We’ve compiled the best Clingmans Dome hikes, the highest point on the Appalachian Trail and in Tennessee. From easy to difficult trails you won’t want to miss it when visiting the Great Smoky Mountains. Check them out:
There is more than one Clingmans Dome hike to be discovered in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You can reach this landmark on several different trails, each a little more challenging than the next.
But the challenge is what makes this Smoky Mountain hiking trail the highlight of any adventurer’s trip to Tennessee.
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And if you’ve seen what awaits you at the top of this hike, you’ll know why.
So whether you choose to tackle a portion of the Appalachian trail to get to Clingmans Dome or just want to take a short walk to the observation tower, you won’t be disappointed.
Where is Clingmans Dome?
Clingmans Dome is located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and is the highest point in Tennessee at 6,643 feet. It’s situated just 23 miles from Gatlinburg and 25 miles from Cherokee. It’s almost 7 miles to the end of Clingmans Dome Road but the scenic pullouts with endless views of ridges and valleys along the way make it worth it.
You should plan to do a Clingmans Dome hike, especially as it’s a major landmark on the Appalachian Trail.
How Long Does it Take to Hike Clingmans Dome?
The answer depends entirely on which route you decide to try. If you choose a short walking trail to the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower, it shouldn’t take you longer than half an hour.
But if you prefer one of the other trails on this list, it will take you anywhere from 2 hours to a whole day depending on the weather conditions.
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Why You’ll Want to Do a Clingmans Dome Hike
This may seem obvious to avid hikers, but for beginners that aren’t sure if the elevation is for them, rest assured, you don’t want to miss the best views in the U.S.
If you’re a fan of mountain views, you won’t find a better place to watch the sunrise above the Smoky Mountains. If you are planning on visiting the Observation Tower or just the observation deck, you can even do it at night.
Can you imagine watching the stars sweep over the mountains? It’s nothing short of a dream come true.
And all of this majestic wonder is free! It’s no wonder Clingmans Dome is one of the best hikes in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
But if you still aren’t convinced, check out these Clingmans Dome trails that each offers something new and unique.
The Clingmans Dome Observation Tower
Distance: 1.2 miles
Elevation: 330 feet
Constructed in 1959, the 45-foot high observation tower offers expansive views.
There is a 375-foot-long concrete ramp that you can easily walk to the dome tower. It offers a 360-degree observation tower is simply a great place to be if you are looking for expansive views. It’s the perfect place to enjoy sunrise views of the Smoky Mountains, so be sure to be at the tower at sunrise!
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Newfound Gap to Clingmans Dome Trail
Distance: 17.5 miles
Elevation: 4,070 feet
One of the more grueling Clingmans Dome hikes, the Newfound Gap trail is excellent for advanced hikers. This 7.5 mile trail is located near Gatlinburg and is great for backpackers and campers who are obsessed with 360-degree views.
Besides taking you to incredible views, this hike also features a beautiful river. Head out on this route from April to November for the best experience and to avoid bad weather.
Forney Ridge Trail to Clingmans Dome Loop
Distance: 4.5 miles
Elevation: 1,100 feet
This Clingmans Dome trail hike isn’t as busy or difficult as some of the others even with a thousand feet in elevation. But it is still as satisfying with its beautiful views.
The start of the route is located near Bryson City. It’s filled with wildflowers and other natural wonders that are worth the bit of elevation that you can expect.
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Andrews Bald Trail
Distance: 3.5 miles
Elevation: 860 feet
This trail starts in the Clingmans Dome parking lot, near Gatlinburg. It’s a great trail for beginners looking to challenge themselves.
A beautiful forest surrounds you as you make your way up to Andrews Bald, where you can bask in glorious views.
Although the trail is open throughout the year, you don’t want to miss the summer wildflowers.
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Little River Trail/Goshen Prong Trail
Distance: 13.2 miles
Elevation: 4,500 feet
This route starts at the Elkmont Ranger Station, which is located near Gatlinburg. It’s a quieter trail with plenty of river crossings and rocky ascents to keep you on your toes. A steep hike to challenge seasoned hikers.
In summer, the trail is lush with wildflowers, and the Elkmont camping area is a great place to overnight if you want to extend your experience. Be sure to make a reservation beforehand.
Appalachian Trail at Fontana Dam
Distance: 29.9 miles
Elevation: 5,600 feet
This Clingmans Dome hike is not for the faint of heart. It is the perfect trail for avid backpackers looking to challenge themselves. The views are incredible and the experience unforgettable as you hike across Thunderhead Mountain.
There are several shelters along the way so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to stop and extend this epic adventure. And you’ll have the bragging rights that come with reaching the highest point of the Appalachian Trail.
Forney Creek Trail
Distance: 22.9 miles
Elevation: 4,900 feet
This fantastic trail starts near Cherokee, North Carolina and makes its way to Tennessee and past Clingmans Dome. Be prepared for river crossings that can get tricky during rainy seasons. The currents can get strong, so make sure to be safe.
During summer there are plenty of wildflowers, lush laurels and wild turkeys on your way. This Clingman’s Dome hike is also great for backpackers and campers looking for an adventure.
Mount Buckley via Clingmans Dome Bypass Trail
Distance: 1.7 miles
Elevation: 430 feet
This easy Clingmans Dome Road hike is perfect for the whole family. It’s an excellent alternative to some of the longer routes but still takes you through lush forest with a paved trail and is much quieter.
Be sure to wear good shoes though, (no flip flops for this trip), as the trail can get muddy and slippery.