By Bennie McCann © 2009, All Rights Reserved
At 6,643-feet high, Clingmans Dome isn’t just the highest point in the Smoky Mountains…it’s the highest point in the entire state of Tennessee. As a matter of fact, it’s second only to Mount Mitchell in having the highest mountain peak east of the Mississippi. Believe it or not, on a clear day you can stand at the Dome’s observation tower and see over 100 miles and seven states. That’s quite a view. Even on a cloudy day the view is over 20 miles in any direction. It’s like standing on a cloud and looking out over the world.
The road leading to Clingmans Dome stretches for seven miles. Along the way you’ll find several spots where you can pull off and enjoy the view. For the hiker, pick up one of the trails that cross paths with this road. One of these is the well-known Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine. The highest point of this trail is found at Clingmans Dome Road.
Take a Picnic and Make a Day of It
If you’re adventurous, make your way to the 54-foot observation tower. Clingmans Dome Road ends at a very large parking lot just half a mile from the tower. The trail to the top is paved and very steep. Leave your car in the parking lot, grab your picnic basket and spend the day enjoying the scenery. There are bathrooms and benches along the way, should you need them. You'll also find plenty of spots perfectly suited for laying out your blanket and enjoying lunch. Take in some food, then make your way up the hill to discover the view of a lifetime.
As you walk, keep your eyes open for native wildlife. The Smoky Mountains are home to over 300 species of animals. White-tailed deer and rabbits along with raccoons and other interesting creatures can be found throughout your journey. Remember to put your food in your backpack or a trashcan because feeding the animals is strictly prohibited.
Make sure you dress appropriately for your walk. Comfortable shoes are a must. In mountainous areas temperatures decrease as your altitude increases. It is likely to be 10 to 20 degrees cooler at the top than at the bottom. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to dress in layers. Snow is a possibility anytime from September to May, and cool winds are very common as you reach the summit. Due to the unpredictable weather, Clingmans Dome Road is closed from the first of December through the end of March. The breathtaking colors of the autumn leaves, however, make fall a wonderful time to visit this amazing site.
Want to add a romantic twist? Try watching the sunrise or sunset from Clingmans Dome. That picnic blanket you're carrying could keep you warm, as you snuggle together and enjoy some exceptional views.
A daytrip to Clingmans Dome is very affordable. The beauty of this nature wonderland is absolutely free. There’s no cost for admission to the Smoky Mountains National Park or to the observation tower at Clingmans Dome.
You won’t believe it until you see it for yourself, so grab your camera and picnic and head to the Smoky Mountains. The view doesn’t get any better than this.
Bennie McCann is Reservations Manager of Volunteer Cabin Rentals specializing in rental cabins near the national park. Visit the main website to book cabins for weddings, vacations, reunions and other special events.