ADVENTURE AWAITS AT ANAKEESTA!
The name Anakeesta is a Cherokee word referring to high ground, literally meaning “the place of balsams” or “the place of high ground.”
Anakeesta is a new kind of recreational experience for all ages, located on 2.11 acres on the Parkway in downtown Gatlinburg, TN. The mountain adventure encompasses a total of 70 acres. Surprisingly, additionally Anakeesta sports approximately one hundred seventy-five paid parking spots available to the public; which is quite a boon for residents and visitors given that between eleven and thirteen million guests come through the national park to Gatlinburg. (Chamber of Commerce)
GR - What makes Anakeesta a different type of experience?
Michele Canney (Marketing Director) - We are very much “Tree based” as best as we can, we protected as many trees as we could, of course, the fire event changed the landscape that we would not have changed. But we have gone with the flow, and as a result of the fire that went through here, we now have a spectacular view at the top that we would not have had otherwise. We’ve created a park for all ages - the "Chondola" being a part of that concept such that some one that may be older and needs a wheelchair or a squirmy toddler that wouldn’t be comfortable sitting on an exposed chairlift, we have the gondolas for them.
Breaking down the name: Chondola "Ch" represents the 104 quad chairs, "ondola" represents the 8 Gondola Cabins, which open up wide to let passengers in and out. The gondola cabins are fully ventilated for comfort, each cabin seating six people in each gondola. Put them together, and you get “Chondola” the lift to the top of the mountain.
The Chondola is a unique "Fixed Grip” system, as it is the very first fixed grip chondola built in North America! At full speed and fully loaded the Chondola can transport 1,100 people per hour to the top of the mountain. (made by Lightner Poma of Grand Junction, CO)
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what's old is new again
Three important buildings on the property have been preserved and/or repurposed. The Ogle Cabin used to preside at what is the entrance to the Anakeesta parking area and lift to the top of the mountain. It was the oldest property in town, and because Anakeesta purchased the property, they ended up owning the Ogle Cabin. Instead of keeping it they donated it to the city of Gatlinburg and relocated it to a public spot where people can still enjoy the cabin. The city now provides a live tour of the cabin’s history in Gatlinburg. The Watson building is also known as the Clinic Building "many in Gatlinburg remember getting their first vaccinations there"- Michele Canney. The building was donated to the Severe County school district. Anakeesta then at their cost, relocated the building to the Gatlinburg, Pittman Center area. The third building on the site was the Aerorcraft building, originally an arts and crafts store. Noted as “A beautiful building,” Anakeesta divided the Aircraft building into three separate buildings, picked those buildings up and moved them to be used as their office spaces on the property.
The area just off the road has become an “Events Plaza” with lighting, and an envisioned use for public venues: (examples) Farmer’s Markets, seasonal kiosks, Inviting the Arts & Crafts community for demonstrations, and utilization by the City of Gatlinburg. Abutting the Events Plaza is retail space for Savannah Bee Company - luxury bath, bed and other products that are honey based. Even better! Savannah Bee Company will offer Mead Tastings on location - somewhere Friar Tuck smiles.
Staying on the theme of What's Old is New Again, Anakeesta is very conscience of preserving the history that was there and donating it when appropriate or re-utilizing it when possible. Real poplar tree bark has been used as siding on buildings, stone at the base of the mountain was reclaimed from the Aerocraft building, while beautiful flagstone pavers that were saved will be reused at the top of the mountain. During construction, a Mason placing the stone on a lamp post base near the entrance remarked: "You know, I actually laid this stone fifty years ago when it went on the original Aircraft building."
