Clingmans DomeAt 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It's actually the highest point in Tennessee, and the second highest point east of the Mississippi River. Only North Carolina's Mt. Mitchell (6,684 feet) rises higher. Clingmans Dome is protected as part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A paved road connects it to U.S. Highway 441 (Newfound Gap Road). The 45-foot unique concrete observation tower was built in 1959 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It offers a panoramic view of the mountains - a favorite for photographers! Vistas from Clingmans Dome are spectacular year round. On clear, pollution-free days, views expand over 100 miles and into seven states. However, air pollution limits average viewing distances to 22 miles. It is a great place for sunrises and sunsets. Clingmans Dome is also an air quality monitoring station, operated by the Environmental Protection Agency, it is the second highest in eastern North America.The tower was one of nine observation towers constructed as part of the "Mission 66" program during 1955–1966; it was an effort by the National Park Service to upgrade its facilities to accommodate an influx of visitors to national parks during the post-World War II era. Designed by Hubert Bebb of the Gatlinburg-based architecture firm Bebb and Olson, the tower's modern design, especially the use of concrete as the primary building material, marked a departure from the rustic elements previously seen in park structures. Clingmans Dome at DuskThe Southern Appalachian spruce-fir forest which covers Clingmans Dome occurs only at the highest elevations in the southeastern United States, and has more in common with forests at northern latitudes than with the forests in the surrounding areas. The cool, wet conditions on Clingmans Dome's summit make it a coniferous rainforest. Unfortunately, pests, disease, and environmental degradation threaten the very fragile spruce-fir forest. Much of the die off has been caused by the non-native insect, balsam woolly adelgid. Dead trunks litter the area, and dying trees struggle to survive another year. Berries thrive in the open areas, and a young forest will replace the dying trees. Clingmans Dome Sunset Cloudy days, precipitation, and cold temperatures reveal the rapidly changing weather atop Clingmans Dome. Temperatures at the dome can be 10 -20 degrees (Fahrenheit) cooler than in the surrounding lowlands. Proper preparation is essential for a good visit! Weather conditions atop Clingmans Dome change quickly, so be aware! Snow can fall from anytime between September and May. Pets and bicycles are not permitted on the paved trail to the observation tower, or on any other trails in the area. A bike rack is located near the beginning of the paved trail to park bikes while walking to the top. You will need to bring a lock with you to secure your bike. Besides the trail to the summit, there are several trails that start on Clingmans Dome Road and the parking area. The Appalachian Trail (AT) crosses Clingmans Dome, marking the highest point along its journey from Georgia to Maine. The Appalachian Trail spans the entire range of the Appalachian Mountains, one of the most popular parts of the trail is in the Smoky Mountain region. Hikers will encounter graded switchbacks, steep climbs, undulating ridges or rocky scrambles. The path is often rugged and narrow. Many areas are very rocky. This section of the Trail is remote, with long, strenuous climbs. The high ridges along the North Carolina-Tennessee border are prone to winter weather. Check to see about Shelter Closures before hiking in the back-country. Pay close attention to bear activity warnings. Save