Clingmans Dome Trail is a must-see in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Atop this trail sits a concrete tower offering 360-degree views of the park and beyond.
To access Clingmans Dome Trail, turn west on Clingmans Dome Rd near the Tennessee – North Carolina border. The turn is about 14 miles from the Sugarlands Visitor Center. The trailhead parking lot is a 7 mile drive from Newfound Gap Road. This road is open seasonally, so check with the park service before your trip.
An information center with a store is at the base of the trail. And restrooms are accessible from the parking lot.
The concrete tower on top of Clingmans Dome was built in 1959. It replaced a wooden structure erected in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Clingmans Dome Trail is approximately a half mile one way. The trail is paved but steep and not considered handicap accessible due to the grade.
Don’t worry; there are benches along the way.
Once you reach the tower, a 375 feet long ramp leads up to the circular observation deck.
Clingmans Dome is the highest point in Great Smoky Mountain National Park at 6,643 feet. On a clear day, visitors can see Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
While they say one can see 100 miles, that wasn’t our experience. We visited in the morning, and it was soupy.
As a little bonus, the Appalachian Trail passes near Clingmans Dome Trail. So if you want to say you’ve hiked on the AT, this is a great opportunity.
Our experience on this popular trail was different from what we envisioned. But even shrouded in fog, it was worth the hike to the observation tower. I guess that means we’ll have to go back!
Heading to the Great Smoky Mountains? Check out 5 Sensational Great Smoky Mountain Trails!