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According to the local news, since they have been keeping records July 21, 2017, was officially the hottest day of the year on record for Gatlinburg at 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Of course, that was the day GR visited Anakeesta. Speaking of HOT! There is a huge misconception: Michele Canney says "People think that Gatlinburg has burned. It has not, in fact, the fire department did an excellent job protecting the perimeter of the town." About two thousand, eight hundred structures were lost in the fire, and fourteen lives were lost as well. The south side of the mountain was heavily scorched by the fire. Before the fire the trees were so thick and tall, there was no view, now the view is breath taking. Mt. Laconte is in clear view as well as Sugarlands. The fire burned very hot on the south side of the mountain to the top and then skipped to other peaks via hot embers carried by the high 90 miles an hour winds, bolstered by electrical wires breaking under the strain of snapped poles. Not to mention the worst drought to hit the area in ages. But make no mistake, Gatlinburg and Anakeesta ARE OPEN FOR BUSINESS, teeming with people in a throng of humanity usually associated with large, major metropolitan cities.
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Up the mountain
Jump on the Chondola for a relaxing six-minute ride six hundred feet to the summit. It's an exciting opportunity to fully appreciate the astounding views of Gatlinburg, and the famed bevy of flora and fauna, all thanks to the oldest mountain range in the world. Be ready when you disembark, BIG fun surrounds you.
Children’s Treehouse Village Playground - The playground is an important part of Anakeesta's goal to accommodate all ages. Designed by a NC company named Beanstalk, all of the wood is black locust wood -abundant in the area and extremely resistant to rot. Children of all ages will love playing in the trees in this whimsically themed tree house village interconnected by multiple bridges of varying challenge. Physical and educational elements designed to build strength and confidence will surprise guests at nearly every turn. Trek along a log walk to an elevated bird nest to learn about how an American Goldfinch cultivates its home, navigate a plank walk to a maze encapsulated by a house in the trees, and crawl through a tube net to a climbing adventure within the walls of nature.
Gem Mining: Strike it rich at the Anakeesta Gem Mine! An interactive waterfall and sluice allow kids of all ages to search for that special gemstone or fossil. Located at the end of the Treetop Canopy Walk and adjacent to the Treehouse Village Playground, Gem Mining will be a fun family activity.
Tree Canopy Walk: (non-strenuous. No need to be harnessed or helmeted and is included in the price of admission) Experience what it feels like to be a bird in the canopy as you stroll 40’ – 60’ above the forest floor along with a series of 16 connected sky bridges suspended in the trees. Each bridge leads to a new observation platform where you can take in the sights, learn about your surroundings with engaging interpretive signage and enjoy the spectacular views. Keep a sharp eye; you may spot a bear on the forest floor below or a woodpecker in the treetops.
Race on a Dueling Zipline:
Zip through the treetops on Anakeesta’s two unique ziplines. Stretching high over the forest floor, each zip is over 1,000 feet in length and will give you beautiful views of the Smokies while zipping right next to friends or family. Along the way, you’ll be able to test your courage at the two challenge stations where you’ll rappel off platforms and enjoy a controlled 60-foot descent to a cushioned platform below. Zipline guests return to the summit by riding the Chondola from the mid-station.
Firefly Village: Shop and eat while strolling through Firefly Village built among the treetops in the heart of the Smokies. Enjoy treehouse-themed shopping and dining while taking in the numerous scenic overlooks and our nearly 360-degree view of the surrounding mountain range, including Mt. LeConte as well as the extraordinary views of sparkling downtown Gatlinburg too.
Pearl's Pie in the Sky
DINING – Just like Pearl used to make! Step back to Gatlinburg in the 1940’s when visiting Pearl’s Pie in the Sky! Enjoy a slice of your favorite pie or assortment of mouth-watering baked goods. Save room for a scoop of creamy hand-dipped ice cream by Bluebell; cones, milk shakes and sundaes.
DINING – Bring a hearty southern appetite! At the Summit Smokehouse, chefs use only the highest quality brisket and pork, season it with their own special rub, then slowly smoke to perfection. The result, tender, juicy mouth-watering BBQ! Or try the lightly smoked turkey, it’s moist and tender and served with Alabama hot slaw and spicy BBQ sauce. The Summit Smokehouse serves delicious wraps, savory melts, salads and more.
Great Outdoors Trading Company
SHOPPING – Shop a diverse array of regional Appalachian arts, crafts, jewelry, home goods and more made by local artisans in the local area. Outdoor enthusiasts, browse around for all your gear and apparel needs for a day of hiking in the Smokies.
