Don’t miss hiking to Clingmans Dome for exceptional views of the Smokies from the top of the park’s highest mountain.

Twenty-three miles from Gatlinburg, it’s a relatively easy hike, although a bit steep, up to the top of Clingmans Dome and the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower. The half-mile-long trail to the top is a wide, paved path. Along the way, you’ll be surrounded by the largest intact eastern spruce-fir ecosystem remaining in the United States.

Clingmans Dome Information Center and Store

Clingmans Dome Information Center and Store at the beginning of the trail

When you reach the summit at 6,643 feet, you’ll be at the highest point in Tennessee. It’s also the highest point along the Appalachian Trail, which is pretty impressive, given the trail is 2,192 miles long. Walk up to the top of the observation tower for even more elevation. On a clear day with no pollution, you’ll be able to see 10 miles in any direction. With pollution, your viewshed drops dramatically to less than 20 miles. Even so, it’s a highlight to be up so high with waves of rolling hills surrounding you.

Panorama up on top of the tower on Clingmans Dome

Panorama up on top of the tower on Clingmans Dome

Clingmans Dome was originally named “Smoky Dome” by early settlers in the 1800s because the mountain that was shaped like a dome was often shrouded in clouds. In fact, the dome gets 85 inches of rain each year. Cool winds, rain and colder temperatures are the norm rather than the exception. Because the top of the dome is so high up, you’ll notice temperatures can be 10-20 degrees cooler there in comparison to the park’s lower valleys. Be sure to bring a warm jacket with you, even if it’s summer and you cannot possibly fathom temperatures cooling.

While the trail is paved, it’s not wheelchair accessible because it is too steep. Bikes and pets are prohibited on the trail. You can park your bike at a bike rack in the parking lot, but be sure to bring a lock for your bike. 

Sign on the way to Clingmans Dome to warn that trail is too steep for wheelchairs or strollers.

Sign on the way to Clingmans Dome to warn that trail is too steep for wheelchairs or strollers.

To get to the Clingmans Dome parking lot, turn off Newfound Gap Road .1 mile south of Newfound Gap and follow the Clingmans Dome Road for seven miles. It’ s one of the highest mountain roads east of the Mississippi River and you’ll get great views, even on your drive to the trailhead. The road is typically closed from early December to late March.

Related

Yellow sunset in the misty mountains of Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park Virtually

You don’t have to visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park in person to experience its spectacular mountains, valleys and waterfalls.

An aerial view of Lake Fontana in North Carolina

Which Trail Should I Hike in Great Smoky Mountains National Park?

Options for trails and what to expect on the hike, from a moderate walk to a waterfall to a strenuous hike to the top of a mountain.

Dan Lawson cabin in Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

3 Old Tennessee Treasures in the Smoky Mountains

Explore the past on the peaceful side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Blount County, Tenn. Here are our top picks for historic wanderings.

The Ober Gatlinburg tram ascending from Gatlinburg, Tennessee in autumn next to Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Ride the Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway

From one of America’s largest aerial tramways, you’ll see the Smokies rolling in every direction, a view that is especially spectacular in the fall.

Mural in Maryville, Tenn, celebrating Smoky Mountain music.

Top 4 Cultural Destinations in Blount County, Tennessee

From art galleries to theater performances, plan on spending time on the quiet Tennessee side of the park including the towns of Maryville and Townsend.

View of Maggie Valley from Soco Crafts and Tower

Maggie Valley is your Smokies Basecamp

Stay close to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, avoid the crowds and experience the best of the Smokies.

Misty sunset over the mountains in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

8 Ways to Live in the Moment, Smoky Mountains-Style

Here are exceptional ways to have fun and be present, Great Smoky Mountains National Park-style, even if you can't visit the park in person.

Sunset over the Smoky Mountains in autumn

10 Best Things to Do on a Great Smoky Mountains Vacation

Don’t leave the park without ticking off at least one of these top ten Smokies to-dos including historic sites, grand overlooks, wildlife, and waterfalls.

Aerial of downtown Waynesville, North Carolina

Great Escape to Waynesville

Stay minutes from Great Smoky Mountains National Park in a charming town with a vibrant farm-to-table scene.