Hike Clingman's Dome Trail to the Observation Tower

1 Miles Round Trip - 6643 ft gain - Out-and-Back Trail

Clingmans Dome - Search Nearby - Added by Cassidy Gardner

At the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains, Clingman's Dome Observation Tower offers a panoramic view of the park.

Clingman's Dome is a 25 mile drive into the park from the entrance in Cherokee, North Carolina. This was my first time driving through the mountains so I had no idea what to expect. It is a winding road but the scenic views along the drive are phenomenal. Be ready to pull off more than once and have your camera ready! Once you get to Clingman's Dome Road take a left and it's another 7 miles until you reach the parking area. There's a decent amount of parking, bathrooms and a souvenir store right at the trailhead to the tower. There is an amazing view from the parking area, I highly recommend taking pictures here! The hike up Clingman's Dome to the Observation Tower is short, only a half a mile, but it is a steep one! It is a paved trail and there are benches along the way if you need to stop and catch your breath. To the left you have a view of the Smokys all the way up the trail. Once you get to the summit you can see the tower. It is located on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee and the Appalachian Trail crosses Clingman's Dome. At the top of the tower you have a 360 degree view of the park in every direction. There is a bench to sit and take it all in. This is where you want to have your camera out and ready. The view is breathtaking, quite literally. Mountain views to the North, South, East and West. Clingman's Dome is a must see if you plan on visiting Great Smoky Mountains. 

I'm not sure how often this happens but during my hike I got really and saw my first black bear. There was a group of people huddled on the side of the trail looking down the slope so of course, wanting to know what they were looking at I made my way over. The bear maintained a distance from everyone of about 15 feet. It was eating and minding its own business but definitely keeping a close eye on its audience. Luckily for me I had my zoom lens so I set that up and got a few shots of the bear. The hike seemed to take forever because of the temperature outside and I had never done a hike that steep before and I am not an experienced hiker (yet). Going to Clingman's Dome was unplanned (it was my first day in the area and the weather wasn't looking too promising) so I didn't have water or snacks with me (not making that mistake again) .When I got to the top of the tower I was taking pictures like crazy, switching between my kit and zoom lens. I am glad I did because not too long after the fog and clouds rolled in and it started to drizzle. It made for some interesting shots but the rain was quickly picking up so I made my way back to the car. On the way down I stopped in the store and bought a National Geographic map of the park so I could learn more about this amazing place. I have to say it is incredible to be able to turn in every direction and see nothing but mountains, to be completely surrounded by them. It was quite humbling because like the ocean, the mountains remind you how small you really are.


Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Picnic Area


1 Miles
6643 ft elevation gain
Out-and-Back Trail

Stay Nearby

Cherokee, North Carolina

Cherokee / Great Smokies KOA

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Under Canvas Great Smoky Mountains

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Townsend, Tennessee

Townsend / Great Smokies KOA

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Pigeon Forge / Gatlinburg KOA

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