This post is part of a travel series of our vacation in the Smokey Mountains. To start at the beginning, go HERE! The rest of the posts in chronological order are HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE!
On Day Five, after visiting the Farm Museum and Mingus Mill we headed up to the highest point in the Smokey Mountains: Clingman's Dome. If you're planning a visit to the Smokies, be sure to check the weather before heading to Clingman's Dome as it can be drastically different "up there" than it is in Gatlinburg. We actually tried going up to Clingman's Dome the day before and we got caught in a horrific rain storm. There were so many clouds, we couldn't see more than four feet in front of our car. It was actually very scary, so we decided to turn around and try again the next day. But even turning around was terrifying because it's a mountain road, and very narrow, and we hoped and prayed a car wasn't coming back down the mountain as we were trying to turn around.
The next day however, was a beautiful, sunny day so we got a second chance to see the views!
Clingman's Dome is a beautiful structure located on top of the Smokies. At 6,643 feet it is the highest mountain in the park and one of the highest peaks in the eastern part of the United States.
There is a very large, spacious parking lot to Clingman's Dome but as a warning, get there early, because parking still fills up fast. When we got there, parking was just starting to fill, but by the time we were done the entire lot was filled and there were cars lined up down the mountain road for at least 1/2 mile.
You do not want to have to park on the road for the hike to the dome is challenging enough. When I was coming back down from the dome, I saw one young woman in her 20's who looked like she was about to pass out at the start of the trail. I was so perplexed how she could be so exhausted already at the start of the trail when she was so young. Then as we were leaving, and I saw all the cars lined up on the road to the parking lot, I realized she must have climbed a lot just to get to that point. Poor thing, because this was a tough trail. It's only 1/2 mile and completely paved, but boy, is it steep! Everyone, young and old, fit or not fit, seemed to be struggling. It made me wonder why they didn't put in some type of transportation to the dome, like a ski lift or something, then everyone could enjoy it!
The views along the trail were just beautiful. Actually, the views from the parking lot were incredible too! I don't even think the hike to Clingdom's Dome is worth the effort to be honest with you. You can see great views from the parking lot. Perhaps that's why they don't put in a ski lift. I'm sounding so lazy here aren't I? 😊 Truly, I love to hike, and we do go on a lot of challenging hikes, but for some reason, I didn't really enjoy this one. Maybe because it's not technically a "hiking trail", but just a steep, annoying, crowded path...with great views along the way and a lookout at the end.
I was relieved when we finally got there, and I was very impressed with the structure itself. I loved how it curved in a circle going up to the dome (as seen in the very first picture of this post).
You do get above the tree line if you go to the top of the dome, whereas if you don't make the hike and just choose to enjoy the parking lot views you are at tree level.
The next two pictures explain all you can see from the dome on a clear day and construction of the dome itself.
I must admit I was a bit nervous on the dome. I don't know why, it was very safe. I just feel a little on-edge when heights are involved. Perhaps that is why I didn't enjoy my hike up so much. The crowds didn't help, because I was worried someone would push me over the railing on accident or something. Stupid, I know. But when your afraid of heights those irrational fears manifest.
I was very relieved to get off the dome and head back down the mountain. We didn't spend much time at the top at all. I immediately felt myself relax as we headed back down, and I was finally able to just enjoy the views and the experience.
Like I said above, you don't have to climb to the top to enjoy the views. This beautiful spot was at parking lot level, so if you have a handicapped person in your party, or are very elderly, or have very small children, you can still go to Clingdom's Dome and walk around a bit and enjoy the views.
I think we enjoyed ourselves walking the perimeter of the parking lot more than we did at the top of the dome. There were less people, and we were able to take our time and get some great photos.
Hubby even found this amazing rock formation and decided to climb it. He is not afraid of heights at all!
And finally, here is a video of me walking up the Clingdom's Dome structure. You can sense in the video I'm not thrilled to be up there. Again, part of it was all the people up there that put me on edge. All the talking you hear in the video is not us, but all the people surrounding us. The video is worth a watch because you really get a sense of the scope of the structure and it's height that you can't get in just a photograph.
Have A Great Day! Amy
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