The longest pedestrian bridge in North America is now open to the public at Gatlinburg's SkyLift Park.
The SkyBridge is a 680-foot suspension bridge which features a glass midsection at the highest point. After a ride up the hillside on the SkyLift, guests can access the entrance to the bridge from one end of the SkyDeck.
On the SkyDeck, and the bridge itself, guests are provided with views of some of the most iconic mountains in the local region of the Great Smoky Mountains range, including Clingman's Dome, Sugarland Mountain and Rocky Top. On the other end of the the bridge, guests can identify the mountains in view, courtesy of a poster labeling the mountains for them. Kunal Parekh, a tourist from Chicago, said the view inspired future plans for his visit.
“The view is amazing,” Parekh said. “(I'm) definitely contemplating, 'What if we could hike up there, too?'”
During the passage across, the steel-and-wood bridge sways slightly. Ruby Redd, a tourist visiting Gatlinburg from Seattle, Washington, said the slight sway adds to the excitement.
“I was excited because it was going to be the longest pedestrian bridge in the nation, as far as I understand,” Redd said. “That was the excitement, to see what that meant ... I wasn't scared.”
However, the most anticipated part of the bridge is the glass midsection. Guests can see straight down below them at 140 feet above the ground. Taking into account the height of Crockett Mountain, which houses the attraction, guests are situated a full 640 feet above sea level — just short of the length of the bridge itself — above Gatlinburg.
The glass midsection allows visitors to see right below their feet, something which can come across as nerve-wracking for some. Many guests balk before stepping foot onto the glass. Redd said that between the height, the gentle sway of the bridge and the idea of stepping onto a perfectly clear surface can cause a bit of vertigo for some.
“I wanted to lay down and take a picture like they were talking about in the town,” Redd said. “I didn't - I just looked down and took a picture, and that ... vertigo feeling. You're shaking, and you're thinking, 'Oh gosh, there is nothing there!' But (it's) fun.”
Others, however, find it exhilarating. Parekh said that he could not wait to document the experience.
“I immediately thought, 'This is really cool,' and pulled out my phone so that I could record (myself) walking over it and send it to everybody,” Parekh said.
After the initial shock and awe, guests usually find it a bit easier to cross back over the bridge. Redd said she would make the best of her second pass over the glass.
“I'm going to stop in the middle again and really make sure that I really enjoy that view,” Redd said.
The SkyBridge is open 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily until Labor Day. Live entertainment is available on the Skydeck Thursday through Sunday, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.