How are you guys doing today? I am not gonna lie. I am really wishing I could be back in the Smoky Mountains right about now especially after looking at these pictures. I miss all of the beautiful views and opportunities to hike along some very pretty trails!
The first thing to mention would be that if you are going to be doing a lot of hiking, or any amount really: get a pair of hiking boots. It will be so much better than tennis shoes. Or flip flops. Yes! I did see people hiking in flip flops and sandals….
There are so many different trails to hike that it is almost impossible to choose which one to do first. I definitely didn’t get to do as much hiking as I wanted to. This is because 1) I am not in good enough shape to do some of them and 2) I went with 8 other people, so it wasn’t just me making the decisions. Plus, there is a lot of shopping to be done in Gatlinburg 😉
1/2 mile for the paved trail (one way) or about 1.5 miles for Forney Ridge Trail (one way; 2 or 3 miles round trip depending on how you come down)
Elevation: 6,643 ft ; 332 ft from the parking lot
Clingman’s Dome was the first hike of the week (and it was on my birthday!). It is one of the shortest hikes in the National Forest (only half of a mile and paved) although it is rather steep and crowded with tourists who all wish to see the beauty at the top. Clingman’s Dome is so popular because it is the tallest point in the Smoky Mountains National Park. I highly recommend that you bring a jacket and/or rain gear (a rain jacket or poncho) because it is cold and can be rainy at the top of the peak. I neglected to bring either of these things and was chilly at the top and wet when I reached the bottom because of the rain. Lucky for me one of my travel companions had an extra poncho that I could borrow until I could get one of my own.
**Note: have rain gear for everything you do in the Smoky Mountains because there is always a chance of rain!
When hiking to the top, you have two options. One shorter but steeper (and paved), the other longer but a lot less crowded (and kind of rocky). I walked the latter on the way to the top and the former on the way down. This was a very efficient way to do it. On the way up you have less of an incline and a more beautiful scenery with fewer people, and on the way down, you will get to the bottom a lot quicker and you have already seen the other path. Both paths are easily accessible from the Clingman’s Dome Parking lot.
The paved path is easy to spot ( it’s the one every one else is using) and continues in a pretty steep incline. The second path is called the Forney Ridge Trail and is a little less obvious. It can be found just to the left of the paved path right where it starts. There is a small wooden sign at the trails entrance. If you are having trouble finding it, there was a park ranger standing at the beginning of the path to Clingman’s Dome. They should be able to point you in the right direction. Once on this trail, you just follow it until you come to a split. Going to the left will take you to Andrew’s Bald and going to the right will take you in the direction of the Appalachian Trail. You want to go to the right in order to get to Clingman’s Dome. After this you keep walking until you come to another wooden trail sign where the path goes in two different directions again. You want to follow the signs towards Clingman’s Dome. If you’re staring at the sign, the path to Clingman’s Dome should be over your left shoulder. This spot has a very beautiful overlook opposite the wooden sign. It is definitely worth stopping to look! The Forney Ridge Trail should take you right to the base of Clingman’s Dome. I much preferred the Forney Ridge Trail and definitely recommend you take this way on the way to the top. Just be careful and watch where you step especially if it is wet.
This is what you will be walking on if you chooses to take the Forney Ridge Trail to Clingman’s Dome:
When I reached the top, clouds were rolling in, and it was so beautiful!! What’s amazing is you are so high up that you get to stand right in a cloud. So when you get to the top, you’ll have an option of two views: white (all encased in clouds) or the view below. If you wait long enough, the clouds will roll out and you’ll get the gorgeous view. The view is worth the effort to get to the top. I mean, just look at it:
3.6 miles round trip (1.8 one way)
Elevation: 5,906 ft; about 900 ft elevation gain from parking lot to Andrew’s Bald
I did Andrew’s Bald the same day as Clingman’s Dome since both start at the same point.I hiked Clingman’s Dome, ate lunch (in the rain no less!), and then hiked to Andrew’s Bald and back. In order to get to Andrew’s Bald, you must take the Forney Ridge Trail which is the same one you would have taken if you chose the less populated trail when hiking to Clingman’s Dome. Instead of turning right at the split in the path, y0u must follow the sign to the left towards Andrew’s Bald. This trail goes up and down a little, but is so pretty at the end (and along the way). I almost felt like either an Ent was going to walk through my path or four Hobbits with a golden ring would be trotting right pass me. It was all like something out of a movie- so pretty it doesn’t feel real!!
I recommend bringing a blanket or something to sit on for when you reach Andrew’s Bald. It is definitely a perfect place to relax before your trip back to the parking lot. If you get there early enough you could pack some food and have a little picnic! Getting to soak up all of the beauty is just so amazing. Absolutely stunning!
I hope this helps when you go to hike in the Smoky Mountains. Look out for part 2! We’ll talk about Laurel Falls and Chimney Tops!
If you try any of these hikes (or already have), I’d love to hear from you!
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