Solar Eclipse 2017 Best Locations in the Blue Ridge

On August 21st, at approximately 2:30 PM, the total solar eclipse 2017 will occur.  The best part?  The Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia will all be able to see it, and will provide optimal viewing locations!  A total solar eclipse, that is viewable from the Blue Ridge Mountains AND optimal is rare.

Solar Eclipse 2017

Below, we’ll provide you with the best viewing locations in the Blue Ridge Mountains to see the total solar eclipse.  All of our best locations will have a 100% totality eclipse, meaning the moon will fully cover the sun.  Other locations in the Blue Ridge will also be able to see the Eclipse, but will have lower amounts of totality.

What is a Total Solar Eclipse?

First, let’s briefly talk about what is a total solar eclipse.

A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon completely covers the sun.  The sun’s tenuous atmosphere, the corona is the only thing that can be seen.  The corona, appears as a halo around the sun during a total solar eclipse.

Total solar eclipses aren’t as rare as most people think.  Approximately once every 18 months a total solar eclipse can be seen from some location on the Earth.   Now, what what’s rare is how often they can be seen from a specific location on Earth.

Solar Eclipse 2017

So let’s quote the experts.  The classical textbook “Astronomy” by authors H.N. Russell, R.S. Dugan and J.Q. Stewart stated:

Since the track of a solar eclipse is a very narrow path over the earth’s surface, averaging only 60 or 70 miles in width, we find that in the long run a total eclipse happens at any given station only once in about 360 years.

So this basically means that seeing it here in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains is really rare!

Where in the Blue Ridge can I see Solar Eclipse 2017?

Solar Eclipse 2017
Map courtesy of: Eclipse 2017

Blue Ridge Mountain towns in the direct path, which will see a 100% eclipse include (by state):

North Carolina: Andrews, Brevard, Bryson City,  Sylva, Dillsboro, Cashiers, Bryson City, Franklin, Cherokee, Robbinsville, and Highlands

Tennessee: Townsend and Tellico Plains

Georgia: ClaytonHelen, Hiawassee, and Toccoa

Cities that will be very close (95-99%) are (by state):

North Carolina: Asheville, Maggie Valley, Waynesville, Hendersonville and Lake Lure

Tennessee: Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge

Other cities and towns in the Blue Ridge will still be able to see solar eclipse 2017, but as you get further away from the areas above the percentage of total eclipse goes down.   But, you’ll still be able to see a partial eclipse.

Solar Eclipse 2017 Map

Solar Eclipse 2017 Blue Ridge Mountains
Map courtesy of Michael Zeiler, Great American Eclipse

Visit the Nasa page to download a detailed Solar Eclipse 2017 Map.  You can find and use an interactive map as well.

Best Places to see the Total Eclipse in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Solar Eclipse 2017
Photo by Ken Lund

Updated: 7/8/2017 to include Clayton GA.

The Blue Ridge Mountains will have numerous places to view solar eclipse 2017, both total and partial.  Here’s a list of areas that will experience a 100% total solar eclipse.  These will be the best places to see the total solar eclipse of 2017:

Andrews NC – The city of Andrews is located in the 100% total solar eclipse area, and will be having The Great American Eclipse Celebration at Hall Park on First Street.  The celebration will go from 12pm – 7pm on August 21st and include activities, music, food, and local beers and wines.  Andrews will experience 2 minutes and 39 seconds of darkness.

Blue Ridge Parkway – The southern side of the Parkway, from Asheville, NC to Cherokee NC will offer amazing views of the Eclipse along the whole length.  For total darkness (100%), you’ll want to be between MP417 (Looking Glass Rock) and Cherokee. Waterrock Knob, near Maggie Valley NC would be an excellent high elevation location, as would a number of of the overlooks.  Graveyard Fields would also be a good choice, especially from the open field areas where the blueberries grow.

Bryson City NC – This great little town is have a solar eclipse block party on Frye Street from 11am-3pm.  The block party will have live music and local stores and restaurants will have special “solar eclipse” sales and offers.  Music and Food trucks and will be at the Swain County Event Park.   Total darkness in Bryson City is about 2 minutes.

Cherohala Skyway – This is probably one of the best locations if you’re wanting to avoid the crowds.   The Cherohala Skyway, near Robbinsville NC will experience 2 1/2 minutes of darkness during the solar eclipse.  You’ll have many different overlooks to choose from as well.  We would recommend packing a lunch and driving up early to find a spot.

Clayton, GA – Clayton will experience 2 minutes and 35 seconds of darkness, making it the best place for the longest “totality”.  Businesses are offering discounts, and a number of parties and planned events will be occurring.

Blue Ridge, Georgia – The whole town and surrounding areas will experience the total eclipse.   The Blue Ridge lake will make an excellent viewing location, especially in a boat, which you can rent there at the lake.   Nearby Brasstown Bald, due to it’s elevation and views will make for an amazing viewing location as well.

