Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains and in Tennessee. From the top of the observation tower pictures above, one can, at times, see for over 100 miles in every direction. Unfortunately, these times are rare, and it is more common to be able to see for around 20 miles, which still provides outstanding views.
Clingmans Dome is also the third highest mountain east of the Mississippi. Only Mt. Mitchell (6,684 feet) and Mt. Craig (6,647), both located in Mt. Mitchell State Park in western North Carolina, rise higher. The observation tower on the summit of Clingmans Dome offers spectacular 360° views of the Smokies and beyond for visitors willing to climb the steep half-mile walk to the tower at the top.
On clear days views expand over a 100 miles. Unfortunately, air pollution often limits viewing distances to under 20 miles.
Clouds, precipitation, and cold temperatures are common at Clingmans Dome. Temperatures at the dome can be 10 -20 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than in the surrounding lowlands. In fact, the cool, wet conditions on Clingmans Dome's summit make the spruce-fir forest that grows there a coniferous rainforest. Proper preparation is essential for a good visit. Dress in layers and be sure to bring a jacket, even in summer.
Although Clingmans Dome is open year-round, the road leading to it is closed from December 1 through March 31, and whenever weather conditions require.
It's seven miles to the end of Clingmans Dome Road and there are scenic pullouts with endless views of ridges and valleys along the way. The road ends in a large parking area from which a 0.5 mile trail leads to the summit. The trail is paved but steep, and leads to an observation tower on top.
Besides the trail to the summit, there are several trails that start on Clingmans Dome Road and parking area. The Appalachian Trail (AT) crosses Clingmans Dome, marking the highest point along its journey from Georgia to Maine. The Forney Ridge Trail leads to Andrews Bald, a high-elevation grassy bald.
One can actually choose from several different hikes to reach the observation tower. The most common route begins in the parking area 0.5 miles from the tower.
A paved trail leads from this area up a steep ascent. Along the trail, one will find a number of benches to rest. At each 0.1 mile there will also be a bench with a number indicating how many tenths of a mile you have walked.
Take your time on this popular trail as there are a number of potentially great views looking off into the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Also be aware, however, that this is a very popular trail.
Trail Location: Clingman's Dome Road
Roundtrip Length: 1.0 Miles
Total Elevation Gain: 585 Feet
Avg. Elev Gain / Mile: 585 Feet
Highest Elevation: 6643 Feet
Trail Difficulty Rating: 3.37 (easy)
Parking Lot Latitude 35.562872
Parking Lot Longitude -83.498496