Top 5 Things to Know About Clingmans Dome in the Smoky Mountains

Clingmans Dome observation tower in the Smoky Mountains.
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Clingmans Dome is one of the most popular destinations in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park! Millions of visitors come each year to hike to the top of the observation tower and see the panoramic views of the Smoky Mountains. To help you learn more about Clingmans Dome in the Smoky Mountains, we’ve made a list of the top 5 things you should know about it:

1. Highest Point in Tennessee

Photograph of the Clingmans Dome tower in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.Clingmans Dome is not only the highest peak in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it’s also the highest point in Tennessee! It’s 6,443 feet and is the third highest peak east of the Mississippi. Because of its high elevation, it’s a great spot to watch sunrises and sunsets in the Smoky Mountains.

2. Clingmans Dome Road Closes Seasonally

Although the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower is open year-round, the road to get there does close seasonally. Clingmans Dome Road is typically closed from the beginning of December through the end of March. Although the road is closed, you can still hike to the observation tower. It’s a 7-mile hike along Clingmans Dome Road to get to the observation tower. During the winter, the road is also a popular destination for cross country skiing and snowshoeing!

3. Can See up to 100 Miles on Clear Days

sunset in clingmans domeClingmans Dome in the Smoky Mountains provides 360-degree views of the area. On clear days, you can see up to 100 miles! Unfortunately, air pollution typically limits the viewing distances to 20 miles or less. Either way, you’ll still have a great view!

4. Several Hiking Trails Start on Clingmans Dome Road

In addition to the trail that leads to the summit of Clingmans Dome, there are several other hiking trails that start along Clingmans Dome Road. The Appalachian Trail is one of them that crosses Clingmans Dome, which actually marks the highest point along the trail’s journey from Georgia to Maine. Another trail is the Forney Ridge Trail, which takes you to Andrews Bald. Andrews Bald is one of the most popular hikes in the Smoky Mountains!

5. There’s a Secret Tunnel Under Clingmans Dome Road

hiker walking through tunnel in the mountainsDid you know that there’s a secret tunnel under Clingmans Dome Road? The ornate archway is less than a mile west of the junction with Newfound Gap Road. It was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, who is responsible for the original Oconaluftee Visitor Center and the tower at Mount Cammerer. The reasoning behind the tunnel under Clingmans Dome Road is unclear, but there are a few possibilities. One is that Clingmans Dome Road is elevated above the Appalachian Trail, so switchbacks or stairs would have been needed to go up or down the road crossing. Another is that the tunnel was designed for equestrian use to eliminate conflicts between horses and vehicles.

If you love Clingmans Dome, learn more about the other popular peaks in the Smoky Mountains!

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