Hiking to the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower in the Smoky Mountains

March 13, 2019

The Clingmans Dome observation tower is one of the most iconic places to visit in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. People love to visit any time of the day, but sunrises and sunsets are pretty popular here. At 6,643 feet it is the highest point in the Smokies! What makes this such a wonderful place is that it’s easily accessible to all! Plus, it has amazing views to see without the strenuous hike! Read on to learn more about the climb to the tower!

Trailheadsign between clingmans dome and gatlinburg

Clingmans Dome is on the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains. However, many visitors reach the trailhead while traveling from Gatlinburg. So, from Gatlinburg visitors will travel 23 miles to this high point. From the Sugarlands Visitor Center travelers will continue on Newfound Gap Road for 13 miles. Approximately one-tenth of a mile after Newfound Gap, make a right onto Clingmans Dome Road. This 7 mile road dead-end into the Clingmans Dome parking lot.

Round Trip Length 1 Mile
Elevation 6643 Feet
Trail Highlights Panoramic Mountain Views

Trail Description

Believe it or not, the hike to the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower is one of the easiest hikes in the national park. This is because the entire trail is paved! Moreover, making it more easy to manage for visitors so you don’t have to watch for rocks or roots like on natural trails. The trail is half a mile to the tower. The ramp up the tower can be considered steep to some, so take your time up if you need it. There’s no reason to rush, when you can soak in all the views on your way!

Once you reach the top of Clingmans Dome you will be treated to stunning 360 mountain views! Up here is the perfect place to capture fantastic views with your camera! On clear days from here it’s possible to see 100 miles away in every direction!

You can also start other trails from the hike to Clingmans Dome. The Forney Ridge Trail, Andrews Bald, and the Appalachian Trail can all be accessed here too.

The mountain view from clingmans domeFacts & History About the Trail

– Clingmans Dome observation tower is open year round. However, the road leading to it is closed December 1st through March 31st and when weather conditions require.

– Early settlers  to the area referred to what is now Clingmans Dome to “Smoky Dome.” This is because clouds were often surrounding the area and the mountain top had a dome shape.

– The dome is named after US Senator and Confederate Judge Thomas Clingman. He was first to accurately measure the peak’s elevation.

– Weather here can be vastly different from other areas of the park. It’s always best to keep a warm jacket and or waterproof jacket handy when visiting.

The Clingmans Dome Observation Tower is one of the most popular places to visit in the Smoky Mountains. Considering this, it’s best to arrive early because the parking area fills quickly on pretty days. This hike and its views are absolutely worth your time even if you don’t plan to hike any other trails in the park! There are other historical and beautiful places to visit in the park as well, so take a look at the top 5 places to see in the Smoky Mountains!