Clingmans Dome is “the destination” for almost every first time visitor to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
It is the high point that everyone wants to hit first and a high point it is in more than one way. At 6,643 feet it is the highest point in the park and a full 360 degree vantage point for viewing fall foliage colors and fog lying in the valleys. You literally can see for a hundred miles on a clear day.
The hike from the parking lot to the overlook is only a half mile and completely paved, ending in a concrete observation tower but it is steep enough that a wheelchair can’t be pushed and it is quite strenuous.
Clingmans Dome Road runs 7 miles west of Newfound Gap and has numerous pull offs and endless vistas. It is closed December 1 through March 31 and other times if there is ice and snow. Some snow storms have dropped over 2 feet in just a few hours and the annual average is over 80 inches. Temperatures can easily be 20 degrees colder and much more windy, than in Gatlinburg so be sure to carry a jacket along the trail. The elevation and cool, wet conditions on the summit have such an effect on the vegetation that it is actually considered a coniferous rainforest. Unfortunately, you will notice there has been a lot of damage to the Fraser Fir due to an invasion of the European insect, the balsam woolly adelgid. There is also a species of this insect that is killing Hemlock trees along the Newfound Gap Road.
The Appalachian Trails highest point, along that 2,144 mile journey, is where it crosses at Clingmans Dome. Also, Clingmans Dome marks the western extent of the Mountains to Sea Trail that runs from the Smokies to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
Cherokee legend considers Clingmans Dome the home of the White Bear, the great chief of all bears. It has held great status for centuries and still does with visitors of the park.
The sunrises and sunsets are still quite a site to behold.
Come visit and explore the beauty and lifestyle of East Tennessee.
Excited about the area and want more information, visit knoxville-tn.com or call 800-747-0713.