Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

This is absolutely true: We go to Clingman’s Dome every year while we volunteer in Big Creek and we have had bad weather (poor visibility or pouring rain) every time. Today, we hit the jackpot.

The weather has turned just a bit cooler, in the 70s F today.  There was not a cloud in the sky-blue sky. While we were taking our romantic walk to the dumpster with our trash bag, I suggested that we drive to Clingman’s Dome.  The highest mountain in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The highest mountain in the eastern United States even. Great idea, the weather was perfect.

I called Ranger Heath and we met him at the park’s Sugarlands visitor center to deliver his Big Creek coffee mug.  I forgot to take a picture of him. He was not in uniform and I didn’t even recognize him until he was right in front of me.

We kept watching the sky for the monsoon rain clouds or a bank of fog to come rolling in.  None did. When we came out of the forest near the top of the mountain, it was not as clear as the low lands.  It was still gorgeous, though.  This was the view from our parking spot.

We took our long-sleeve shirts with us as it was 63 degrees up there.

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Here we are heading to the one-half-mile trail that leads to the observation tower.

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I noticed something bright red on some of the trees and went to investigate.

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They were big clusters of small red berries.  This calls for an internet search. The park website popped up with the answer:

American mountain ash (Sorbus americana) is a small tree that can be found at elevations above 5,000 feet in the park. It is especially abundant in areas such as Chinaman’s Dome and on Mount Le Conte. In September, the berries ripen to a vivid, eye-catching red. Bears and birds are fond of the fruit.

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Mountain Ash Berries

We headed up the trail.  It is paved all the way, which is a good idea with all those millions of feet tramping up there every year.

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This is the visitor center/bookstore/gift shop with a row of  Mountain Ash trees on the lawn.

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The trail is only about half a mile but, it is deceptively steep with a 330-foot gain in elevation. There are benches and rocks along the way where people were stopping to rest.  Andy and I were going so slowly that we were resting between steps.  It is prudent to pace yourself.

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I got a closer look at the Mountain Ash berries.

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There are mountain vistas all along the trail.

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It is a relief to come around the bend and see the observation tower.

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Then it was time to walk up the long spiral ramp to the top.

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There was a crowd up there.

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It was 360 degrees of mountain views. The dead trees are Fraser Firs.  The Balsam Wooly Adelgid was accidentally introduced here from Europe in the 1960s and has killed most of the mature firs in the park. I think that dark mountain in the background is Mount Le Conte, the second tallest mountain in the park, by a few feet.

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I could show you lots more mountain views from the observation tower but, honestly, they all look the same in the pictures. Here is a look down at the plaza. We saw a group of park rangers standing there. We recognized one as the Chief Ranger for the park.

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After admiring the view all around, for the first time ever, we headed back down the ramp.

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The views were a lot better walking back down the trail.  I wasn’t watching my feet as much.

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Andy did very well until near the end when his knees began to hurt. I could tell from his gait that his balance was suffering as a result.

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And, that was our walk to Clingman’s Dome.

 

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12 thoughts on “Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

    • Dinata Misovec September 29, 2016 / 10:33 am

      We especially enjoyed it since we have been there so many times only to see rain, clouds, or fog. It was glorious!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Mike September 29, 2016 / 1:15 pm

    I live in Charlotte, and have hiked most of the mountain trails, but have not yet been to Clingman’s Dome, though I’ve long meant to. Your post just bumped that trek to the top of the list!

    Like

    • Dinata Misovec October 9, 2016 / 7:55 pm

      Good. I hope you have better luck than we had and have a clear day the first time. Another camp host told me that fall in the best for clear days and good views. Have you been to Max Patch? You should go there too for 360 degrees of mountain tops fading into the distance. Of course, you need a clear day for that too.

      Like

  2. Deborah Whitaker September 30, 2016 / 11:52 am

    This is the perfect time of the year to visit Clingmans Dome, in the Fall it is sooo clear! It’s also nice to drive up there in an early snow, its like driving through heaven!

    Like

    • Dinata Misovec October 9, 2016 / 7:52 pm

      I don’t think I would have the nerve to drive up there with snow on the roads!

      Like

  3. Mary-The Boondocks Blog October 2, 2016 / 5:47 pm

    That is such an incredible place Dinata. So many trees, as far as the eye can see. It is easy to understand why you were awestruck. We also have many mountains here in Greece but they are surrounded by rocky mountains and not always so much green. I personally love the green of the forests and looking from the top to the green, just like a beautiful blanket.

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    • Dinata Misovec October 9, 2016 / 7:49 pm

      I love the trees and the green-ness too. The western US is very brown and I miss the green when we visit there. I’m glad you enjoyed it. You might also enjoy some of the green photos I took in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at http://bigcreekjournal.blogspot.com/. Look at the previous years. I recall that I labeled one photo, “Fifty Shades of Green”.

      Like

  4. Tails Around the Ranch October 7, 2016 / 1:42 am

    Lovely post with gorgeous photos. Thank you for swinging by the “Ranch” and for the follow. We 💗 visitors, especially those who travel to such terrific locales. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dinata Misovec October 9, 2016 / 7:44 pm

      My mother-in-law had a small poodle she took to the hospital and nursing/retirement home. It was wonderful to see how delighted the old people were to hold the dog on their lap. So, I look forward to more of your dog’s adventures.

      Liked by 1 person

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