SHOPPING – Experience the enchantment of the forest at the whimsical Catching Fireflies boutique featuring a line of children’s clothing and toys designed to ignite a child’s imagination and wonder of nature as well as unique jewelry, home goods, and women’s apparel.
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Forest Memorial Walk: On November 28, 2016, more than 15,000 acres of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the city of Gatlinburg were damaged by the most devastating fire in the state’s history. The south side of Anakeesta Mountain which was badly scorched is a fitting location for the Fire Memorial Walk. Stroll through the charred forest that serves as a reminder of the courage of the brave men and women who fought the fires, the fortitude of those affected and the resilience and restoration of our beloved Smoky Mountains and the city of Gatlinburg that truly are ‘mountain tough.’The Forest Memorial Walk includes interpretive signage that details the night of the fire, the regeneration after the fire, why fires can be good for the forest environment and how we expect the forest to renew and regrow. At the top, there is a contemplative area with stone benches and a chime (when spun, the chime plays Amazing Grace). Through an agreement with Jeremy Cohert, the photographer out of Nashville, TN who is allowing Anakeesta to utilize a photo exhibit he created for and of several families immediately after the fire.
Jeremy Cohert's artistic expression :
Jeremy attached his camera to a drone, then had the families (who lost their homes to the fire) dress all in white and lye down in the shell of their homes while taking a picture of them from the drone. He then tells their compelling stories - titled The Voices of Gatlinburg.
The Best View of the Smokies
It’s a breathtaking view from the summit of Anakeesta. Discover the panoramic overlook of the Mt. LeConte Range hidden just above the City. GraciousRoots recommends you camp up around the fire pit, or kick back in a rocking chair and unwind at Firefly Village as you watch the mist roll out of the mountains in the early hours of the day. Then, find your favorite spot to watch the sunset over the Great Smoky Mountains and enjoy the twinkling lights of Gatlinburg come alive below.
- The Second phase of building at Anakeesta will be a non-denominational wedding chapel at the summit.
(2018)Nestled into the summit of Anakeesta Mountain, a natural grassy slope overlooking the beautiful views of Mt. LeConte and the Smoky Mountains will soon be home to an outdoor amphitheater that will host live music and other events.
Phase III: The ridge line on the north side of the mountain will sport 35 to 40 tree house cabins that will be offered as lodging on the property.
Bob and Karen Bentz were born in Florida, but were soon drawn to the Smoky Mountains. The magic of the Southern Highlands once again captured two more hearts and minds. Both are Landscape Architects by trade. Bob has a degree in Forestry from the University of Tennessee and worked for the National Parks system. Construction at Anakeesta began in early January 2017 with a "beehive of activity" since.
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the price is right
It’s not family-friendly unless it’s budget-friendly. Pricing below includes the tree canopy walk, tree house playground, the best view in town and more!
All guests access Anakeesta via the scenic Chondola ride. You choose…..ride the open air 4-person chair with a safety bar or select an enclosed gondola cabin with seating for 6. The 12-minute ride takes you to the summit of Anakeesta Mountain, 600 feet above Gatlinburg, where you will enter the whimsical Firefly Village. Included in the price of admission is Anakeesta’s elevated Tree Canopy Walk, Treehouse Village Playground, Forest Memorial Walk with interpretive signage, shopping and dining opportunities and the most gorgeous scenic views in all of Gatlinburg.
Tickets purchased after 6 PM includes entry to Anakeesta the following day.
Entry to Anakeesta is required to access ziplines.
Zip through the treetops on Anakeesta’s two unique ziplines. Stretching high over the forest floor, each zip is over 1,000 feet in length and will give you beautiful views of the Smokies while zipping right next to friends or family. Along the way, you’ll be able to test your courage at our two challenge stations where you’ll rappel off our platforms and enjoy a controlled 60-foot descent to a cushioned platform below. Zipline guests return to the summit by riding the Chondola from the mid-station.
Age Minimum: 7 years old
Weight Minimum: 80 pounds
Weight Maximum: 270 pounds
Children 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult 18+
See all zipline restrictions and requirements