Winter Hike to Clingman’s Dome via Newfound Gap

15 miles 1600 ft gain  - Loop Trail

Added by John Sides

Experience Clingman’s Dome without the crowds by hiking in the winter months. With Clingman’s Dome Road closed, the highest point in the Smokies becomes a much less visited backcountry destination.

During the winter months, from December 1 through March 31, the 7-mile Clingman’s Dome Road that branches off Highway 441 at Newfound Gap, stays closed. This means the usual drive to the parking area located just a half mile below the tower is inaccessible, and the journey now requires a 15-mile round-trip hike on the AT, starting at Newfound Gap.

The AT crosses the road at Newfound Gap (5,046 ft), straddling the Tennessee-North Carolina border. Jump on the AT at the Newfound Gap parking area and head south. From here, the trail meanders through evergreens, ascending and descending along the ridge as you steadily gain elevation until you reach Clingman’s Dome Tower (6,643 ft). While this stretch of trail runs nearly parallel to Clingman’s Dome Road, you only come close enough to see the road in a few places, and with the road closed, this doesn’t take away too much from the backcountry experience. In weather typical for higher elevations in the Smokies, anticipate clouds and be prepared for rain or snow. In fact, according to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the cool and wet conditions around Clingman’s Dome make it a coniferous rainforest. Temperatures at Clingman’s Dome may be 10-20 degrees colder than the surrounding lowlands.

Be prepared for snow and icy conditions on the trail, and bring traction devices like microspikes if needed. I’d recommend checking the daily blog posts from Mt. Leconte, which is nearby and will give you a good indication of trail conditions: http://www.highonleconte.com/daily-posts.    

Hope for summit views from the tower—which is probably the best vantage point in the national park. But even if you don’t get them, it’s truly a unique experience to have Clingman’s Dome all to yourself.

If you want to break up the hike and make it an overnight trip, the Mount Collins backcountry shelter is a good option. You can book an overnight permit at: https://smokiespermits.nps.gov/

Read More

Tags

Camping
Photography
Backpacking
Hiking
Easy Parking
Forest
Scenic
Wildlife

Reviews

Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

A hike anytime of the year

Winter is great, but catching the view from this summit anytime of the year on a clear day is breathtaking.

Clingmans View

Great view and great ranger station for trails info

Stay Nearby

Cherokee, North Carolina

Collins Creek Picnic Pavilion

Overview Collins Creek, tucked into picturesque mountain ranges and surrounded by pristine mountain streams, is the perfect backdrop for your party or family get-together. Whether blanketed in brig...

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Twin Creeks Picnic Pavilion

Overview Twin Creeks Picnic Pavilion is the largest in the park, surrounded by the scenic forest of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Located in a secluded and private section of the Smokies...

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Greenbrier Picnic Pavilion

Overview Tucked in the mountains under a canopy of cool shade, this picnic pavilion creates a peaceful and secluded environment for visitors, offering the best of the Great Smoky Mountains National...

Cherokee, North Carolina

Smokemont Campground

Overview Situated in the stunning Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this campsite offers an ideal setting to enjoy the outdoors. Ridge upon ridge of forest straddles the border between North Car...

Nearby Adventures

  • Catch a Sunrise at Newfound Gap

    Newfound Gap is a mountain pass in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Newfound Gap is accessible via U.S. Route 441 from Gatlinburg, TN or Cherokee, NC. You can watch the sunrise from the parking lot at Newfound Gap or the viewing platform adjac...

  • Hike to the Jump-Off

    This trail starts at the Newfound Gap parking lot. Newfound Gap is situated on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. The views from Newfound Gap overlook North Carolina and are worth the trip in their own right. The restroom facilities are c...

    6.2 miles 1079 ft gain

  • Hike Charlies Bunion

    From the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, drive approximately 13 miles south on Newfound Gap Road to reach the Newfound Gap Parking Area (it'll be on your left.) The parking area is free and there are bathrooms. Follow the Appalachian Tr...

    8.1 miles 1640 ft gain

  • Photograph the Smokies from Morton Overlook

    The Morton Overlook is one of the Great Smoky Mountains National Parks most well known and visited overlooks. Morton offers a wide view of the Great Smoky Mountains and is a perfect spot for some really good photography opportunities. Coming from ...