Clingmans Dome Tower and Trail Hike in Great Smoky Mountains Nat. Park

Clingmans Dome is the highest mountain in Great Smoky Mountains National Park at 6,643 feet. It is the third highest peak on the East Coast, behind Mount Mitchell and Mount Craig in North Carolina.

There is an observation tower at the top of the mountain, which provides a panoramic view of the surrounding area. However, it is often cloudy and rain is frequent. The tower was originally wooden and built in 1937 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. It was rebuilt with the current concrete tower in 1960. The tower is 45 feet high with a circular 375 foot long ramp for visitors to reach the top.

What states can be seen from Clingmans Dome?

On a clear day, you can see up to 100 miles from the observation tower at Clingmans Dome. This view allows you to see seven states from the top: Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama.

Sadly, our own visit to Clingmans Dome saw the view obscured by clouds in nearly every direction. The below photos are from the parking lot, which was the best view that we got.

How did the Clingmans Dome get its name?

The peak is named for Thomas Lanier Clingman, a North Carolina lawyer that served in Congress before the Civil War. In 1858, he led an expedition surveying land in the Smokies. Arnold Guyot was a member of the team known for accurate altitude measurements who recorded the height of the mountain at 6,660 feet. Guyot renamed the mountain in honor of Clingman.

How long of a hike is Clingmans Dome?

Visitors to Clingmans Dome must traverse a half-mile paved trail from the parking lot and visitor center to the observation tower. The path has an ascent of approximately 330 feet and takes around 30 minutes. The trail intersects with the Appalachian Trail, which runs more than 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine.

At the bottom of the trail just above the parking lot is the Clingmans Dome Visitor Center.

There is a lot to view on the way up – such as all of the pretty and unique flowers promoted by the area’s climate.

When is Clingmans Dome Open?

The observation tower is open year round but the seven mile road leading to it from Newfound Gap Road is closed for four months of the year from December 1st through March 31st and whenever weather conditions require. The tower may also be closed at times for maintenance. Please check the NPS website for additonal information.

Hike Recommendations

We made this hike shortly after reaching Great Smoky Mountains National Park and it was unexpectedly harsh. We have hiked in the Rocky Mountains but this short trail really tried to kick our butt. Please bring water and leave plenty of time for the ascent. There are plenty of places to stop on the way up – use them! If you have the option, allow yourself a day or two to become accustomed to the altitude before you go up to Clingmans Dome.

Also, be sure to set your expectations appropriately. If it is pretty cloudy at the start of the hike, it is unlikely to get better. It will in all likelihood be far worse. We were pretty disappointed when we reached the top because we did have some views from the parking lot of the surrounding area. These were the views that we got: