Clingman’s Dome is a great hike for families visiting the Great Smoky Mountains. It has amazing views and is a unique hiking experience.
When we started planning our Pigeon Forge, Tennessee vacation I knew I wanted to add a hike to Clingman’s Dome into our itinerary. I had done a bit of research and it looked incredible.
I will start this with saying we are not a big hiking family. We can appreciate the beauty of the outdoors, but it is not our main focus during family vacations. This means I look for ways to experience national parks in a way that fits what works for our family.
I had heard about Clingman’s Dome and knew it was the highest point in the Great Smokies and worth the hike for it’s 100 mile long views, on a clear day. The trail ends with an observation tower that gives you a birds eye view of the mountains.
Clingman’s Dome Hike Details
The Clingman’s Dome hike is 1/2 a mile of paved trails. That is easy enough, but it takes you on a 332 feet elevation change in that short hike. At the top you are around 6,643 ft, which is the highest point of the Great Smokies. It is worth the climb for the incredible views.
Where is Clingman’s Dome
Clingman’s Dome is located in North Carolina. It is about a 1 hour drive from Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The main road to get to Clingman’s Dome is closed from December 1st-March 31st due to weather.
How to Get to Clingman’s Dome
Driving to Clingman’s Dome is part of the adventure. You will take the 7 mile journey along Clingman’s Dome Road until it ends at the trail to the observation tower.
This seven mile road will take you up the mountain and through twists and turns. It is a beautiful drive. There are also parking stops along the way if you would like to stop.
Tips for Hiking Clingman’s Dome with Kids
Time Your Visit
The road to the observation tower trail is closed from December to March and that will limit your access to the park. The tower is open year round and there are other trails to reach the tower. Check the National Parks website for more information on visiting during the off season.
Lots of Layers
We visited Tennessee in August. August is hot in Tennessee and we didn’t even consider it would not be hot on our hike. Next time I would pack sweatshirts and even pants. The temperature in August was low 60’s and cool. It was also very foggy and damp.
Pack Essentials in a Backpack
I think the short hike makes this trail deceiving in that you may think you don’t need to pack and prepare for it. I would bring plenty of water for the hike. During our visit it was chilly but the weather changes throughout the day. Plan on bringing hats, sunscreen, and wear comfortable shoes.
Plan to Take Your Time
Even though the trail is half a mile the steep incline can make this a difficult hike for some. There are benches along the trail to take breaks on if you need them. With kids I find it is best to take your time, not rush them, and allow them breaks when needed.
Not Stroller or Wheelchair Accessible
This hike is not wheelchair or stroller accessible. If you have a small child consider using a carrier for the hike or have them walk.
Watch the Weather
I was expecting 100 mile views, but when we reached the top a fog had rolled in and we couldn’t see very far at all. Watch the weather before you arrive and take that into consideration when you plan your visit. We visited early in the morning during typical fog time. Mid-day may see less fog and allow for more visibility.
The parking area opens around 8:00am and will fill up quickly. I suggest arriving as close to that time as possible. Arriving early will make it easier to park and less crowds to navigate during your hike.
Video of Clingman’s Dome Hike (February 12, 2020)
Overall our hike at Clingman’s Dome was one of our favorite parts of our Pigeon Forge vacation. It was a great hike for families and a fun challenge for all of us.
Read Next: 23 Awesome Family Activities in Pigeon Forge
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