Clingmans Dome Observation Tower Trail

MODERATE 487 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.

hiking
2 days ago

Enjoyed the walk with the family. It's well traveled and easily marked. The uphill climb was a surprise but I probably should have done more research on it. The family had a good time looking out over the mountains and, even with the fogged-in views, weren't disappointed in the least.

Couldn’t go up to the observation deck due to renovations but pretty Hike up. Found a trail that connected to forney trail. Nice hike.

hiking
9 days ago

beautiful hike up. No views at the top due to clouds, but a great time with the family getting there. Views at the parking lot were perfect.

12 days ago

I did this trail 2 years ago with a couple of friends while on vacation. The scenery on the way and the views from the top are second to none.

hiking
14 days ago

steep hike up to the tower. 30 min at a moderate pace. views at the top of the tower are great.

hiking
17 days ago

Fun little side trip. The climb up is paved, but a good cardio workout. It was foggy and raining when we arrived, so we missed out on the views. The drive in from the North Carolina side was beautiful and well worth the trip regardless.

walking
17 days ago

For such a short walk, the steepness going up was a challenge. Enjoyed meeting lots of people. Great view from the top. I did this walk in June 2016. Nice adventure.

hiking
17 days ago

Parking can be difficult, arrive early. Many trails start from this parking lot so its always packed. We got here at 7 am and had no problem finding a spot. The bathrooms are kinda stinky even for out houses. The hike up to the tower is steep, so pace yourself. It is always cooler then what everyone is prepared for, many shivering people in early June. If its clear, great views.

hiking
19 days ago

very popular. trail to the tower is paved all the way. view at the top is awesome to watch.

21 days ago

Great view at the top but way too many ppl

22 days ago

fogged in, but still a great experience to be there

hiking
24 days ago

Just like every popular trail in the Smokies, it is very crowded. It’s worth the hassle of parking though because the views are great! It was 20 degrees cooler at the top than in Gatlinburg and this was in June. It’s best to bring a jacket just in case you need it. Definitely a moderate hike because it’s a paved but steep steady incline the whole way up and it’s about .5 mile one way. They do have benches along the way for you to stop and rest if needed.

hiking
24 days ago

Stunning views, even from the parking lot! Get there arpund 830am and theres plenty if parking but fills up quick! Steep, short hike.. take breaks and you’ll be fine.

hiking
26 days ago

Very steep but short hike. Like others have said, very crowded. I would recommend going early to beat the crowd. Views are fantastic

hiking
27 days ago

walking
28 days ago

Steep but not very far, and the views from the observation tower are spectacular. You can take a side trail and a bit of the AT if you want to avoid the main paved trail with the zillions of people. Go early for easier parking and avoiding the massive crowds.

hiking
1 month ago

Steep but paved. Wide enough for a vehicle. Very crowded, but worth it for the view on top.

1 month ago

Gorgeous view in a clear day! Uphill is a challenge for any aerobic handicaps, like myself, but glad I stuck it out. 2nd half was much easier

1 month ago

Beautiful view at the top. This is a quick, relatively easy trail. Definitely worth checking out for the amazing view! As a side note, it was quite chilly and windy here (even on a hot June day) so consider bringing along a light jacket.

hiking
1 month ago

Loved the inclined walk up to the observation tower. Glad that I had my windbreaker. The wind was harsh and very cold. I would recommend coming prepared with a jacket. The trail up is paved and becomes more steep the closer you get to the tower. There are trailheads at the top. A nice opportunity to take a different path down; more to see but a much longer way back.

hiking
1 month ago

sunrise hike well worth it unbelievable veiws 360.

walking
1 month ago

Spectacular views! No real hiking as it’s a .5 mile paved trail from the parking lot to the tower. Views are well worth the uphill walk.

1 month ago

beautiful

hiking
1 month ago

Steep but easy ascent to the tower from the parking lot. The trail is paved, but still requires some effort as the half mile hike is all uphill. It’s neat to see and chat with some of the AT thru hikers as they summit the highest point on their journey. It’s often foggy at the summit, but don’t let a cloudy day discourage you from trying this one. Being in a cloud has some perks and provides breathtaking scenery with the balding pines.

1 month ago

Nice steep paved trail. Views would probably be spectacular but every time I have been it’s overcast.

1 month ago

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

1 month 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
2 months ago

The views would make Drake proud.

hiking
2 months 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.

2 months ago

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

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