There's a 54-ft. concrete observation tower at the top, like something from a fantasy realm, and it sits as high up on the top of that mountain as they could have put it. It feels like another world, up there.
Depending on the weather, it's either in the clouds or stands like a solitary beacon in the sky. The best way to view it, if you are not a child, is to try and imagine it through a child's eyes. In every direction it must feel as if you must be able to see the entire world. How could there be more to it?
Clingmans Dome's official height above sea level is 6,643' and it lies, as many of the Southern Appalachian's highest peaks do – right on the Tennessee-North Carolina border. It is indisputably the highest point in the state of Tennessee as well as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which means that on a clear day, the observation tower offers a view of more than 100 miles of pure mountain range and valley.
The half-mile path to the summit is, without a doubt, quite strenuous but doable for most people. The trail is paved the entire way, and lined with benches.
Just take your time.
The reward at the top is unquestionably worth it for every person I ever saw straining up the path. Suddenly, the difficulty to reach the summit evaporates.
Now, 2016 is a potentially big year in the life of Clingmans Dome. Thanks to Partners in Preservation, a fund created by American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, you have the chance to make sure that the timeless beauty of Clingmans Dome is accessible to future generations. By visiting VoteYourPark.org every day between now and July 5 (yes, you can vote once a day, every day) and voting for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you can ensure that a $250,000 grant will be awarded to the restoration of the observation tower.
For those who have yet to visit this unforgettable place, to reach Clingmans Dome, take US-441 out of Gatlinburg, Tennessee and drive until you've come to the Tennessee-North Carolina border at Newfound Gap, which is clearly marked and easy to find. From there, take the Clingmans Dome Road until you reach the parking area. The path to the observation tower is at the far end of the lot.
Note: Safety and preparedness are imperative to enjoying all of America's National Parks. Therefore, always be sure that you wear shoes appropriate to the journey at hand. Also, although the path up is short, visitors would be wise to bring water, especially on a hot day. Finally, those with asthma should remember to bring their inhalers.