Clingmans Dome Observation Tower Trail

MODERATE 149 reviews
#6 of 168 trails in

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 311 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.


13 days ago

We didn't walk the whole trail, rather the 1/2 mile walk from the parking lot at Clingmans to the observation deck. Moderate incline, but plenty of areas to stop and sit or rest if you need to. Gorgeous views. Very busy in July when we went. Store and bathrooms at bottom of Hill. Great little walk


17 days ago

walking

It was busy, but the view from the dome is beautiful.


20 days ago

I'm not in great shape, but I made it pretty easily. My wife has asthma and took more rest stops (there are 6 benches in about .5 miles). My kids compatibles a lot! It's a paved trail and I saw lots of people in far worse shape than me making it! A lot of people asking "how much further" as we were in our way back and they were still headed out! It is a beautiful view with markers showing what you are seeing in the distance on both sides of the state line.


24 days ago

it is the touristy popular just a 1.2 mile hike. all paved for non hikers, it climbs so the non hiker can get a work out, but way too popular and crowded. some things to re member it's about 15 degrees cooler here than other park places, typically a wind and 60 even if 80 in near by towns. and be sure a clear day is on the list otherwise you will not see much... parking xan be a pain. it's one of the must do but not a hikers journey or top pick.


24 days ago

hiking

Great hiking with the family and little ones 7 and 9. Wonderful view from the top of the entire mountain range on a good clear day.


25 days ago

hiking


27 days ago

hiking

Walked up to the dome from the parking area about 15 years ago. Easy walk, interesting info at the dome.


1 month ago

hiking


1 month ago

hiking

The trail from the parking area to the dome was mostly paved and very steep. Be sure to go on a clear day so you can see the best views. The dome is very well thought-out. There are little maps attached to each side of the dome that show you what you're looking at. Such as the names of rivers and lakes that you can see. Keep in mind it's pretty chilly at the top and very thin air. If you start to lose your breath be sure to stop and take a few deep breaths. People have fainted on this trail due to the elevation. It was a nice experience but I probably won't go again. The drive up there just isn't worth it in my opinion.


1 month ago

We got there today around 10:45am and it was already crowded. Highly recommend that you arrive there earlier if possible. It was pretty cloudy up on the observation tower. Would love to go back on a clearer day. Also, it was about 10 degrees cooler up at the top. kk


1 month ago

Straight up. Fun to watch the crowds try this one.


1 month ago

Fantastic views. At the dome there is a print out of the date and Clingmans Dome elevation to use while taking you picture.


1 month ago

hiking


1 month ago


1 month ago

hiking

This is not really a hike in the off road sense of the word. You climb about a half mile up a paved path to reach the summit. The unique and cool thing about this pace is the giant observation tower up top which allows you to get above the tree line and get a great summit view without much hiking commitment. Great for kids or anyone that doesn't want to work too hard to get a summit view.


1 month ago

The ascent was pretty challenging for me - but I made it and it was so worth it! Love this trail, it put me on the Appalachian Trail for a bit as we looped back via the Bypass Trail!!


1 month ago

hiking

Short steep hike. Beautiful views when it is clear.


1 month ago

Beautiful view with a Rainbow falling the storm. Easy, paved path is good for the whole family


1 month ago

hiking

Great view.