At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is the highest point in Tennessee, and the third highest mountain east of the Mississippi. Only Mt. Mitchell (6,684 feet) and Mt. Craig (6,647), both located in Mt. Mitchell State Park near Asheville, rise higher. It's about 25 miles from Cherokee, North Carolina, and 75 miles from Asheville.
A seven-mile road from Newfound Gapon U.S. 441 leads to a large parking area with very nice views. For more spectacular 360° views of the Smokies and beyond, climb the steep half-mile paved walkway to the "flying saucer" tower at the top. On clear days views expand over a 100 miles. Unfortunately, air pollution and low clouds often limit viewing distances to under 20 miles.
Clouds, precipitation, and cold temperatures are common at Clingmans Dome. Temperatures at the dome can be 10 -20 degrees cooler than in the surrounding lowlands. In fact, the cool, wet conditions on Clingmans Dome's summit make the spruce-fir forest that grows there a coniferous rainforest. Dress in layers and be sure to bring a jacket, even in summer. We took these photos on an usually chilly July morning with temperatures in the mid 30s!
Although Clingmans Dome is open year-round, the road leading to it is closed from December 1 through March 31, and whenever weather conditions require.
Besides the trail to the summit, there are several trails that start on Clingmans Dome Road and parking area. The Appalachian Trail (AT) crosses Clingmans Dome, marking the highest point along its journey from Georgia to Maine. The Forney Ridge Trail leads to Andrews Bald, a high-elevation grassy bald (read more about this hike).
Directions: Turn off Newfound Gap Road 0.1 mile south of Newfound Gap and follow the 7-mile-long Clingmans Dome Road to the large parking area at the end.