The 8 Top Clingmans Dome Hikes To Reach the Highest Point in Tennessee

This post may include affiliate links, including Amazon Associate links. I may earn money if you click on one at no extra cost to you.

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.

Clingmans Dome Lookout

Recommended Reading: Why You Need Adventure Travel Insurance and Our Top Recommendation.

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? 

The view from the top of one of the Clingmans Dome Trails

Located in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Clingman’s Dome is the highest peak in Tennessee at 6,633 ft. It’s situated just 22 miles from Gatlinburg, and 25 miles from Cherokee, NC.

It’s almost seven miles from the parking lot at the base of Clingman’s Dome to the top of the mountain, but the scenic pullouts along the road make it well worth the trip.

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.

Check out these Airbnbs near Gatlinburg that are close to your favourite hike.

Why You’ll Want to Do a Clingmans Dome Hike

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. 

Related Reading: 12 Treehouse Rentals in Tennessee You Have to Check Out

The Clingmans Dome Observation Tower

The Clingmans Dome Observation Tower is an easy hike/walk that can be done anytime of the day.

Distance: 1.2 miles


Elevation: 330 feet


Difficulty: Hard

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!

Related Reading: How To Find The Best Places to Hike Near You

Newfound Gap to Clingmans Dome Trail


Distance: 17.5 miles


Elevation: 4,070 feet


Difficulty: Hard

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

Clingmans Dome Hikes

Distance: 4.5 miles


Elevation: 1,100 feet


Difficulty: Moderate

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.

Related Reading: Winter Hiking Gear: What You Need to Stay Warm on Day Hikes

Andrews Bald Trail


Distance: 3.5 miles


Elevation: 860 feet


Difficulty: Moderate

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.

Related Reading: 19 Best Airbnbs in Gatlinburg Tennessee to Be Close to the Mountains

Little River Trail/Goshen Prong Trail


Distance: 13.2 miles


Elevation: 4,500 feet


Difficulty: Hard

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.

Related Reading: 30 Best Hiking and Camping Hammocks to Enhance Your Time in the Outdoors

Appalachian Trail at Fontana Dam

Hiking in Tennessee

Distance: 29.9 miles


Elevation: 5,600 feet


Difficulty: Hard

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


Difficulty: Hard

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


Difficulty: Easy

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. 

Which Clingmans Dome hike will you be trying out to get your adventure fix?


This post has been updated and republished.

Leave a Comment