Magic on higher ground - Anakeesta in Gatlinburg
Remember the magical feeling of climbing up into a treehouse. How about racing down a hill with your friends? Or the awe inspiring moment you gazed out from a high peak? Starting September 1st you can experience all these feelings at one unique attraction situated about 600 feet above Gatlinburg.
The journey to Anakeesta, begins in downtown Gatlinburg across from Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. The only way to get there is to take the state of the art chondala system up the mountain. This combination of traditional chair lifts and gondola cars, is the only way visitors can get to Anakeesta. Finding the chondola is easy. Just look for the bright red bullwheel sitting under the stunning chalet style shelter sitting right along the parkway. You could also just look for the bright blue Anakeesta sign with its signature looped arrow pointing up. The ride up the mountain takes 14-minutes.
When you arrive at the top platform, you’ll step out into Firefly Village, a playful collection of shops and places to eat, as well as the gateway to the more adventurous side of Anakeesta. Pearl’s Pie in the Sky offers up a wide variety of sweet treats and just up the “street” is the Summit Smokehouse where over the weekend, workers were bear proofing the bbq pit. If shopping is your thing check out The Great Outdoor Trading Company. From handmade jewelry to pottery and Misty Mountain soaps and lotions, this store is filled with items made in Gatlinburg’s Arts and Crafts Community.
Just beyond the stores, a large patio lined with picnic tables and rocking chairs provides one of the best views in all of Gatlinburg. Off to one side, sits the Park Vista hotel and in the other direction you can see all the way to the top of Mount LeConte. The view is so amazing you might not want to leave.
Adventure awaits those who come to the Adventure Outpost. This is the “boarding” station for the Dueling Ziplines and the entry point to the Tree Canopy Walk. Three zips more than 200 feet off the ground take riders racing down at least a thousand feet with a rappelling drop of more than 60 feet on one platform. The course is designed so you (and a friend) can zip down the mountain together.
The tree canopy walk (perhaps my favorite thing at Anakeesta) is essentially a network of swinging bridges connecting more than a dozen observation platforms. Each stop along the way provides a unique view of the forest floor as the walk is as high as 60 feet off the forest floor. If you don’t think it’s something you can handle, you can turn around at the first observation deck. After that, it’s a one-way journey to the end.
Another tree top adventure is designed for the kid in everyone. This Treehouse Playground is a mix of artfully crafted wooden houses connected with an array of ropes, hoops and wooden walkways that provide countless ways to explore. There’s even a larger than life birds nest where you can learn more about the American Goldfinch.
Anakeesta is filled with ways to create your own magic in the mountains, but it also has a more somber side. The wildfires in November 2016 scarred much of the land where Anakeesta stands. Visitors will find a special memorial interpretive walk that helps them learn more about the fire and how it has impacted so many lives. (Click here to read more about the walk).
Basic admission to Anakeesta is $19.99 for adults. This includes the ride up, the Tree Canopy Walk, the Treehouse Playground, Firefly Village and the Memorial Walk. There is an additional charge for the Dueling Ziplines ($29.99) and Gem Mining (Starting at $7.99). More attractions are planned for the future including a Mountain Coaster and an amphitheater which should open within the next few months.