Planning your next hiking trip? Then you might want to put Clingmans Dome on your itinerary! Located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in Tennessee and the third-highest mountain east of the Mississippi River. Standing at 6,643 feet (2,025 meters), the views from the top are simply breathtaking.
Hiking Clingmans Dome
Clingmans Dome is accessible via a 0.5-mile (0.8 km) hike from a parking area on Newfound Gap Road. The trail to the summit winds through a spruce-fir forest and offers views of the surrounding mountains.
There are several ways to reach the top of Clingmans Dome. The most popular method is the most direct trail that leads from the parking lot to the summit. This hike is a relatively easy distance, however, due to the steep increase in elevation, it may prove to be a challenge if you have mobility problems or small children with you. If you are trying to gain hiking experience, you can likely still do this trail, but you’ll want to take it slow.
If you’re up for a bigger challenge, you can also hike the 12-mile (19 km) round-trip trail that leads from Newfound Gap to Clingmans Dome. This strenuous hike should only be attempted by experienced hikers and can take up to eight hours to complete.
Once you reach the top of Clingmans Dome, you’ll be rewarded with stunning 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains. On a clear day, depending on weather conditions, you can see as far as 100 miles!
The Clingmans Dome area is home to a number of rare plants and animals, including the spruce-fir moss spider and the American pika. These creatures are well-adapted to life in high elevations and cold temperatures.
How Long Is the Walk-up Clingmans Dome?
The Clingmans Dome hike is about a 0.5-mile (0.8 km) out-and-back trail that leads from the Clingmans Dome parking lot to the summit. The trail is relatively easy, and experienced hikers can complete the hike in about an hour or two, depending on how long you want to spend at the observation tower.
The best time to hike Clingmans Dome is from April to November. During the winter months, the trail is often covered in snow and ice, making it dangerous to hike.
Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and dress in layers, as the temperature can change quickly at high elevations. It’s also a good idea to bring plenty of water and a snack to fuel your hike.
Clingmans Dome History
The name “Clingmans Dome” comes from a man named Thomas Clingman, who was a North Carolina senator and brigadier general during the American Civil War. Clingman was an avid mountaineer, and he is credited with being the first person to reach the summit of what is now known as Clingmans Dome.
Accessibility and Activities
Clingmans Dome is located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, about midway between Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and Cherokee, North Carolina. The Clingmans Dome Road (Newfound Gap Road) is the only road that leads to the summit.
The Clingmans Dome Visitor Center is located at the trailhead and offers interpretive programs about the area’s history, geology and wildlife. Bathrooms and a drinking fountain are also available.
In addition to hiking, Clingmans Dome is a popular spot for bird-watching and stargazing. The summit is the highest point in the park and offers unobstructed views of the night sky.
At the top of the summit, you will find the observation tower. The tower is open from late spring through early fall, depending on weather conditions. Climbing to the top of the tower will give you even better views of the surrounding mountains.
The trail that leads to the observation tower is paved, making it easier for those with knee, hip or back problems to get to the top. However, due to the steepness of the incline, this paved trail is not wheelchair accessible.
Direction and Distance from Oak Haven Resort
From Oak Haven Resort, Clingmans Dome is about 41 miles (66 km) away. The drive takes about an hour and 30 minutes depending on traffic. You will take US-441 S/Parkway to Gatlinburg Bypass for most of the trip. After entering North Carolina, you will then make a right onto Clingmans Dome Road which will lead you to the visitor center parking lot.