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Many of you who have visited the Smoky Mountains have heard of or crossed Clingmans Dome Road, but we bet you’ve never seen what’s below it! Did you know that there is a secret tunnel under Clingmans Dome Road? The ornate archway is less than a mile west of the junction with Newfound Gap Road. We’ve got all the details on the secret tunnel under the road and other secret places in the Smoky Mountains:
About the Secret Tunnel Under Clingmans Dome Road
The Civilian Conservation Corps was created in 1933 to provide jobs to young men who were skilled in masonry, engineering, architecture, landscaping, or simply hard work. They built hundreds of miles of roads and hiking trails, bridges, buildings, campgrounds, and more in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The CCC most commonly used stone to build the structures. Some of the most well-known structures they built are the original Oconaluftee Visitor Center, the tower at Mount Cammerer, and the four-arch Elkmont Bridge. However, some of the accomplishments of the CCC are less well known, like the secret tunnel under Clingmans Dome Road!
The Thomas Divide Tunnel is less than a mile west of the junction with Newfound Gap Road. When Clingmans Dome Road was finished in 1935, there was a trail that closely paralleled the upper section of Newfound Gap Road on the North Carolina side. It connected to the Appalachian Trail on the far side of Clingmans Dome Road. Instead of routing the trail to cross Clingmans Dome Road, the engineers chose to build the tunnel under the roadbed. This old hiker’s tunnel kept the hikers from having to cross over Clingmans Dome Road.
Why the Secret Tunnel?
While the reasoning for building the tunnel under Clingmans Dome Road instead of having the trail cross on the roadbed is not certain, there are a few possibilities! One is that Clingmans Dome Road is elevated above the Appalachian Trail, meaning that switchbacks or stairs would have been necessary to go up or down the road crossing. Another is that the secret tunnel was designed for equestrian use to eliminate possible conflicts between horses and vehicles. It is most likely that the trail was used by hikers and riders from 1935 to 1960.
How to Find the Secret Tunnel
Now that you know the secret tunnel exists, we bet you can’t wait to go find it! It’s actually easy to find and not a far hike from where you park your car. The tunnel is located less than a mile west of the junction between Clingmans Dome Road and Newfound Gap Road.
Other Secret Places in the Smoky Mountains
If you’re looking for more hidden gems in the Smoky Mountains, we can help! Check out these other secret places in the Smokies:
Gourley’s Pond: Gourley’s Pond is located in Cades Cove, but is one of the most overlooked areas! To see the pond, you’ll have to leave your car at LeQuire Cemetery at the end of Sparks Lane. Then, you’ll walk down the loop road for 200 feet and continue on a path on your right for about 100 feet. Gourley’s Pond is a wet-weather pond, so if there hasn’t been any rain, it may be empty.
Lost CCC Camps: We mentioned before how the Civilian Conservation Corps contributed to the national park, and you can go see their camps when you visit the park! The lost CCC camps are located near the Smokemont area of the national park and have an old chimney, fire hydrant, drinking fountain, and more.
The Sinks: The Sinks is one of the most beautiful spots in the Smoky Mountains. This waterfall may be short, but its volume makes up for it and includes the entire flow of the Little River. To view the falls, you’ll travel about 12 miles west of Sugarlands Visitor Center to the parking area that’s along Little River Road.
Want to learn more about secret places in the Smoky Mountains? Read our blog, “Revealed: 5 Secret Places to See on the Way to Clingmans Dome in the Smoky Mountains.”