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Clingmans Dome Observation Tower Trail

MODERATE 1144 reviews

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
3 days 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 days 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
8 days ago

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

10 days 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

hiking
15 days ago

Paved, steep climb up starting at 6300’ with plenty of stopping benches, logs and rocks on the way up. In mid- November was warm on hike up but cool and windy in the dome so take a jacket. Lovely views from all around.

hiking
19 days ago

Great view. Suitable for all levels. Pretty easy walk for professional hikers but the view is taking breath

hiking
21 days ago

Remarkable bit of architecture. Although it is pavement and concrete, it was an incredible feat to provide a spot like that for anyone to see. Unfortunately for me, dogs are not permitted on national park trails but my son and I went and my husband stayed behind with the dog. The walk up was very steep and difficult (for me). My son didn't think it was too difficult. While we were in the park, we were blessed to see the Oconaluftee visitor center field loaded with Elk around dusk.

hiking
23 days ago

Absolutely worth the hike at sunset! It was a steady uphill trek, but it’s family friendly.

hiking
26 days ago

Blacktop the whole way up. Really super steep. extremely difficult but worth the effort!

hiking
27 days ago

Be prepared to walk about 1/4 mile to just get to the parking lot, if you go mid day. This is a beautiful and remarkable place. Like Heaven on earth. The hike from the parking lot up to the dome took us 15 minutes, but holy crap, is it steep! The reward is worth the punishment though. ENJOY! PS, there are bathrooms, but bring your own toilet paper in case they are out.

hiking
1 month ago

Excellent views of the mountains. Paved and well maintained.

hiking
1 month ago

Of course it’s going to be crowded on a nice day, it’s one of the hot spots for tourists. You can’t expect seclusion if your hike is listed on 50 tourist Websites. It’s a beautiful area, one of my favorite hikes from newfound.

Walked up the steep paved path to the dome and back down the rocky Appalachian trail to the parking lot. Do this on a clear day!

hiking
1 month ago

GREAT VIEWS!!! But overcrowded. We sat in a car line for 1.5 hours on our way to the top parking lot. The hike was a short .5 mile walk up a paved path. My highlight was taking a picture on the Appalachian Trail - which crosses through here. I hope to THRU hike it someday. Beautiful weather today and great views like everyone says. Just get there early to avoid the crowd.

May be i am not lucky. It was very crowded!

hiking
1 month ago

Excellent for kids, be careful with some ice in the way up, recommend comfortable shoes instead hiking shoes. Excelente explanation and views on top

hiking
1 month ago

NOT EASY. The hill you have to go up for 0.5 miles is STEEP. We had to stop a lot and a lot of older couples couldn’t do it which was sad to see. But the view is worth it. Get there early for a parking spot, we waited 45 min in the car line

hiking
1 month ago

The trail is VERY steep, but the views at the end are worth it! My kids and I took many breaks on the 0.5 mile climb up. It is a wide, paved path that helps accommodate the crowd. There are plenty of large stones along the side that act as benches to rest if needed. Definitely a must see if the weather is clear.

Steep walk! Views along the trail are almost as good as those at the top...

1 month ago

This is a steep incline pretty much all the way up. Even though it was only .5 mile up I had to take several stops to catch my breath and rest. The coming down was the easy part but hard on the knees. Beautiful views at the top.

hiking
1 month ago

Trail is paved but steep. Came in the evening for a beautiful sunset. Crowded but worth the drive for the beautiful 360 view.

Quick hike with a great view

hiking
1 month ago

Very steep paved road to get to the observatory. Was very cold and windy and crowded. Go early! We got there around 9:30 no issues but as we were leaving around 12;30, the line was insane and rain brought in clouds that you couldn’t see anything. We were lucky to get amazing views

hiking
1 month ago

Paved and kind of steep but the reward is worth it. It was 70 degrees in Gatlinburg but we had a snowball toss at Clingmans.

hiking
1 month ago

Steep all the way up. Kids under 5 be prepared to carry. Do not use a stroller. Views are totally worth the trouble of driving and hiking. Figure out if it’ll be cloudy before you waste your time. There are restrooms. Very busy but worth it.

hiking
1 month ago

Small hike but it’s all uphill you’ll get your workout !! Unfortunately when I went it was all fog so zero visibility but still a good hike

hiking
1 month ago

just straight up. fun... but damn

hiking
1 month ago

This path is excellent for views of the mountains. I’m glad we did it for that reason, but I have to say the half mile felt quite strenuous to go up because it was so steep. In our large group, the 6 and 8 year olds needed breaks along the way, but they could do it, and we took turns pushing 1 and 3 year olds in strollers. It was also very crowded and paved the whole way, so it you don’t get the quiet, nature experience of a hiking trail. However, it was worth checking out the dome for the beautiful panoramic views. I will say though, we got there around 11 and waited a little while to park in the parking lot, but as we left in the afternoon there was an incredibly long line of cars trying to park.

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