Clingmans Dome Observation Tower Trail

MODERATE 179 reviews

Clingmans Dome Observation Tower Trail is a 1.3 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Bryson City, NC that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is accessible from April until November.

1.3 miles 337 feet Out & Back

wheelchair friendly

kid friendly

birding

hiking

nature trips

walking

forest

views

wild flowers

wildlife

snow

no dogs

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. Pets and bicycles are not permitted on the paved trail to the observation tower, or on any other trails in the area. A bike rack is located near the beginning of the paved trail to park bikes while walking to the top. You will need to bring a lock with you to secure your bike. 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.

hiking
8 days ago

Did the walk up durning the last week of November, place was crowded to say the least bit had a wonderful time. Glad we were able to make the road closure deadline of December 1.

14 days ago

hiking
25 days ago

Great Views!!!! Steep walk up the hill to the observation deck. Well worth the walk.

hiking
28 days ago

well paved hike to observation tower. great views.

walking
1 month ago

My husband and I came up here for the breathtaking views and photography. The walk up to the dome was nice, even though it was all uphill. What broke my heart were the empty water bottles and trash left by other hikers! The dome itself was littered with bottles, wrappers, etc. While everyone should be responsible to take out what they bring up, it would also have been nice if a trash can were available.

hiking
1 month ago

Too many people during the Fall season, but a good and sturdy hike up. Took the Appalachian Trail back down... so much better! Peaceful, quiet and some great mountain views along the way back to the parking lot!!

1 month ago

1 month ago

Steep climb but worth the effort when you get to the top.

scenic driving
1 month ago

If you're not planning on hiking up to the dome the traffic ruins the view. Drive 90percent up and view from one of the pull offs, you'll thank me later. True hikers don't go there, people dressed to impress and grey hairs who physically can't do it love the view so it's like going to Disney world at peak season.

hiking
1 month ago

Great views. Steep climb.

1 month ago

Well paved, but steep. Lots of rest points if you need them. The views were great, the crowd not so much. The sheer number of people (hundreds, at least) made this less enjoyable for me. I have wanted to see the top, and now that I have, I shall return to my more peaceful AT hikes!!

hiking
1 month ago

Very nice views from the summit.

1 month ago

Only view is fog

hiking
2 months ago

Fun, short and steep trail to a lookout tower with an amazing 360 degree view from the highest point in the Smokies. The views on the way up from the parking lot are wonderful too!

hiking
2 months ago

Compared to the step hike up chimney top, this was nothing. Still, it's straight uphill and got my heart rate going.

The views at the observation tower are beautiful, but there are far too many people for this to be truly enjoyable. I prefer my hikes even a little more peaceful.

Worth doing at least once.

2 months ago

hiking
2 months ago

Small but steep. Will be worth the effort. Few people know this, but this is one of the perfect location for Star Gazing in the night. We went there at around 1:00 AM in the night. It was worth it, with minimum light pollution the eye of the Milky-way was visible to the naked eye.

hiking
2 months ago

Trail was in mint condition being its paved. Steep climb for us "flat-landers", but totally worth it. Got there early enough to catch the smoke on the south side by lake Fontana. The 360 degree view is exceptional. Earlier in the morning is better. Heavily heavily trafficked trail.

hiking
2 months ago

Tough walk but worthwhile. Observation tower view was awesome.

hiking
2 months ago

Strenuous 15-20 minutes to get to the top. Funny how people get frustrated at their 3 year old kids for having trouble hiking themselves up the trail. Smh... Plan on carrying them most of the way. The views are well worth the efforts.