Standing at 6,643 ft., the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower is the highest point in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, according to the National Parks Service. Resting atop Clingmans Dome Mountain, this tower provides a 360° panoramic view of the Great Smoky Mountains and is home to spectacular vistas and sights. Climbing the .5 mile steep walkway was a little bit challenging, but well worth the trip! Keep reading to find out how to access and hike to the top of the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower.
Clingmans Dome Hike Trail Details & Location
Difficulty: Easy | Round Trip Distance: 1 mi | Elevation Gain: 332 ft. | Time: 1 hr
Trailhead Location: The Clingmans Dome Observation Tower is located at the end of the Clingmans Dome Trail. The trailhead is located next to a parking lot at the end of Clingmans Dome Road. This road is located about 7 miles past the Newfound Gap Overlook in the North Carolina Section of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As soon as you pass Newfound Gap from the north, there is a turnoff to the right called Clingmans Dome Road. It is well marked. Clingmans Dome Road is closed in the winter, from December to March, so plan your trip accordingly.
The parking lot for Clingmans Dome has public restrooms (really glorified port-a-johns) as well as a Visitor’s Center. The Clingmans Dome Trail leads you to the observation tower as well as the Appalachian trail.
Hiking to the top of the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower is short, but steep
While it is just .5 miles up to the top of the tower, it is quite steep and the elevation was difficult at times.
Because of the incline, this hike is not recommended for strollers or those who might struggle with high elevations and climbs.
That said, there are several areas with benches so you can catch your breath. If for some reason you can’t make the steep climb, it is still worth driving up just to see the sunset from the Clingmans Dome Parking Lot.
The Hike to the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower will leave you breathless
Yes, this hike left me breathless – literally (listen in the video below) as well as visually! We took our time hiking it as I had all my gear with me.
We hiked to the top of the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower about an hour before sunset.
Surrounded by pine trees, there were several sections that smelled just like Christmas!
I could tell by looking at the misty haze of the mountains that the sunset at Clingmans Dome would be spectacular!
Once you get to the top of the Clingmans Dome Trail, you reach a magnificent spiral pathway
This ramp circles around a forest of pine trees and ends at a circular tower, offering views of the smoky mountains from all directions.
It’s really an architectural wonder.
Clingmans Dome Observation Tower has information signs explaining the views around you
When we got up to the tower, we looked out in every direction, soaking in the amazing vistas!
The observation tower signs allowed us to understand what we were seeing.
After soaking it in and taking a few photographs, I decided on where I wanted to stand for my sunset shot.
The best sunset location at the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower in October was actually on the ramp
After I looked all around me, I noticed the direction the sun was setting. My sister, Bonnie Clark, and I came in October 2018. I noticed that the sun was setting behind me, and so I walked down the ramp a little ways and then set up my tri-pod.
After everything was set up, my sister and I waited. As Clingmans Dome is the highest elevation in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it was quite windy and cold. Thankfully we brought jackets, hats, and gloves.
After waiting a little bit longer, the sun finally began to set. The sunset was beautiful. Seeing this view totally made my trip up to the top of the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower worth it!
To see more photos of the sunset at Clingmans Dome, click here! Overall, hiking to the top of the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower was worth it! I hope you get the opportunity to see Clingmans Dome and Great Smoky Mountains National Park for yourself. If not, at least you can see it through my photos! Thanks for reading and sharing my adventures with me!
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