Clingmans Dome at Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Just short drive from Gatlinburg, this section of Great Smoky Mountains National Park straddles the Tennessee-North Carolina border and offer incredible views.
Clingmans Dome is less than 25 miles from the bustle of downtown Gatlinburg, but the trip is a slow and scenic one, especially as you turn onto the 7-mile stretch that leads to the highest reaches of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Along the way, pull-off areas allow travelers to stop and take in views of the mountains rippling out into the distance, but once you’ve made it this far, you really need to go all the way.
At an elevation of 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is not only the highest point in Tennessee but also the third-highest mountain east of the Mississippi River. Clingmans Dome Road ends in a large parking lot, and from there you have to head out on foot. The good news is the pathway is paved, making for an easier walk, which you will be thankful for once you start ascending the steep half-mile route to the observation tower. (Do note the path is not safe to navigate in a wheelchair and may be a difficult walk for some visitors.)
Those who make the trip to the top during autumn will be rewarded with spectacular 360-degree views of the Great Smoky Mountains and a blanket of fall hues in the distance. On a very clear day, the view can stretch on for 100 miles, although visitors are more likely to see up to around 20 miles. Clingmans Dome gets more than 85 inches of rain a year and is also the coolest area in the national park, so travelers should always bring additional layers of clothing and rain gear when making the trip. The road to Clingmans Dome is usually open from April 1 through Nov. 28, weather permitting.
For more information about getting to Clingmans Dome at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, visit nps.gov/grsm.