Clingman’s Dome, a photo by waterfallshiker on Flickr.
I had the chance to visit Clingman’s Dome twice this Memorial Day Weekend. On Saturday, with sunshine all through the area, I was disappointed to find the 6643 feet elevated Clingman’s Dome socked in with clouds and fog. Luckily I had one more chance to check it out on Memorial day, only to find some very beautiful, blue skies. The views up here are 360, and incredible. The lookout tower is very cool, an almost spaceship looking tower that stands 45 feet high. Now I can see why this is the top attraction in the Smoky Mountains National Park. The trail to the dome is a half mile one way, paved and fairly steep. The reward is certainly worth it!! Plan for cooler weather as temps on both days were in the mid 60’s on top, while the close by but much lower Pigeon Forge was baking in the low 90’s. The cool air was very refreshing!!
Clingman’s Dome is the highest point in the Smoky Mountains, and in Tennessee. It is third in the eastern US, only behind nearby Mt Mitchell, and Mt Craig, both in the Black Mountains of North Carolina. All three peaks are in the 6600 feet range.
I was blessed this weekend at this location!! I saw my first black bear in the wild, as a mother and two cubs were about 20 feet below the trail in some tall brush. I have hiked actively for 4 years and never seen one. It was a special moment and one that will make Clingman’s Dome a special place to be forever.
Clingman’s Dome is also right along the Appalachian Trail and is the starting point for the Mountains To Sea Trail! The road to the trailhead is the 7 mile Clingman’s Dome Rd off of US 441. It is closed from Dec 1 – March 31, while Clingman’s Dome is open year round. This means if you want to see this beauty if February, count on a much longer and surely a steep hike!