Clingman’s Dome – Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Tennessee
Distance: 1 mile round trip
Type: Out and back.
Difficulty: 7 of 10 – its cold, windy, and you’re a mile up. Even in August!2
Total score: 10 of 10
Website – Clingman’s Dome- Great Smoky Mountains- NPS
Open – Sunrise to Sunset.
Terrain – Mountain climb to the highest point in Tennessee!
Directions – “Turn off Newfound Gap Road 0.1 mile south of Newfound Gap and follow the 7-mile-long Clingmans Dome Road to the large parking area at the end.” (NPS)
Parking – large lot at top of mountain
Standouts – Amazing views and bragging rights that you’ve stood in the highest spot in Tennessee and the third highest spot east of the Mississippi.
Markings – None, paved path.
Description – We didn’t get to do a whole lot of hiking in the Smokys last summer, but this was the one hike that we just couldn’t miss. It’s only a half mile each way (1 mile round trip), but being a mile in the air and climbing makes this a tougher hike than you’d first expect. Your reward? Standing at the highest point in Tennessee and third highest point east of the Mississippi River!
To start, the view from the parking lot is amazing. The summit is cloaked in clouds (it’s practically a rainforest at the top its wet up there so often), so you are far, far more likely to see a view of all gray up top than a magnificent mountain view. But that’s okay, the views down here are something to write home about.
Before you leave the car, you’ll be tempted to put on a coat and possible a raincoat. Where we’d be later that day would be almost in the 90s, but up here is was not much above the freezing marking, and the winds ripped right through you. We were there in August.
From the corner of the parking lot, you’ll head past the gift shop (closed when we started, we were trying to avoid the crowds and totally succeeded on the way up), the straight up the paved trail. This trail is paved, but it’s very steep. It’s considered not-wheelchair-accessible for that reason, and I wouldn’t bring the baby in a stroller up it either. As it rises and curves around to the left, you’ll catch more views.
You’ll pass where the Appalachian Trail crosses the Clingman’s Dome Trail shortly before the summit. Shortly after that, you’ll see the summit of Clingman’s. It’s impossible to miss, it’s a giant concrete tower with a ramp winding to the top. Up, up, up the ramp!
As promised, no views up here. A friend of my wife’s lives up here, comes up here with friends when they visit the Smokys, she said it’s cloudy more than it isn’t. That’s okay, victory needs no views, you’ll get them on the way down.
Speaking of down, down is much easier on the lungs, but harder on the knees. Take your time and enjoy your surroundings!
Before you leave, you might want to check out the gift shop for some sweet Clingman’s Dome merchandise that’ll make all the folks at home jealous.
Overall recommendation – This is one of the most visited places in the most visited national park in the country, and there’s a reason for that. Don’t miss it on your trip to Great Smoky Mountains.
Educational NPS video: