Highest Point in Tennessee

Elevation: 6,643 feet
Location: Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Visited: November 2021

Clingmans Dome is the highest mountain in the Smokies and is at the highest point in all of Tennessee. You can drive most of the way up to the summit and from the parking lot there’s a short, but steep path up to an observation tower that provides a 360-degree view of the surrounding area.

We planned to spend the day in the Great Smoky Mountains, so naturally we had to visit the highest peak in the park, especially since it doesn’t require much effort to reach. It also seemed like it was meant to be as we were visiting late in November and the road leading up to Clingmans Dome typically closes from early December through late March due to the weather. Once we made it to the parking lot, we could see why as the conditions were quite harsh.

From the parking lot there’s a short path that’s paved and leads to an observation tower on the summit. The trail is 800 metres (or half a mile) in distance, but is pretty steep. The sign at the trailhead indicated that clouds sometimes shroud the tower and rain is frequent. So we were lucky to have such bright blue skies, especially since earlier in the morning it was overcast.

We huffed and puffed our way up the mountain, stopping to take plenty of pictures along the way of the snowy landscape. It was windy and the temperature was significantly colder than at the base of the mountains.

Along the hike to the summit, we noticed a few dead trees along the trail. These are Fraser firs, which only grow at higher elevation levels in the Smokies. Since the 1960s, the balsam woolly adelgid, a non-native insect, was accidentally introduced from Europe and has since killed over 70% of the park’s mature firs.

Near the summit, the path branches off for the larger Appalachian Trail. But we were on a mission so we kept to the main trail.

Once we reached the base of the observation tower, the crowds had thinned. The path to the top was quite icy and for many people, this was as high as they went. But we kept going. Oh wow could we really feel the wind from above the treetops. The nice thing about the harsh conditions was that most people didn’t stay long at the top of the tower, which meant there was hardly anyone else up there.

The landscape looked beautiful with all the snow encrusted spruces and firs. From the top of the tower we enjoyed the panoramic views of the mountains. The misty blue-gray clouds for which these mountains were named, occur naturally as a result of great quantities of evaporating moisture. Unfortunately, there’s also a whitish haze that limits the views due to air pollution. Either way, the views were outstanding, especially with such clear skies.

There were a few interpretive panels at the top of the observation tower, but they were all covered in ice and impossible to read. I took as many pictures as I could before I couldn’t feel my fingers. It was time to turn around.

We walked back the way we came and stopped to take a few more pictures from the parking lot of the surrounding landscape and mountains. We were eager to get back in the car to blast the heat.


72 thoughts on “Highest Point in Tennessee

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I know, just looking at all that snow and ice reminds me of how long winter seemed to linger this year. Thankfully spring is in full force now and we don’t have to worry about the snow for another 6-7 months!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I’m glad we had such clear blue skies to enjoy the views, but it was awfully cold from on top of the observation tower. I took as many pictures as I could before my fingers felt numb and than gave my camera to my husband to do the same.

  1. kagould17 says:

    Absolutely gorgeous and worth all the effort to get there. So nice to have such a gorgeous sunny day and blue sky. Thanks for taking us there Linda. Allan

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The scenery looked stunning with all the snow encrusted trees. I loved how the sun made everything look so sparkly. I really need to get better mittens that allow me to still take pictures without having to take them off. Thanks for reading. Hope all is well. Linda

  2. wetanddustyroads says:

    I always had this tiny thought … one day my husband and I should walk part of the Appalachian Trail … but I think time is running out for that wish! Wow, what a beautiful walk you had here – the views are stunning … some of your pictures almost have the look of a Christmas card!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      That sounds like it would be quite the adventure! I’ve done a few day hikes along the Appalachian Trail and thought it was challenging with just a day pack! The views from Clingmans Dome were gorgeous, especially with those blue skies. It sure made braving the cold and wind worth it.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      In some ways I’m glad the trail was steep as the hike to the top of the observation tower helped keep us warm. The landscape looked incredible with all that frosty snow encrusted to the trees. It was tough to take my mittens off to snap a few pictures, but I’m sure glad that I did. No regrets.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. Despite the cold, we were lucky and had bright blue skies and fabulous views of the surrounding mountains. If anything, the climb up helped keep us warm. It was definitely worth it to take my mittens off to capture a few pictures of the snowy scenery.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The views were amazing. Even though my fingers were freezing, I couldn’t help but take as many pictures as I could. In some ways it was nice that it was so chilly as it helped keep the crowds away from the top of the observation tower. The cold is no match for us Canadians!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. I’m glad we had such brilliant blue skies and sun as it made all the frosty snow sparkle and shine. The scenery was simply stunning. Hope you had a wonderful weekend as well. Take care. Linda

  3. Book Club Mom says:

    I really enjoyed these pictures. One of my kids is headed to Tennessee for a hike this month. Now that I know a little more from your post, I’ll have to ask where exactly they are going. It sure looked like a cold day when you went!

  4. Dee Min says:

    Huffed and puffed eh!! For those views I bet each huff and puff was worth it. Smoky Mountains—that’s definitely a feat!!! Loved the vicarious journey. Thanks Linda

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Happy belated birthday!! If you remember visiting Clingmans Dome when you were only 11 than it must have been something special even then. This was my favourite viewpoint in the Smokies and I’m glad we had such clear skies. Despite the cold, the landscape looked stunning with all that frosty snow.

  5. Ab says:

    The snow capped landscape simply looks otherworldly on a clear blue sky day! The Clingmans Dome walkway is also quite charming and very sci-fi like. What a nice brisk day the two of you must’ve enjoyed together! 😊

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The cold was good motivation to walk fast. The landscape looked stunning with all the encrusted snow on the trees and I loved how the sun made it all sparkle and shine. The views were just outstanding and worth taking my mittens off for a few pictures.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The landscape looked gorgeous with those bright blue skies and all the frosty snow covering the trees. It was totally worth it to take my mittens off a few times to snap some pictures.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. Even though it was freezing cold in the wind, the snowy landscape looked spectacular. I’m glad we had such brilliant blue skies to enjoy the views.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The scenery was spectacular. Even though it was super freezing from the top of the highest point in Tennessee, at least we had such lovely views to keep us distracted from the cold (plus us Canadians came prepared). On the plus side, I’m sure the cold helped keep the crowds away.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words and for commenting. The landscape looked breathtaking with all that frosty snow covering the trees. It was freezing outside, but I have no regrets about taking my mittens off to snap a few pictures.

  6. ourcrossings says:

    Wow, such an incredible place, Linda. From what I can see, Tennessee has no shortage of tall and beautiful mountain peaks! I love those ice and snow-covered trees as they look strikingly beautiful against the deep blue sky. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Even though it was super duper cold and windy at the top of the highest point in Tennessee, it was so worth it to take my mittens off momentarily to capture a few pictures. Once my fingers felt too numb to move, my husband took over to take a few more pictures. Thanks for reading. Take care. Linda

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was very chilly on Clingmans Dome, but the scenery was spectacular. It was hard to keep my hands warm because all I wanted to do was take pictures of the snowy landscape. I’m glad we could warm-up afterwards in the car.

  7. BrittnyLee says:

    Snowy and beautiful ❤️❤️ wow. That looks it was quite the excursion. You are brave hiking this when it’s that cold. I have done that during the winter at Ricketts Glen State Park. It was freezing but the snow and ice made it worth it. It was so stunning. It stopped us in our tracks. These photos must’ve made the cold worth the trek. Beautiful job, Linda 🙂

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! The views from the top of Clingmans Dome were outstanding with all the frosty snow. It was real tough to take pictures in the cold, but as you said, it was worth it. When my fingers felt numb, I then gave my phone to my husband for him to take even more pictures. I have no regrets.

      • BrittnyLee says:

        Haha 🤣 no regrets ! Yolo!!!! I love that attitude. Yeah, the cold makes it tough, too since electronics decide to die in the cold 🥶❄️

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        I know! It’s crazy how quickly batteries can drain in the cold. I typically try to keep my phone in an inside pocket during the winter, which makes it very awkward to get out to take a picture. It makes you think twice about whether something is actually worth taking a picture of!

      • BrittnyLee says:

        It definitely does
        ! I try to do the same thing !! At least it’s warm in a pocket haha. Unfortunately, my Nikon can’t fit in my pocket haha . Matt bought hand warmers so maybe they’ll help this winter haha 🤣

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I would love to return to the Great Smoky Mountains. There’s so many trails we would have loved to hike, but couldn’t because of the crowds and not having enough time. When we do return, we’ll have to visit on a weekday. I bet the forest looks so colourful in the fall when all the leaves are changing.

      • Oh, the Places We See says:

        The Smokies are beautiful any time of the year, but since we live here, we try to only go on weekdays — preferably early morning. The traffic, especially in and around Gatlinburg — is horrendous! But the Smokies themselves are worth the drive, for sure!

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