds and make your elopement even more memorable.

Distance From Gatlinburg: 5 Miles, 13 Minutes

Hiking Required: 1 Mile Round Trip

Maximum Guest Capacity: 25 Guests

Restroom Access: Yes

cataract falls in the great smoky mountains national park

Spence Cabin

For convenience, Spence Cabin is a wedding venue located right in the park. The cabin is nestled by the river, offering stunning water views and a serene environment that adds a romantic and intimate atmosphere to your special day.

Distance From Gatlinburg: 29 Miles, 52 Minutes

Hiking Required: No

Maximum Guest Capacity: 40 Guests

Restroom Access: Yes

spence cabin in great smoky mountains national park

Overall, these are just a few locations I highly recommend. There are plenty more spots in the Great Smoky Mountains to explore and include into your elopement!

couple walking along the river at their great smoky mountains elopement

Travel Accommodations

Traveling to the Great Smoky Mountains can be an easy stress-free process if you make a plan in advance. Keep reading to see my recommendations for travel and housing!

Air Travel

For the cheapest flights I would recommend flying into Knoxville, Tennessee. Knoxville’s McGhee Tyson Airport is the closest major airport to the mountains, about an hour’s drive away. Otherwise, Gatlinburg does offer an airport if you are wanting a flight that is more convenient and closer to the Smokies.

Car Travel

If you travel by air, or road trip with your own vehicle, you can rent a car and take a scenic drive to the Smokies. You will pass through charming towns and beautiful landscapes along the way. Additionally, the route to the mountains offers breathtaking views of rolling hills, thick forests, and flowing rivers. So, pack your bags and get ready for an unforgettable trip to one of America’s most popular natural attractions.

Hotel & Airbnb

If you’re planning to elope in the Great Smoky Mountains, there are a variety of accommodations available that cater to different tastes and budgets. You can choose from cozy Airbnb cabins tucked away in the woods for privacy or a simple hotel. Or, consider a luxurious resort with all the amenities. Also, there are charming bed and breakfasts offering a homely atmosphere. There are also numerous campgrounds if you wish to stay closer to nature. Each offers its own unique charm and benefits, so your choice would depend on your personal preference. Whether you want a rustic setting, a touch of luxury, or something in between there are plenty of options. Overall, the area provides a romantic and scenic backdrop for your special day, making your elopement even more memorable.

Great Smoky Mountains Weather & Climate

The Great Smoky Mountains have a moderate climate, characterized by mild winters and warm summers. 


There can be frequent rainfall and mild temperatures. Springtime will bring blooming wildflowers and trees.


Typically warm and humid temperatures. Additionally, mosquitos can be prevalent so plan ahead.


Usually cooler temperatures with the beautiful fall foliage on the mountains. The color-changing leaves are truly something you don’t want to miss!


Generally mild, although lower elevations can see temperatures below freezing and snow is common at higher elevations. There are ski resorts in the area for those adventure seekers.

Please note that weather can change rapidly in the mountains, so it’s always a good idea to check the forecast before your visit! 

bride and groom taking photos at a cabin in the great smoky mountains

Things You Need To Know Before You Elope in the Smokies

Parking Tags: There is a fee for any vehicle you bring into the Great Smoky Mountains for longer than 15 minutes. You can pay $5 for a day pass, $15 for a week pass, or $40 for an annual pass. 

Cell Service: Since you are in the middle of a National Park there will be areas without cell service. I would recommend bringing a map of the park and planning ahead exactly where you are wanting to go.

Food: If you plan to bring any food into the park it must be properly stored in a vehicle or hard sided device while not being used. Black bears are very prominent in the area and will get into your food if it isn’t correctly put away!

Leave No Trace: Any National Park has a strict Leave No Trace policy. Therefore, always clean up after yourself and bring out what you bring into the park. The National Park Service in the Great Smoky Mountains does have restrictions about items that are and are not allowed.

Allowed Items:

  • Music
  • Discrete Floral Arrangements
  • Battery Powered Candles
  • 6 Chairs for those with Special Needs

Prohibited Items:

  • Horse-Drawn Carriages
  • Tents/Canopies
  • Tables
  • Banners and Signs
  • Portable Heaters or Fans
  • Releasing Live Animals
  • Carpet Runners
  • Balloons
  • Garden Arches
  • Candles/Lamps
  • Fireworks
  • Fog Machines
  • Confetti, Flower Petals, Bubbles, Silly String, Rice, and Birdseed
  • Drones

The full list of items and complete details can be found on the National Park Service website.

