Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Clingmans Dome via Appalachian Trail

Ascend to the second highest point east of the Mississippi on this 8-mile point-to-point that begins at Newfound Gap and winds through misty coniferous forest.

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Although the Clingmans Dome observation tower can be reached via a ½-mile trail near the end of this hike, it’s more rewarding to stash a car by the tower and shuttle to Newfound Gap for an 8-mile dayhike along the Appalachian Trail. Shaded by young spruce-fir forest, this trail has a rain-forest feel on wet days.

Hike southwest up a ridgeline on the AT, cresting the broad, 6,1118-foot summit of Mount Collins, before climbing gradually to the base of the observation tower. On clear days, views stretch across 100-mile expanses to seven states from the top of 6,643-foot Clingmans Dome. However, it’s not uncommon to find the tower shrouded in a thick mist as well. For the best photo ops, time your arrival at the tower for sunset or sunrise.

-Mapped by Scott Sanders


>> Trails llustrated Clingmans Dome/Cataloochee/Great Smoky Mountains NP ($10,
>> View a map of the park at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park website.
>> Order the USGS topo quads listed above at
>> Order a custom map of this route at

GUIDEBOOK: Hiking Trails of the Smokies ($21, details all 150 maintained trails within the park.

PERMITS: Required when camping at a backcountry campsite or shelter (free, reserve up to one month before your trip and pick up in person). Backcountry reservation office: (865) 436-1231,

CONDITIONS: Check weather at Gatlinburg, TN (37738) Weather

SEASON: The park is open year-round, and our trail scouts have hiked this route in every season. Check for road, trail, and camping closures at Curious about fall foliage? Check

PARK INFO: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, (865) 436-1200;



Shell Super Mart
376 Parkway
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
(865) 430-2161

799 Tsali Blvd.
Cherokee, NC 28719
(828) 497-4539

Nantahala Outdoor Center
13077 Highway 19 W
Bryson City, NC 28713
(888) 905-7238

Blackrock Outdoor Co.
570 West Main St.
Sylva, NC
(828) 631-4453

Mast General Store
63 N. Main St.
Waynesville, NC 28786
(828) 452-2101

Smoky Mountain Outfitters
469 Brookside Village Way
Gatlinburg, TN
(865) 430-2267

Food City
1219 East Parkway
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
(865) 430-3116

Bearland General Store
305 Historic Nature Trail
Gatlinburg, TN
(865) 436-4565

Bradley’s Grocery‎
1699 Paint Town Rd.
Cherokee, NC 28719
(828) 497-9132

Smoky Mountain Brewery
1004 Parkway # 501
Gatlinburg, TN 37738

Best Italian Cafe & Pizzeria
968 Parkway # 9
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
(865) 430-4090 ‎

Granny’s Kitchen
1098 Paint Town Rd.
Cherokee, NC 28719
(828) 497-5010

Peter’s Pancakes and Waffles
1384 Tsali Blvd.
Cherokee, NC
(828) 497-5116


Trail Facts

  • Distance: 12.8



Location: 35.611259, -83.425293

Newfound Gap Trailhead: Follow the Appalachian Trail southwest for a ridgeline traverse. The trail gradually ascends the ridge through a spurce-fir forest on the northwest side of Clingmans Dome Road; cars can occasionally be heard close by.


Location: 35.609558, -83.446732

Continue straight @ 3-way junction past the trail intersection with Chimney Top.


Location: 35.590738, -83.474207

Go left @ T-junction to continue on the Appalachian Trail. To the right, a trail heads north for a short distance to the Mount Collins Shelter—a good stopping point for thru-hikers that want arrive at the observation tower at sunrise.


Location: 35.586418, -83.4727

Approach the broad, tree-covered summit of Mount Collins (6,118 ft.), one of the South Beyond 6,000 peaks; summit views are limited.


Location: 35.566724, -83.493605

Travel through lush landscapes resembling rain forest; you’ll pass a mix of young spruce-firs, dead and decaying trees, and moss and lichen that blanket the wet undergrowth.


Location: 35.562909, -83.498497

Hike past the base of the tower on Clingmans Dome. 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 54-foot tower. Next, continue straight and turn left @ the Y-junction ahead to descend towards the parking lot.


Location: 35.556848, -83.496249

Follow the wide, paved trail lined with benches for 0.5 mile from the observation tower to the parking lot.

Trail to Mount Collins Shelter

Location: 35.59079, -83.473992

Getting a late start on Clingmans? Hike into the Mount Collins Shelter for the night, then strap on some headlamps the next morning to check out the observation tower at sunrise.

The Smokies or the Amazon?

Location: 35.566759, -83.493369

Clingmans Dome Tower

Location: 35.563355, -83.498368

Clingmans Dome Tower

Location: 35.56298, -83.498497

Misty Views

Location: 35.556855, -83.496169

A misty view from the Clingmans Dome Road