I hear stories told that from the top of Clingmans Dome a visitor can see 100 miles in every direction, including viewing 7 different states. We would have no first hand knowledge of this because the day we visited the highest point in the Smoky Mountain National Park, the highest point in Tennessee and the second highest point east of the Mississippi River there was so much cloud coverage that we had a near zero visibility.
Clingmans Dome is on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. Due to road closures (Little River Road was closed because of downed trees during our visit) we had to take Wears Valley Road (Hwy 321) over to Pigeon Forge and down to Gaitlinburg on Hwy 421. It took us about 90 minutes to drive to the parking lot of Clingmans Dome from our campsite. Clingmans Dome sits at 6,643 feet (Denver, Colorado is the mile high city and sits at 5, 280 feet).
We left our campground by 6:30 a.m. and arrived in the parking lot by 8:00 a.m. The view from the parking lot that greeted us was nothing short of breathtaking. The view was not the only breathtaking thing: the temperature of the air (my goodness it was chilly) took our breath away as did the smell in the vault toilets also sucked all the wind right out of us! We held our breath and held the doors open to use the restrooms and luckily we found sweatshirts/jackets/blankets in the trucks to keep us warm on our hike.
The hike from the parking lot to the top is only a half mile but that half mile has approximately 500 feet of vertical lift. Thankfully benches have been placed to give us out of shape hikers a place to catch out our breath before pushing onward…and upward! For all of you KC fans, I thought the top of Clingmans Dome resembled the spirals at Truman Sports Complex, so we even did a short LGR chant! A long concrete spiral takes you to the observation tower. Travel and Leisure actually named this observation deck one of the coolest in the world.
We made the hike to the top, there was no reason to linger there for us. we could not see a few feet past our faces. The signs at the observation deck inform us that more acid rain falls here than any other national park in the country.
Two other trails intersect at Clingmans Dome. The most known, The Appalachian Trail, is a 2,190 mile footpath from Georgia to Maine. It crosses 14 states and six national parks. I am excited to say that we hiked the width of the Appalachian Trail! The Mountains-to-Sea Trail is a 1,150 mile trail that starts at in the North Carolina mountains at Clingmans Dome and ends at the Outer Banks.
After a morning of hiking ( I reached my 10,000 step goal by 10:00 a.m.) we were famished. Allen lead us all to Atrium Pancake’s in Gaitlinburg, Tennessee. Angie and I ordered the Baked Apple Pancakes and we were not disappointed. we were both served a golden brown pancake that was the size of the serving plate. Baked in the pancake batter were cooked apples. I am telling you, I could have eaten the whole thing without syrup it was that yummy. But, they do served the baked apple pancakes with homemade apple syrup and I just had to try it. I do not know how it was possible but the syrup did in fact make those pancakes every yummier! I am sorry to say that neither Angie or I could finish our pancakes but we left Atrium Pancakes happy and ready for a nap!
Want to see more? You can check out our family video of our hike up Clingmans Dome: