|View from Observation Tower||
Clingmans Dome Description
Clingmans Dome is the highest peak in the Great Smoky Mountains. At
6,643 feet above sea level, it is the 3rd highest peak east of
the Mississippi. An observation tower at the top provides a
spectacular 360 degree panoramic view of the park. Clingmans Dome is
one of the more popular spots in the Smokies. But the large parking area,
wide trail, and restrooms are sufficiently large to handle the crowds.
A seven mile scenic drive from
Newfound Gap road leads to Clingmans Dome.
There are many pullouts along the road which provide beautiful views of the
mountains. A large parking area at the end of the road provides plenty of
parking for visitors. The road is closed in the winter from December 1st
til March 31st. The Clingmans dome road starts 0.1 mile south of Newfound
Gap, which is about 1/2 way between Gatlinburg and Cherokee. It is about
25 miles to Clingmans Dome from Gatlinburg or Cherokee.
Clingmans Dome Observation Tower
The observation tower at Clingmans Dome is open to the public and is
accessible by a 1/2 mile paved hiking trail. The tower provides an
amazing 360 degree panoramic view of the Smokies. On a very clear day,
you can see over 100 miles. However, most days, due to fog, clouds,
and haze, the view is much shorter. Clouds and rain are very common and
can limit the view to almost 0 some days. Clouds sometimes move in and
out quickly, so if you stay for a while, the view may change rapidly.
Best times to visit
Clingmans Dome is one of the best places in the Smokies to watch a
sunrise or sunset.
In late June and early July, the flame azaleas are in bloom,
especially at Andrews Bald.
October is a good time to see the fall colors anywhere in the
park. Colors start to change earlier in the higher elevations, making
early to mid October the best time to see the fall colors at Clingmans Dome.
July and August are the hottest months in the Smokies. Hiking
in the lower elevations can be hot and humid. The temperature at
Clingmans Dome generally runs 10-20 degrees cooler than the lower
Because of the high elevation at Clingmans Dome, the temperatures run 10-20
degrees colder than the lower elevations. The table below shows the average
temperature and snowfall at Clingmans Dome.
Clingmans Dome offers several hiking trails.
The 1/2 mile paved trail leading to the observation tower is by far
the most popular trail here. The trail is wide and well maintained.
Since it is paved, you can push strollers or wheelchairs up the trial.
It is a very steep trail, making it a little more difficult of a hike
than it first appears. The trail begins at the parking area.
- If you want to reach the observation tower, but avoid the crowds, take
the Forney Ridge Trail which branches to the left off of the paved trail.
Look for a sign on the left for the Forney Ridge trail. From the Forney
Ridge trail, follow signs to the Appalachian Trail.
- Andrews Bald is a great hike from Clingmans Dome. The 3.6 mile
round trip hike follows the Forney Ridge trail to Andrews Bald. Parts of
trail are very Rocky, and the beginning of the trail can be very wet
if it has rained recently.
- Silers Bald is an 8 mile round trip hike from Clingmans Dome
along the Appalachian Trail.
Clingmans dome does not have a developed picnic area. There are no picnic
tables or grills. However, there are plenty of great places to spread out
a blanket and enjoy a picnic with a great view. The grassy area at the
entrance to the parking area is a good spot for a picnic. If you feel like
carrying your food about 2 miles, Andrews bald is a magnificent spot for
Restrooms with running water and flush toilets are available near the
start of the trail to the observation tower.