What Are Some Activities You Can Do In the Smoky Mountains?

Including activities into your elopement can be a great way to make the most out of it and to entertain guests if you are bringing some! I highly recommend making a full weekend vacation out of your elopement to celebrate more than one day. Some activities you can do are:

  • Visit attractions like Clingmans Dome, Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, and Alum Cave Trail
  • Hiking on numerous trails, including those leading to beautiful waterfalls
  • Wildlife viewing to see a variety of animals in their natural habitat
  • Bicycling
  • Fishing
  • Touring historic sites in the park
  • Picnicking in designated areas 
  • Kayaking or Canoeing
  • Camping
  • Stargazing
bride and groom taking photos at a cabin in the great smoky mountains

An Example Elopement Day Schedule

Documenting couples living their best life on their elopement day and doing activities they love only add to the overall experience. Overall, I recommend adding activities that feel right and personal to you as a couple. An example of your elopement day can look something like this:

8 Hour Coverage:

*Sunset: 5:23pm (Will change based on day and season!)

8:00: Wake up in a Cabin Airbnb and enjoy the morning

8:30: Eat breakfast, start moving for the day

9:00: Photographer Arrives- You can play cards, drink coffee together, explore the outdoors, etc.

10:00: Start Getting Ready- Getting Ready Photos

11:30: First Looks- First Looks with Partner, Mom, Dad, Other Family or Friends

12:00: Meet at Foothills Parkway West

12:15: Write Vows/Say Vows at Foothills Parkway West- Take Photos, Take Family Photos (If applicable)

1:00: Head to Hiking Trail – Laurel Falls or Cataract Falls (40 Minute Drive)

2:00: Arrive at Laurel Falls or Cataract Falls

2:00-3:45: Hike the Trail- Explore and take more photos at the falls

4:00: Drive to Sunset Spot (30 Min)

4:30-5:00: Sunset Photos- (Ben Morton Overlook)

Remember To Bring:

  • Vow Materials (Vow Books, Pen/Pencils)
  • Blankets
  • Outerwear if its chilly
  • Bouquet
  • Hiking Shoes
  • Any other essentials

Alternative Ideas:

If you want to skip the waterfall and include an activity at this point you could rent a canoe, go fishing, have a picnic together etc. If you’re both thrill-seekers, consider zip-lining through the smoky treetops.

For a later timeline consider ending your special day by hiring a private chef! You could even conclude with a star-gazing session, as the Smoky Mountains offer some of the most beautiful night skies. This unique blend of adventure and romance makes for another elopement that’s unforgettable. Make your elopement personal and true to your love story.

The Best Hiking Trails

Throughout the dozens of trails in the Great Smoky Mountains, here are some I recommend at each level of difficulty:

Easy Trails

Laurel Falls- 2.4 Miles

Gatlinburg Trail- 3.9 Miles

Deep Creek Waterfall Loop- 2.4 Miles

Cataract Falls- 1.1 Miles

Mouse Creek Falls- 4.0 Miles

Moderate Trails

Peregrine Peak- 4.5 Miles

Rainbow Falls- 5.1 Miles

Charlies Bunion- 8.0 Miles

Clingmans Dome- 1.3 Miles

Grotto Falls- 2.6 Miles

Hard Trails

Alum Cave- 11 Miles

Chimney Tops- 3.6 Miles

Myrtle Point & Mount LeConte- 11.8 Miles

Mount Cammerer- 11.1 Miles

Ramsey Cascades-7.9 Miles

I use AllTrails to find the best trails for your elopement day or just exploring. You can find more trails in the Smokies on their website!

great smoky mountains national park sign

The Next Step

Overall, eloping in the Great Smoky Mountains offers an unforgettable experience, with its breathtaking natural beauty providing a romantic backdrop for your special day. Whether you choose a secluded trail or a historic place like Spence Cabin for your ceremony, the serenity and charm of this location make it a perfect choice for couples seeking an intimate and memorable elopement.

If you are ready to take that next step and book your own Great Smoky Mountains Elopement click here to fill out my contact form. From there we can set up your free consult call and dream up your perfect day!

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