Cherokee, NC – The Cherokee Indians have observed Solar Eclipses for many many years.  Cherokee is having a Cultural Eclipse Celebration on August 20 from 2-9pm and on August 21 from 9am – 7pm.  You can learn more about the interesting and unique history the Cherokee have with solar eclipses at the Fairgrounds and the Museum of the Cherokee.  They will have storytellers, warrior dancers, craft demonstrators, and more!   Admission to the event is $5 and includes viewing glasses. 

Fontana Dam – Watch the eclipse from the top of Fontana Dam, as it’s right in the 100% darkness area.

Gorges State Park – Located near Sapphire NC, Gorges State Park will have a three day celebration with many free activities. The first day, August 19th is Nature Day which will have a series of guided hikes 10am – 4pm.  Day 2, August 20th, is Fun Day with various programs, exhibits, food and live music from 10am – 4pm.  On Solar Eclipse Day, August 21st, the park gates will open early at 5am with activities, events, food, and music from 10am – 4pm.  The park will provide with free solar eclipse viewing glasses.  The gates will close when they reach capacity at 1,400 automobiles.  The park is located in a total eclipse area.  You can hike up to Rainbow and Turtleback Falls prior to the Eclipse event as well.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park – The park sold tickets earlier this year for viewing at Clingmans Dome and Newfound Gap.  Tickets sold out quickly for these special events, and both areas will be closed to the public.  Newfound Gap Road (Highway 441) will close at the Smokemont area on the NC side.  The large field next to the Oconoluftee Visitors center will be a prime viewing location, and very large crowds are expected here.

Hiawassee, GA – On August 21, from 12pm – 4pm, Hiawassee GA will have a Great American Eclipse Tailgating Party.  Events inlaced live bands, eclipse experts, vendors, food, and games for kids.  Bring a tent, chairs, picnic lunch!  Admission is $5 per car load.  Located at the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds Parking Lot

Highlands, NC – Highlands is having the Highlands Eclipse Festival Weekend. August 18th – 21st 2017.  There will be events throughout the weekend with a viewing party Monday August 21st. 

Robbinsville, NC – Weekend solar eclipse events are planned.  A craft/antique fair on Saturday, 8/19 from 10am – 5pm and then music from 7pm – 10pm.  More music is planned for Sunday, 8/20 and coupons from restaurants, good for Sunday only, will be available.  Eclipse viewing on Monday, August 21.  Admission is free.  Robbinsville will experience 2 minutes and 35 of darkness.

Sylva, NC – The town of Sylva will have Live music, food trucks and eclipse experts at Bridge Park from 11 AM-3 PM.  Do to being an optimal location, Sylva is prepared for large crowds.  They will have ample parking, food, and activities.

Tellico Plains, TN – The town of Tellico Plians will host “Standing in the Shadow of the Moon” 3 day event.  August 19th, from 12pm – 9pm will have music, space themed movies, and the Mile Way Star party will be from 8pm – 10pm.  August 20th from 9am – 5pm will have star themed videos showing throughout the day.  August 21st from 7am – 5pm, will be an Eclipse Party with themed music, and storytellers.  Eclipse viewing glasses will be available for purchase, while supplies last.

Solar Eclipse 2017 Viewing Tips

The following Solcar Eclipse 2017 Viewing Tips are provided courtesy of NASA:

Looking directly at the sun is unsafe except during the brief total phase of a solar eclipse (“totality”), when the moon entirely blocks the sun’s bright face, which will happen only within the narrow path of totality.

The only safe way to look directly at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun is through special-purpose solar filters, such as “eclipse glasses” (example shown at left) or hand-held solar viewers. Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses, even very dark ones, are not safe for looking at the sun.
To date four manufacturers have certified that their eclipse glasses and handheld solar viewers meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard for such products: Rainbow Symphony, American Paper Optics, Thousand Oaks Optical, and TSE 17.
  • Always inspect your solar filter before use; if scratched or damaged, discard it. Read and follow any instructions printed on or packaged with the filter. Always supervise children using solar filters.
  • Stand still and cover your eyes with your eclipse glasses or solar viewer before looking up at the bright sun. After glancing at the sun, turn away and remove your filter — do not remove it while looking at the sun.
  • Do not look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars, or other optical device. Similarly, do not look at the sun through a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device while using your eclipse glasses or hand-held solar viewer — the concentrated solar rays will damage the filter and enter your eye(s), causing serious injury. Seek expert advice from an astronomer before using a solar filter with a camera, a telescope, binoculars, or any other optical device.
  • If you are within the path of totality, remove your solar filter only when the Moon completely covers the sun’s bright face and it suddenly gets quite dark. Experience totality, then, as soon as the bright sun begins to reappear, replace your solar viewer to glance at the remaining partial phases.

A solar eclipse is one of nature’s grandest spectacles. By following these simple rules, you can safely enjoy the view and be rewarded with memories to last a lifetime.

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