21 National Parks Where You Can Enjoy the 2017 Solar Eclipse

Fort Donelson National Battlefield, Tennessee

National Parks Service

Fort Donelson in Dover, Tennessee, falls on the edge of the path of totality during the Aug. 21 solar eclipse, during which viewers will experience approximately 45 seconds of darkness. Viewing opportunities will be available from the main lands of the park and from the Dover Hotel (Surrender House), overlooking the Cumberland River. Totality will start at 1:25 p.m. local time.

The Confederacy established Fort Donelson during the American Civil War. The Dover Hotel was built between 1851 and 1853, accommodated riverboat travelers before and after the war, and served as Gen. Simon Buckner's headquarters, according to the NPS website.

The park will also host special solar eclipse programs throughout the summer, including a presentation by NASA solar system ambassador Theo Wellington on June 13 and a Junior Ranger activity on June 17 for children ages 5 to 9. All eclipse events at Fort Donelson are free. However, park officials warn that visitors may experience traffic delays and congested parking lots on the day of the solar eclipse. The park also recommends planning your visit early, as nearby campgrounds and hotels will fill up quickly. 

Stones River National Battlefield, Tennessee


Stones River National Battlefield, in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, also falls on the edge of the path of totality. Eclipse viewers at Stones River will experience roughly 55 seconds of totality, starting at 1:29 p.m. local time. 

The park will hold a free viewing event on Aug. 21 at the visitor center, along with historical and astronomical activities throughout the day. The first 1,500 visitors will receive a complimentary pair of eclipse-viewing glasses. Park officials advise visitors to arrive at the park early, as the gates to the park will close when parking areas fill up. Also, all park gates will be closed from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. CDT, so that skywatchers can focus their attention on the eclipse. 

Stones River National Battlefield is a 570-acre (230 hectares) park set up in memorial of the Battle of Stones River, which was a key battle of the Civil War. A short trip north to Nashville — the largest U.S. city in the path of totality — also offers a unique view of the solar eclipse. In Nashville, viewers will experience about 2 minutes of darkness, starting at 1:27 p.m. 

The Obed Wild and Scenic River, Tennessee


The entire stretch of the Obed Wild and Scenic River in Wartburg, Tennessee, falls within the path of totality. The park will hold viewing events at three locations, including the Obed Visitor Center, which will experience 1 minute and 14 seconds of darkness; Lilly Overlook, which will experience 1 minute and 39 seconds of darkness; and Big South Fork Gateway Visitor Center, which will experience 2 minutes and 29 seconds of darkness. 

The partial phases of the solar eclipse will begin around 1 p.m. EDT and will end at approximately 4 p.m. The total phase of the eclipse will occur at approximately 2:30 p.m., with the duration of totality varying depending on the viewing location. 

Eclipse-viewing events held at the Obed Wild and Scenic River are free and open to the public. In addition to the three designated viewing areas along the river, visitors can view the eclipse from other areas of the park on their own. The park warns that vehicle access to the three viewing areas may be closed when full. 

Manhattan Project National Historical Park, Tennessee


The Manhattan Project National Historical Park in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, falls within the path of totality for the solar eclipse on Aug. 21. The park has planned public viewing events at the American Museum of Science and Energy's Oak Ridge Visitor Center. 

At the Oak Ridge site, viewers will experience approximately 24 seconds of totality, starting at 2:33 p.m. EDT. The partial phases of the eclipse will begin at approximately 1 p.m. and will end at approximately 4 p.m. Eclipse-viewing events are free to the public, but the park will likely fill up fast. 

Oak Ridge, Tennessee, is one of three Manhattan Project National Historical Parks. There are two other sites: one in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and another in Hanford, Washington. Although these sites do not fall in the path of totality, skywatchers will still see a partial solar eclipse. The Manhattan Project sites memorialize the people, events, science and engineering that led to the creation of the atomic bomb, which helped end World War II.

Visitors can also view the eclipse from other areas of the park, including Big South Fork Gateway Visitor Center in Crossville, Tennessee, which will experience 2 minutes and 29 seconds of darkness. Totality will start at approximately 1:30 p.m. CDT at the Big South Fork Gateway Visitor Center. 

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee and North Carolina


Great Smoky Mountains National Park stretches from North Carolina to Tennessee. The western section of the park falls under the path of totality and will experience up to 2 minutes and 20 seconds of darkness during the eclipse. Great Smoky Mountains National Park has three viewing areas: Cades Cove, Oconaluftee and Clingmans Dome, the highest peak in not only the park but the entire state of Tennessee.

