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Deep Creek to Clingmans Dome Loop

Bryson City, North Carolina



32.82 miles

Elevation Gain

7400 ft

Route Type



Added by Jessica Olson

A challenging, but rewarding hike that showcases some beautiful forest structures through a 36 mile loop in the Great Smoky Mountains.

This is a ~36 mile loop that goes up Clingman's Dome (the tallest point in Tennessee). Pretty challenging, not for the novice backpacker. Park at Deep Creek campground in Bryson City, NC. We did it as a 3-day, 2-night camping at sites 53 and 61. As it is a loop it could easily be done in reverse. You need to obtain camping permits from the Smokies website. The campground is a very popular one, easy to find parking. Also, bears are no joke here. Be diligent about using the bear cables.We saw three (on two separate occasions) over the course of our trip. Campsites are well maintained, have reliable cables, fire pits, and are right on a creek for easy water access. Trail summary: Deep Creek --> Fork Ridge --> Appalacian Trail --> Clingman's Dome Road --> Noland Divide --> Noland Creek (to access the campsite) --> Noland Divide.

Day 1, ~12 miles: Start on the Deep Creek trail at Deep Creek Campground. This is a pretty straight-forward trail. As of 7/19/2020 there were a bunch of downed trees, about halfway through we lost the trail, but found it quickly. We downloaded the section on google maps, this really helped here. Overall this day isn't too bad. You're going slowly uphill to campsite 53. The toughest part for us was the humidity. 

Day 2, ~16 miles: this is a tough, tough day. Bring plenty of water as there aren't any sources between campsites. The visitors center at Clingman's has water bottles for sale if you are in a pinch. Right after you leave the campsite you will cross a stream, leaving Deep Creek trail for Fork Ridge.You'll do about 5 miles, gaining 4,000ft in elevation on this trail. Then you'll cross the road and do 3 miles on the AT, this brings you to the top of Clingmans. Pretty views, but very crowded. Next you need to get to the Noland Divide, it's only accessible from the road, follow the road from the parking lot down about 2 miles. Having google maps downloaded also helped here as it is not clearly marked. This takes you mostly downhill. You'll reach a 4-way intersection, take the Noland Creek Trail to campsite 61 (the trail on your left). It's about 1.5 miles out of the way, but it's the best option for a 3-day hike.

Day 3, ~8 miles: You start the day hiking back up from 61, it's tough first thing in the morning. You'll continue uphill for a bit. Some pretty ridges, fairly narrow trail. About halfway you'll hit Lonesome Pine Lookout, don't skip it!! Beautiful view and barely out of the way. We took a long break for an early lunch here. After this it's mostly downhill. Pretty steep and narrow. My toes could feel it. But we finished the day by noon, giving plenty of time to drive home. The town of Bryson City is also nice if you have time to hang around. 

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