Clingmans Dome (Tennessee State Highpoint)

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

Trip Date: Sunday, June 28th, 2020
Last Updated: Monday, August 3rd, 2020
By Ricky Holzer

Hike Information

Rating ★★★★☆(4/5)
Overall Difficulty Moderate
Navigation Difficulty     Easy
Distance 1 mile roundtrip
Time 1 hour
Terrain Strenuous climbing, 300 feet of elevation gain
Best Seasons Spring, Summer, Fall
Family Friendly Yes
Dog Friendly No
Accessible No


Hike Summary

Clingmans Dome is both the highest point in the state of Tennessee and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Much like the South Carolina highpoint, this mountain straddles the border with North Carolina. Rising 6643 feet above sea level, it's also the third highest mountain east of the Mississippi. If you are lucky enough to visit on a clear day, you'll enjoy the kind of panoramic views only available on a few mountains in this region.

Don't get your hopes up for those views in this national park named for the persistent clouds and haze hovering over the mountains. Though it may be completely sunny wherever you start your day, you'll be surprised to see how the weather drastically changes as your elevation increases. The climate here is more similar to that of Seattle than of other closer cities in the South, and misty fog and light drizzles are frequent -- bring a rain jacket. Don't fret, even if the summit views are blocked by clouds, there will be pullouts along U.S. Highway 441 or Blue Ridge Parkway that you will you take here that should provide the stunning views of the Smokies you've been dreaming of.

Less cloudy views from the parking lot

Less cloudy views from the parking lot

The path to the top is half a mile with 300 feet of elevation gain -- a steepness you'll feel in your calves. The entirety of the trail is wide and paved to accommodate the crowds of people who visit here, and there are many benches along the side for you to rest, as pictured below. If it weren't for the development and the many people, this hike would be downright creepy in the fog.
A bench along the paved trail

A bench along the paved trail

Once you reach the summit, your climbing isn't done, and you'll want to walk up the circular ramp to the top of the observation tower, as pictured below. This takes you above the tall trees in this spruce-fir forest (this is one of only 6 regions high enough in the Southern Appalachians where you can find this type of forest -- the Virginia state highpoint is another) to unobstructed views.
The concrete tower on the summit of Clingmans Dome

The concrete tower on the summit of Clingmans Dome

On a cloudy day, as pictured below, there won't be much to see other than the outlines of nearby peaks through the haze. Signs along the walls of the tower have panoramic images identifying peaks and landmarks that you would see on a clear day, so use your imagination if necessary!
Hazy views from the observation tower

Hazy views from the observation tower

Whether your visit was disappointing or breathtaking, head back down knowing that you just climbed to the top of the highest mountain in Tennessee! Connect with me using the social media links below and share your adventures!

Important Information

Dogs are prohibited on this trail and the surrounding trails. The trail is too steep to be wheelchair accessible, despite being entirely paved. Short but steep, the trail to the summit is done by many families, and there are plenty of benches and places to stop on the way up. Clingmans Dome Road is closed during the winter, approximately December through April; however, the summit is open all year, you'll just have to hike at least 14 miles roundtrip in the winter. Expect it to be crowded no matter when you visit -- Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the country, and this is one of the highlights of the park.


From Asheville, take Interstate 40 west. Take the exit for U.S. Highway 74 and continue straight. Make a slight right onto U.S. Highway 19. After passing through Maggie Valley, turn right to take the exit for Blue Ridge Parkway, then turn left. Turn right onto U.S. Highway 441, and eventually you will turn onto Clingmans Dome Road, which ends at the parking lot.

Google Maps Directions

Parking, Fees, and Facilities

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the few national parks that do not charge an entrance fee. There is a visitor center with restrooms and information near the lot.

Nearby Hikes

The summit tower as seen from the parking lot
Brasstown Bald (Georgia State Highpoint)
Chattahoochee National Forest, Georgia
A smaller observation deck near the parking lot
Sassafras Mountain (South Carolina State Highpoint)
South Carolina
Mount Mitchell (North Carolina State Highpoint) Via Old Mitchell Trail
Mount Mitchell State Park, North Carolina
The communications equipment on Black Mountain
Black Mountain (Kentucky State Highpoint)

External Links