Clingmans Dome Observation Tower Trail

MODERATE 425 reviews

Clingmans Dome Observation Tower Trail is a 1.2 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Gatlinburg, Tennessee that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from April until November.

DISTANCE
1.2 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
331 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

wheelchair friendly

kid friendly

birding

hiking

nature trips

trail running

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.

2 days ago

Steep trail. Paved with plenty of rest spots. The views from the top and the AT is well worth the climb!

5 days ago

The hike is short and paved, too steep for wheelchairs (posted on a sign there). This trail is more for the view, which is excellent.

hiking
12 days ago

The views would make Drake proud.

hiking
17 days ago

The mountain is beautiful. The observation tower is beautiful. The black path is...hot and sunny and full of people. I liked taking the AT off of this path and while I get that this path gets you there quickly and easily, it was a lot of uphill climb for views similar to that of the visitor center. I loved the top and the tower but I think, should I do this again, I'd take the AT up and avoid the black path. There are a lot of areas to sit and rest and the kids loved scrambling up the rocks that line the inside of the path. You maybe as lucky as we were to make friends with someone on the path. But if you want something that feels like a nice wilderness hike this may not be it. Now, if you want fairly easy (it's vigorous going up that grade, don't be fooled) and that gives you a sweeping view almost the whole time with no stumbling hazards and the occasional place to rest, this path maybe for you.

24 days ago

Need to come back by the time we made it to the top it was dark but still very awesome

25 days ago

Hiked this a couple times, the most recent being last summer. I rated this a 4 out of 5 & the only reason being its spectacular views from the observation tower. Even thow this trail is a relatively short hike the trail is a constant steep climb up to the overlook. But the view is totally worth it. Keep an eye on the weather, it can change as u make your way up the MTN. If is a clear day you can see for miles & miles. It is breathtaking the 1st time you make the summit.

hiking
29 days ago

Parking is super crazy, wish they had some sort of shuttle around here. Trail is a short burner. Views are great. Wow there are some out of shape Americans—glad to see folks trying it anyway.

1 month ago

Absolutely love this trail. The trail itself is pretty steep on the way up, but there are views all around, so take your time and enjoy the scenery. Every time I drive through the Smokies I make sure to stop at this trail, especially if it's clear and sunny. Last time we were able to spot a black bear alongside the road as we drove to the trail head. There are also plenty of wildflowers growing along the trail as well.

walking
1 month ago

Nice paved trail. Takes some effort getting up but it’s totally worth it. It is a little colder at the top but so so beautiful. My husband proposed to me up there and it was a wonderful memory I’ll never forget!!

1 month ago

Awesome! We loved it! It’s cold up there and VERY windy so be prepared. Totally worth it though. With the paved path easy for the kids too!

walking
1 month ago

that view

walking
1 month ago

Not really a trail. A steep short paved path up to the observation tower. A decent amount of people around and some AT-thru hikers starting in early April. A nice little shop and bathrooms by the large parking lot.

1 month ago

beautiful view. step hike, but worth it

walking
1 month ago

I wouldn’t call this a hiking trail by any means, I honestly wouldn’t have walked up if it weren’t for my significant other telling me how amazing it was. Granted the view from the top was amazing and there are real trails that lead up to the same place you can hike if you want the true experience, but honestly the crowds and actual trail makes me want to rate this as 1 star the view makes me want to rate this as 5.

hiking
1 month ago

Very steep climb, but beautiful view from the top. Paved trail, and the Appalachian Trail crosses near the top.

1 month ago

Very foggy that day

hiking
1 month ago

Paved trail, short hike, easy/moderate grade steepness. The appeal is the sunsets and sunrises, that being said it is luck of the draw to catch a view of either. The fog can stay in the area all day or roll I out of nowhere. Last fall I hiked up to try to catch the sunset and it was actually clear... the sun was sinking and the colors were starting to explode across the horizon and then it was if the good lord slowly blew smoke across the tree tops... the fog started slowly and snakily rolling over the contour of the trees killing all visibility in minutes. In this case the best bet is to hurry down to the parking lot, and start driving down the mountain. There are several pull offs that are below the fog line at times offering amazing views of the sunset/sunrise

hiking
2 months ago

Lives up to the hype. Absolutely beautiful view. Worthy of a tougher than expected 1/2 mile jaunt to the tower.

2 months ago

Closed Dec 1-March 31. Wish the app told me this after I drove 2 hours to get here!

hiking
2 months ago

If the tower (knew it was closed) was open a 4 Star. Used the Dome pathway as a start for my hike to Andrews Bald. Up to the tower base, across the short section of the AT and down the Dome bypass to Forney Trail.

The reward of the Dome pathway is the VIEWS coming (4 Star) back!!!!!! Even the views from the parking lot are 4 Star!!!!!!

2 months ago

Love this place! Amazing views!!

3 months ago

I would say this is a easy trail it is short and completely paved

walking
3 months ago

Not sure I’d call this a hiking trail. This is a tourist stop. 1/2 mike up a paved pathway. Lots of people. Parking is crazy. The lookout is great. Highest point in the Smokey mountains and highest point in Tn. My son was 8 and thought it was cool to be higher than clouds. Actually, we was in a cloud part of the walk.

walking
5 months ago

My husband proposed to me up here!!

hiking
6 months ago

Great views if weather permits. Currently the top is under construction. Worth it if you’re in the area.

6 months ago

Oct 27,2017 beautiful sunny day however disappointing because the observation tower is closed until 2018 season

6 months ago

Dome outlook is under construction.

hiking
7 months ago

Awesome place to catch some amazing views. The tower was closed while we were here.

7 months ago

Watched the sunrise here one time and I will never forget it. Highest point in Tennessee.

hiking
7 months ago

views and altitude were wonderful.

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