Great Smoky Mountains National Park | LOOK ROCK PICNIC AREA

Look Rock Picnic Area at Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Look Rock Picnic Area at Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Look Rock Picnic Area is located on the west side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park at the top of a mountain. It is open seasonally from dawn until dusk. For the current operating schedule, visit the National Park Service’s Picnicking web page.

A long road that ends in a loop runs through the picnic area. Parking is done in common lots, and you must carry your picnicking supplies to the tables, nearly all of which are at the top of a small ridge that flanks the road on one side. There are approximately two dozen tables and a dozen grills, and all are taken on a first come, first served basis. There is no pavilion for a group picnic, and the tables are anchored into the ground, so you can’t move them around. If you want to host a large gathering, the closest picnic area that can accommodate groups is Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area near Gatlinburg.

Most tables are on a ridge above the parking areas

Most tables are on a ridge above the parking areas

The first section of the Look Rock Picnic Area has two parking lots, one right after another. If you are physically able, you can scurry up the hill directly to the table of your choice. This is more easily done near the first parking spaces because the ridge gets progressively higher as you proceed through the picnic area. By the time you reach the second parking lot, carrying your supplies up the hill isn’t as appealing. However, there is a stone staircase at the far end of the second parking lot. A path runs the length of the ridge, so you can get to any table once at the top of the stairs, though it is a long walk from one end of the picnic area to the other.

Stone staircase leads to the picnic tables at the top of the ridge

Stone staircase leads to the picnic tables at the top of the ridge

All of the picnic tables are lined up along the edge of a cliff, which leads me to believe that they once had great views of the surrounding area. Unfortunately, only a few tables still have a view, for trees have grown up, and for the most part, all you are looking at today is a forest.

One of the few picnic tables at the Look Rock Picnic Area that still has a view

One of the few picnic tables at the Look Rock Picnic Area that still has a view

Typical view at the Look Rock Picnic Area

Typical view at the Look Rock Picnic Area

The second section of the Look Rock Picnic Area is located at the start of the loop at the end of the road. Here you will find a batch of eight tables and three grills, all located on the ridge just like the first section of the picnic area.

Group of tables near the loop at the end of the road at Look Rock Picnic Area

Group of tables near the loop at the end of the road at Look Rock Picnic Area

At the very end of the loop are the only two picnic tables that disabled visitors can access. Each table has its own grill. There is also what I call a fancy outhouse: a chemical toilet housed inside a permanent building. There is a similar restroom at the first parking area, but it is located down a steep hill and is not accessible for those who have trouble walking. There are two handicap parking spaces next to the restroom, and roughly two dozen more standard spaces along the loop.

Handicap-accessible tables at the Look Rock Picnic Area

Handicap-accessible tables at the Look Rock Picnic Area

I visited the Look Rock Picnic Area in early October when the temperature was pleasant, and there were plenty of gnats and a few mosquitoes. With the gnats swirling around my head, I looked like Pig Pen in the Peanuts cartoon. I don’t associate such bugs with the Smoky Mountains, particularly in the fall, but with the picnic area being located at the foothills of the Smokies, they should be expected. I don’t know what it is like in the summer, but I can only imagine that the bugs are a bigger problem.

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Last updated on December 16, 2020
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