Great Smoky Mountains NP: Clingmans Dome

Clingmans Dome is the highest point in Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee, and on the Appalachian Trail. It is also the third highest mountain east of the Mississippi River. Th Observation Tower was built to boost visitors above tree line in order to enjoy the views spanning a hundred miles in all directions when the weather and air quality allow it.

Clingmans Dome Road is closed in the winter from December 1st to March 31st due to the weather. I was really excited when I found out that it was set to open the second day that we were to be at the park (April 1st), however, while we were at Cades Cove Visitor Center we learned that it had actually opened a day early (Saturday, March 31st). Shawn and I were two of the seemingly hundreds of people who flocked Clingmans Dome on opening day.

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The road is 7 miles long and cars were overflowing from the parking lot at the top for about a mile down on both sides of the road. We were very fortunate and found a spot along the road about a quarter mile from the top. With cars parked on both sides of the road and traveling in both lanes it was a bit tight. I ended up climbing over the console to Shawn’s seat and getting out of Addie on the passenger side. We grabbed our boots, backpacks, and waters and made for the top. I’m sure I got some weird looks from the people waiting in their cars for parking spots closer to the top as I walked by greedily eating a huge sandwich for lunch – I was starved by the time we finally parked.

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While the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower Trail is paved half mile, it is far from easy – it is basically straight up. The park does provide some relief by placing benches every so often. I highly recommend taking your time and bringing water. Although it was packed with people, I was glad we were able to make it to the top on Saturday. The weather was perfect and the views were amazing.

While at Clingmans Dome, we hiked the Forney Ridge Trail to Andrews Bald. You can read about that adventure here.