Adventures in the Smokies: Visiting Clingmans Dome
Source: City of Gatlinburg
First in our Adventure Series
It is a mountain with a height of 6,643 ft.; the highest mountain in the Smokies. It’s the highest spot in Tennessee and the Appalachian Trail. It’s second to Mt. Mitchell as the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. As part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Clingmans Dome is famous for its concrete observation tower which offers visitors a majestic view of the Smokies in all directions. Clingmans Dome is actually half in North Carolina and half in Tennessee and it is a favored spot for vacationers to this area. The secret to enjoying a trip to Clingmans Dome is in the preparation for the trek to the observation tower.
All you need to do to access the observation tower is to drive to the area (7 miles on the Newfound Gap Road) and park in the lot — there is plenty of parking — and hike in (it’s about a half mile hike on a paved path). A trip to Clingmans Dome can be a great way to enjoy nature high above Gatlinburg. While some visitors report that they were able to push strollers on the half mile hike to the observation tower, others mention that the hike is a bit rigorous, especially if there are people in your party with health problems. While some people report that the hike is a bit strenuous for them, there are benches located along the path to the observation tower. The walk in itself is picturesque, so a good idea would be to enjoy the scenery along the way and take it easy to the observation tower area. Some people who were not able to make it to the tower area report being quite satisfied with the views from the parking lot area. As you near the tower there is a winding concrete ramp that gradually will bring you from the parking lot to the top of the observation tower.
Be sure to bring your camera to capture some exceptional shots of the mountains, trees, sunbeams and cloud formations. Some visitors report that they like to visit Clingmans Dome early to get the best view, not only due to the area being less crowded, but because the weather can be very changeable, and often earlier in the day there are less clouds to obscure the view. Some people report that they took great photos even on the hike in, so be on the lookout for picture taking opportunities even before you get to the top.
Depending on the weather and air pollution, people who visit the observation tower can see for 20 miles or more and enjoy amazing views any time of day; especially in early morning and at sunset. A clear day provides views of seven states from the observation tower. One point to keep in mind is that at such a great height, the weather atop Clingmans Dome can be quite different than it is elsewhere in the Gatlinburg area. The area near the tower can experience snow between the months of September through May. It’s advised that visitors obtain a current weather forecast before making the trip to Clingmans Dome.
One of the best things about trekking to Clingmans Dome is that it’s free! There is no entrance fee to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. So for a no-cost activity you can gain so many subsidiary activities from it; such as the exercise during the hike in, photo opportunities, great views from the observation tower and enjoyment of the peacefulness of nature that surrounds you in this gorgeous area.
Watch this visitor video created by Ellipse40FD to whet your appetite for your Clingmans Dome visit.
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