The Clingmans Dome observation tower is getting a long-awaited facelift, and it’s all thanks to you! Back in 2016, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park entered a contest to win a $250,000 grant from the National Historic Preservation Trust to repair the tower. We asked you to cast your vote for the Smokies, and thousands of you stepped up to the plate to help the Great Smoky Mountains National Park win the contest. Now, all of that money is being put to good use!
National Park Service crews started working on the Clingmans Dome observation tower on August 23, 2017, and the rehabilitation project is slated to last until the end of the year. During this time, the observation tower will be closed to visitors, but the parking area at Clingmans Dome will remain open. Read on to learn about all of the improvements being made to the tower.
About the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower
The 45-foot tall observation tower at Clingmans Dome was built in 1959 to make the view from the highest point in the Smokies even more spectacular. At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the tallest point along the entire Appalachian Trail and the third highest mountain east of the Mississippi River. From atop the observation tower, visitors enjoy breathtaking panoramic vistas of the Great Smoky Mountains. On a clear day, the views extend for over 100 miles!
Rehabilitating the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower
Visited by more than 600,000 people each year, the Clingmans Dome observation tower has suffered its share of wear and tear. Over the decades, the tower has been slowly sinking into the ground. So far, the tower has sunk 4 inches since 1959, which doesn’t sound like much, but has the potential to be a major problem if left unchecked.
The pressure from the sinking has caused a crack in the tower’s floor, damaged a door frame, and caused cosmetic stones to fall off the walls at the bottom of the tower. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park plans to use the $250,000 in grant money to repair the tower’s joints, fix its structural faults, and cover areas of the tower that are currently showing exposed steel. In addition to the grant money from the National Historic Preservation Trust, the park also received additional funds from the Friends of the Smokies charity.
Visiting Clingmans Dome During the Repairs
As noted earlier in this article, the Clingmans Dome observation tower will be closed for the remainder of the year. However, it is still worth visiting the Clingmans Dome parking area during the tower’s rehabilitation!
Before the observation tower was introduced in 1959, the parking area at Clingmans Dome was a hugely popular spot to take in the majestic views of the mountains. Although the vistas aren’t quite as expansive as the ones from the tower, the parking area still offers some of the very best scenery in the park, especially during the fall months.
To start planning your trip, check out our guide to 5 secret places to see on the way to Clingmans Dome!