The park has planned events in all three viewing areas, including a special sold-out event in Clingmans Dome Trailhead parking area, which will feature educational exhibits and storytellers on the day of the eclipse. The featured speakers will talk about the science and cultural connection of the Great American Total Eclipse. A large screen will also be set up in the Clingmans Dome Trailhead parking area to show the national NASA TV broadcast of the eclipse. 

Although the event at Clingmans Dome on Aug. 21 is currently sold out, park officials recommend regularly checking ticket availability at recreation.gov for cancellations. Clingmans Dome will be closed to vehicle traffic in order to host the event. 

In addition, Great Smoky Mountains National Park will host staff-guided eclipse-viewing events at Cable Mill (Cades Cove) and Oconaluftee Visitor Center. These events are informal and free to the public. The park also has nine campgrounds for people interested in staying overnight (permit required). Park officials note that parking and vehicle access may be limited on the day of the total eclipse, and certain areas of the park may close when full

If you can't make it to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you can check out events hosted by other communities in the surrounding area. You can find more information here

Appalachian National Scenic Trail, multiple states


The Appalachian Trail stretches from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. The total solar eclipse on Aug. 21 will pass directly over sections of the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina and Tennessee. 

Hikers can trek to the top of the 5,200-foot (1,585 m) Albert Mountain near Franklin, North Carolina, to witness the eclipse. The trail to the peak of the mountain is about 4 miles (6.4 km) and starts near the Standing Indian area of the southern Nantahala National Forest. The Appalachian Trail is a public footpath, and no fees or permits are required to walk on the trail.

Franklin, North Carolina, will experience about 2 minutes and 30 seconds of totality, starting at 2:35 p.m. local time. 

Check near the end of this slideshow for a list of other national trails where totality is visible.

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina


The Blue Ridge Parkway offers a scenic route for watching the solar eclipse. The parkway, also called "America's Favorite Drive," is a 469-mile (755 km) highway that runs through Virginia and North Carolina. 

The southern section of the parkway near Asheville, North Carolina, will be in the path of totality and experience between 20 seconds and 1 minute of darkness, depending on the location. Totality will begin around 2:36 p.m. local time. While there are numerous overlooks along the highway to stop and park, most will likely fill up quickly on the day of the eclipse. Skywatchers can also hike to popular summits — like Black Balsam Knob, Devil's Courthouse or Waterrock Knob — to see the eclipse. 

Ninety Six National Historic Site, South Carolina


Ninety Six National Historic Site is located in the direct path of the total solar eclipse and will host an eclipse-viewing event at Star Fort Pond. There will be family-friendly solar system activities and educational programs led by park rangers.

The Ninety Six National Historic Site in South Carolina will experience 2 minutes and 32 seconds of darkness, starting at 2:39 p.m. local time. Partial phases of the solar eclipse will begin at 1:10 p.m. The Ninety Six viewing event is free to the public. Park officials ask that you make a reservation so that they can properly prepare for the event. 

Congaree National Park, South Carolina


The path of the solar eclipse will also pass over South Carolina's Congaree National Park, the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States. 

On the day of the eclipse, the park will host a viewing event with exhibits and hikes. Folks who travel to Congaree National Park in Hopkins, South Carolina, will see 2 minutes and 31 seconds of darkness, with totality starting at 2:42 p.m. Partial phases of the eclipse will start at 1:13 p.m. 

Visitors can join Congaree National Park staff for a guided hike among the ancient trees as the eclipse occurs. The event, called Shadows and Science in the Wilderness of Congaree National Park, is one of many free programs and exhibits being held at the park on the day of the eclipse. 

Charles Pinckney National Historic Site, South Carolina

National Parks Service

Located in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, the Charles Pinckney National Historical Site will be one of the last national park locations to experience the total solar eclipse. Totality will start at 2:46 p.m. local time and will last for about 1 minute and 48 seconds. 

The 28-acre (11 hectares) site honors Charles Pinckney, who was a principal author and signer of the U.S. Constitution. The park will hold special eclipse-viewing events on Aug. 21 that are free to the public. Visitors can also walk the plantation grounds and nature trail while the eclipse occurs. Mount Pleasant is located only a short distance from the historical coastal city of Charleston, which is also hosting several eclipse events. 

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Samantha Mathewson
Contributing Writer

Samantha Mathewson joined Space.com as an intern in the summer of 2016. She received a B.A. in Journalism and Environmental Science at the University of New Haven, in Connecticut. Previously, her work has been published in Nature World News. When not writing or reading about science, Samantha enjoys traveling to new places and taking photos! You can follow her on Twitter @Sam_Ashley13.