Clingmans Dome Observation Tower Trail

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Clingmans Dome Observation Tower Trail is a 1.2 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Bryson City, North Carolina that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for walking, nature trips, and bird watching and is best used from April until November.

Distance: 1.2 miles Elevation Gain: 331 feet Route Type: Out & Back

kid friendly

nature trips

walking

bird watching

forest

paved

views

wild flowers

wildlife

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
2 days ago

Very pretty view of the Smoky Mountains at the top. hiked memorial day weekend on a clear day. Steeper than expected, difficult for smaller children

hiking
2 days ago

I went on 5/23 around sunset. There was no view due to fog. The park website has a camera that shows the view. You might check it out before heading up.

hiking
3 days ago

So worth the hike! It was not an easy hike for me but there were places to sit and rest during the walk. Definitely take a sweater if you are going to watch the sunset- it tends to get cooler up there. The sunset was breathtaking and just beautiful.

The best part was coming down from Clingmans Dome via the Forney Ridge Trail. I’d skip the paved part next time and go up and back this way.

Nice trail no view today because of the fog but the birds were a bound And the side trails are fun and there’s deer and fox and red squirrels

It was a foggy day and you couldn’t see real far but it was still a good hike. Today it wasn’t very crowded which was nice. This hike has lots of places to sit and take breaks which can be nice.

Steep yet easy walk up a paved path. Very foggy day so no views.

hiking
6 days ago

Definitely not an easy walk. Paved the entire way which is nice, but .5 of straight vertical walking. If you can go on a day with clear weather the view will definitely be worth it

hiking
bugs
6 days ago

Easy quick walk up to the observation deck. Amazing 360 views of the mountains at the top. Incredible. I recommend checking out the sunset here.

hiking
7 days ago

Great experience. Little stepper than we thought. It is hard to climb for kids and anyone not use to walking or hiking. The average person will struggle. It is a great view and worth the effort.

hiking
7 days ago

Awesome for the landmark of the tower, but was super foggy.

Picked a good time between cloud cover. Great views from the tower. Fairly busy. Took part of the Appalachian Trail back. Ran into a guy that’s been on the trail for 200 miles. Awesome.

hiking
14 days ago

Paved path; steady up hill but great views at the top!

hiking
26 days ago

Easily one of my favorite places within the park, besides LeConte. If you’re into astro photography, then this is the place for you. Enjoy! #leavenotrace

hiking
1 month ago

Clingmans Dome is a must see when visiting The Great Smokey Mountains. The path is paved and a bit steep but the view is so worth it! It is heavily trafficked. The view is still amazing even in the parking lot!

hiking
1 month ago

I've walked up to the peak a few times. A must go in the Smokies. The paved path is a bit steep, but there are benches to rest on, along the way. The area is pretty crowded most of the time, but I've been up there a few times when the weather wasn't so great and it was pretty well empty. The views are amazing at the top on a clear day.

hiking
2 months ago

Visited a few years ago

hiking
3 months ago

Beautiful views at the peak, I took my 4 and 5 year old daughters and should of brought them better shoes, but we all loved it.

hiking
3 months ago

Paved trail, very steep & very friendly staff at the welcome center.

hiking
3 months ago

Steep grade on asphalt path. It was a challenge but there were benches and rocks to rest on if needed. The view from the tower was worth the effort.

hiking
4 months ago

Did the trail in Nov 2018. This is a short one, but is very steep and kicked my butt especially with my son in the backpack carrier. Great views start from the parking lot. Observation deck has lovely views too. Heavily trafficked.

walking
4 months ago

Beautiful!! The walk to the Tower is straight up.. It's paved the entire way... Easy trail to a Beautiful Location.. Well worth the pull of the Mountains.

hiking
4 months ago

Road closed from DEC - MAR adds 14 miles to hike. Still fun, just a lot longer than expected. Appalachian Trail runs right along road for duration. Web and Google does state road closure, I should have looked closer.

hiking
5 months ago

hiking
5 months ago

This was a fun adventure. My wife and 4yo had fun climbing the rocks at the bottom of the trail. My wife carried our son in a back carrier all the way to the top - though she was warn out, it was rewarding. Couldn’t see much from the top - very windy, cloudy and cold on Nov 30th. On the way down we stopped at a tree with a little wooded area - the kids (4yo & 2yo) had fun exploring the woods. We had better views from the parking lot. Great hike but crowded. We set up a picnic in grass area in parking lot when we got back and was nice to sit down and relax. Visitor center wasn’t much to it. Bathrooms weren’t the best and lines waiting for them.

6 months ago

not a real hike, just a walking up the hill a little on asphalted walkway with a lot of benches and surrounded by hundreds of people. However, the end of the walk is very rewarding.

Foggy rainy....

hiking
6 months ago

Excellent views from the parking lot all the way to the tower.

6 months ago

actually thought this was tougher than the Andrew's Bald Trail, and I'd rather view nature in nature rather than the observation tower... that being said, the views are spectacular and this is one of the most accessible places with the view it provides. Just a short but difficult uphill climb along the pavement. But I'd highly consider the Andrew's Bald trail if you're driving up.

Great drainage

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