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180 votes

Clingmans Dome

Appalachian Trail, Gatlinburg, Tennessee 37738 USA

Free to Visit
  • Independent
  • Pet Friendly
  • Not Wheelchair Accessible
  • Public Restrooms
  • No Wifi
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“The Appalachian Trails Highest Point”

At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is the highest point in Tennessee, and 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.

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Reviewed by
Johanna Flato

  • Expert
  • 145 Reviews
  • 101 Helpful
September 26, 2014
Rated 4.0

I wasn't expecting the crowds that I found up at Clingman's Dome. It is flooded. I'd say, get away from the parking lot ASAP. Clayton from Smoky Mountain Guides gave me some great advice: take the little dirt path down to the left instead of the concrete stairs. It's a bit more of a hike but is totally worth it to skip out on some of the crowds.

This is the highest point of the Appalachian trail--you go across the dome on the hike. The Appalachian trail is the dividing line between TN and NC through the Smokies, and you can see a 360 degree view in both directions from the Dome.

It is a sacred place for the Cherokees and was/is thought of as a place "where the bears dance in the mountains." On a clear day, you can see down to Fontana Lake in North Carolina, which might just look like a glowing blue cloud (it did to me). The Cherokees considered the lake to be a place of healing, and would hike down to it. There are a bunch of information boards about the Cherokees up there.

On another note about bears...Clayton says it's probably good not to eat KFC on the drive up and then leave the windows open. You'll end up finding a bear tearing your car apart. Just YouTube it if you have any doubts.

7 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 332 Reviews
  • 168 Helpful
July 14, 2014
Rated 4.0

This place is amazing. It's the highest elevation in the Smokies and offers 360 degree views all around the park. Great hike, although probably best to avoid if there's a big storm rolling in.

5 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 10 Reviews
  • 9 Helpful
August 23, 2016
Rated 4.0

Breathtaking views. About 15 minutes driving off 441 inside the park and a half mile trek up a very steep, paved trail. Parking was scarce at the head of the trail. Bathrooms are essentially cinder block porta-potties and equally "breathtaking"

4 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 7 Reviews
  • 8 Helpful
July 30, 2014
Rated 5.0

Beautiful. We hiked up the paved path but took the AT and Clingman's dome bypass trail back to the parking lot. The hike back was awesome! I would absolutely recommend it to the crowded paved path although it took a while longer.

4 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 3 Reviews
  • 7 Helpful
June 26, 2014

Absolutely a MUST SEE... But bring a sweatshirt and pants cause with the altitude it's much much colder.. Bring a good camera too

3 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 29 Reviews
  • 33 Helpful
September 08, 2014
Rated 4.0

I would say the hike can take awhile. Took me about 30mins to get to the top. The day I went was pretty foggy so I wasn't able to see the view as much. The view was still beautiful none-the-less. Make sure to bring a jacket because it does get a little chilly at the top. Wish I could of seen the mountains but man..it was just so awesome to be able to reach the highest elevation top for TN. :) I will check it out again on a clearer day!

2 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 2 Reviews
  • 0 Helpful
July 25, 2014
Rated 4.0

Great view and well worth the hike to the top. Don't go when it's cloudy though.

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 1 Review
  • 1 Helpful
January 22, 2014

A must see.

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by

  • 9 Reviews
  • 2 Helpful
September 06, 2016

Clingmans Dome is the first place I visited in the Smokies and I've been in love with the area ever since. The weather is perfect in the summer along with the views, the smells, and everything else. Would love to go in the fall!

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Reviewed by

  • 7 Reviews
  • 2 Helpful
September 01, 2016
Rated 4.0

Views are amazing! Road trippers had location off a few miles..keep driving. Temperature dropped about 15 degrees from Gatlinburg, so be prepared. Not very pet friendly, so we didn't get on the trails.

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Clingmans Dome

Appalachian Trail
Gatlinburg, Tennessee
37738 USA

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  • Independent
  • Pet Friendly
  • Not Wheelchair Accessible
  • Public Restrooms
  • No Wifi

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