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 Mount Mitchell (6,684 feet) and Mount Craig (6,647), both located in Mount Mitchell State Park in western North Carolina, rise higher. The observation tower on the summit of Clingmans Dome offers spectacular 360-degree views of the Smokies and beyond for visitors willing to climb the steep half-mile walk to the tower at the top.
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.
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.
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- Although the crowds at the top of Clingmans Dome attest to the ease with which it can reached by car, there are also options for those hoping to ditch humanity for a moment. The simply named Clingmans Dome Bypass Trail is a lesser used approach with some trickier, rockier sections than the half-mile main trail. Views, however, are no less astounding.
- Continue about two miles west along the AT before dropping deeper into the backwoods on the Tennessee flank of Climgmans Dome down the scenic Goshen Prong Trail. Streams, backcountry campsites, swimming holes, and little trace of those nine-million yearly visitors are your reward.
- Get in touch with A Walk in the Woods (www.awalkinthewoods.com), a husband-wife team who lead guided hiking and backpacking trips into the heart of the Smokies. This is the best way to discover and understand the incredible ecology and geology of the region, not to mention find its hidden backcountry stashes.
c/o Great Smoky Mountains National Park,107 Park Headquarters Road
Gatlinburg, Tennessee 37738
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