Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Clingmans Dome to Silers Bald via Appalachian Trail

Bag four scenic peaks in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
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Bag four scenic peaks in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

This 10-mile out-and-back on the Appalachian Trail delivers outstanding returns on your aerobic investment. It's a relatively easy stroll on a high, narrow ridgeline with constant views into Tennessee and North Carolina. From the Clingmans Dome parking area, hike 0.25 mile to the summit observation tower, where you can claim Tennessee's (and the AT's) high point (6,643 feet) before turning left on the AT.
You'll roll through spruce, fir, beech, and ash to open views at 6,575-foot Mount Buckley and 5,560-foot Jenkins Knob. Then, at 4.5 miles, you'll hit The Narrows, where the ridge squeezes to a few yards wide, for a 0.5-mile tiptoe to 5,607-foot Silers Bald and its views of Fontana Lake and surrounding balds. To make it an overnight, head to Silers Bald Shelter 0.2 mile beyond.
MAP AND GUIDE: Trails Illustrated Great Smoky Mountains National Park ($12, natgeomaps.com); Hiking Trails of the Smokies, by Don DeFoe, ($20, smokiesstore.org)
CONTACT: (865) 436-1200, nps.gov/grsm
-Mapped by Jeff Chow

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 15.9

Waypoints

CLG001

Location: 35.556853, -83.496222

Follow the wide, paved trail lined with benches from the parking lot to the observation tower.

CLG002

Location: 35.562657, -83.499774

Bear right to summit Clingmans Dome and the lookout tower.

CLG003

Location: 35.56344, -83.498459

Turn right onto Clingmans Dome Tower Trail.

CLG004

Location: 35.563076, -83.498701

Clingmans Dome (6,643 ft.): This summit is the second highest point east of the Mississippi, and the highest point on the Appalachian Trail. Climb the 54-foot tower for 100-mile views of seven states on clear days. On cloudy days, you won't be able to see the ground below the tower. Next, backtrack to Waypoint 2 and continue west along the ridgeline.

CLG005

Location: 35.562081, -83.504355

Continue straight at 3-way junction.

CLG006

Location: 35.562218, -83.505936

Traverse the summit of Mount Buckley.

CLG007

Location: 35.564716, -83.533401

Hike past Goshen Prong Trail and continue along the ridgeline.

CLG008

Location: 35.565162, -83.542818

Trail passes Double Spring Gap Shelter.

CLG009

Location: 35.56497, -83.544663

Traverse Jenkins Knob.

CLG010

Location: 35.564798, -83.559605

The Narrows: The ridge squeezes to a few yards wide; carefully maneuver the next half-mile stretch to 5,607-foot Silers Bald.

CLG011

Location: 35.565589, -83.563042

Pass Welch Ridge Trail on the left.

CLG012

Location: 35.565938, -83.565488

Silers Bald: The Tennessee-North Carolina state line runs across this 5,607-foot mountain. Look east for views of Clingmans Dome. Next, follow the ridgeline southwest to Silers Bald Shelter.

CLG013

Location: 35.564158, -83.568342

Silers Bald Shelter: Spend the night at the shelter, or turn around and retrace the route back to the parking lot.

View from Clingmans Dome Road

Location: 35.556861, -83.496062

A misty view from the Clingmans Dome Road.

Lookout Tower

Location: 35.563425, -83.498336

Clingmans Dome Tower

Location: 35.56298, -83.498497

Double Spring Gap Shelter

Location: 35.565179, -83.542646