Hi there!

 

So you’re staying in Gatlinburg and you’re thinking about going to Clingmans Dome!

 

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome observation tower hiking trail. smoky mountains travel blog

 

Well, of course you can drive directly to Clingmans Dome. But there are also a few things you might want to see along the way if you want to make time for it!

Driving to Clingmans Dome and back to Gatlinburg means that you will be driving the famous Newfound Gap Road aka US-441 in Great Smoky Mountains National Park!

 

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome drive. best stops along newfound gap road. best things to do in great smoky mountains national park for the views. smokies travel blog

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome drive. best stops along newfound gap road. best things to do in great smoky mountains national park for the views. smokies travel blog

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome drive. best stops along newfound gap road. best things to do in great smoky mountains national park for the views. smokies travel blog

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome drive. newfound gap road loop tunnel. best stops along newfound gap road. best things to do in great smoky mountains national park for the views. smokies travel blog

 

 

 

Below is a list of stops you can make along the way on your drive from Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome Road. This includes some quick stops at scenic overlooks and longer stops to do a hike.

Or, if you’re getting a late start to Clingmans Dome, then you can make some stops on the way back to Gatlinburg depending on how much time you have left in the day.

 

 

But first…

What’s there to do at Clingmans Dome?

Well, Clingmans Dome is really all about taking in the views!

There is a Clingmans Dome Trail, and this will take you to the highest point in the Smoky Mountains and the observation tower so that you can get grand views of the Smoky Mountains all around you. You can even see Gatlinburg off in the distance!

 

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome. see gatlinburg tn from clingmans dome observation tower. smoky mountains travel blog

 

But, you actually don’t even need to hike the trail to get grand views of the Smoky Mountains.

You can get amazing views from the end of Clingmans Dome Road at the Clingmans Dome parking lot, even before you get started on the trail.

These views are from slightly lower elevation but are still magnificent… if there’s good weather at Clingmans Dome!

 

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome road parking lot. best smoky mountains views. smokies travel blog

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome road parking lot. best smoky mountains views. smokies travel blog

 

Aside from this, you can also hike to Andrews Bald from the end of Clingmans Dome Road.

 

 

How long will it take to drive to Clingmans Dome?

If you were to drive direct from downtown Gatlinburg to the end of Clingmans Dome Road where the trail to the observation tower starts, then it will likely take around 1 hour with traffic… and even longer if you make stops! With no traffic, you may be able to drive there in 45 minutes.

For something easy to remember, you can make the “Clingmans Dome Visitor Center” your destination for google maps. The final road to get to the Clingmans Dome parking lot is a seasonal road (Clingmans Dome Road). So if you’re looking at driving directions on google maps in the winter and it’s telling you there are no driving directions to get there, that could be why.

 

 

⛰🐻

 

 

 

Now…

What’s on the way when you’re driving from Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome Road?!

Or on the way back!

This will go in the order you can make the stops if you are driving from Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome. The first few things on this list, starting with before you reach Newfound Gap Road, are things that are close to Gatlinburg. So if there’s a lot you want to do, you might want to save some of these for another day, too!

 

 

1. Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome drive. near roaring fork motor nature trail. smoky mountains travel blog

 

As you start driving from Gatlinburg town and heading towards Newfound Gap Road, you will pass the turnoff for the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.

This is a scenic road where you can simply drive the loop road to make it a quicker drive, or you could easily spend half a day or more in the area too.

Roaring Fork is a one way road that has waterfalls, historic cabins, and a historic mill to explore.

 

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome drive. near roaring fork motor nature trail. smoky mountains travel blog

 

It would be reasonable to make it a day of something like Clingmans Dome in the morning and the Roaring Fork loop road in the afternoon.

Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail: See more to decide if you want to do this drive on the same day as your Newfound Gap Road drive

 

 

2. Cataract Falls

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome drive. near cataract falls. smoky mountains travel blog

 

This can be a relatively quick stop of around 15-20 minutes. It’s located near the Sugarlands Visitor Center. There is a nature trail that starts from behind the visitor center. If you want to make it a quicker stop, then you can park closer. There’s a small little parking area right near the Cove Mountain trailhead

 

 

3. Sugarlands Visitor Center

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome drive. near sugarlands visitor center. smoky mountains travel blog

 

You’ll be driving right past the visitor center. If you want to pick up some self-guided tour books (remember bring cash) then this would be a convenient stop.

 

And when you are driving near the Sugarlands Visitor Center, you will follow the sign to Clingmans Dome to continue on US-441 and to end up on Newfound Gap Road.

 

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome drive. directions to newfound gap road. smoky mountains travel blog

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome drive. directions to newfound gap road. smoky mountains travel blog

 

 

4. Carlos Campbell overlook

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome drive. near carlos cambell overlook, newfound gap road. smoky mountains travel blog

 

The first scenic overlook you’ll come across on Newfound Gap Road when driving from Gatlinburg will be the Carlos Campbell overlook. You’ll start to see it off in the distance a little as you’re driving, and then you’ll come to the small parking area.

 

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome drive. near carlos cambell overlook, newfound gap road. smoky mountains travel blog

 

 

5. Chimneys picnic area

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome drive. near chimneys picnic area rocks, boulders, river, stream, newfound gap road. smoky mountains travel blog

 

Pack along a picnic lunch for your day trip from Gatlinburg and you can spend an hour or 2 resting (and eating!) at the Chimneys Picnic area.

Aside from having a ton of picnic tables around, including tables that overlook the creek, this is a good spot to get up close and personal with the creek here and climb over the big rocks (carefully!) for a nice photo opp too!

 

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome drive. near chimneys picnic area, newfound gap road. smoky mountains travel blog

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome drive. near chimneys picnic area rocks, boulders, river, stream, newfound gap road. smoky mountains travel blog

 

 

6. Chimney Tops overlook

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome drive. near chimney tops overlook roadside stop, newfound gap road. smoky mountains travel blog

 

This can be another quick roadside stop that comes mountain views. You’ll see the parking area as you are driving along.

 

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome drive. near chimney tops overlook roadside stop, newfound gap road. smoky mountains travel blog

 

 

7. Chimney Tops overlook trail

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome drive. near chimney tops overlook trail hike, newfound gap road. smoky mountains travel blog

 

If you’re looking for a day hike on your way back from Clingmans Dome, a hike to another Chimney Tops overlook is one of your choices!

You’ll likely want to allow around 2 hours to complete this hike. Be prepared to hike UP! Especially towards the end, you’ll be climbing stairs and going up what will feel like a massive uphill. A good reason to pack hiking poles for your Smoky Mountains trip!

You can bring a light picnic lunch on this hike and enjoy the views at the top as you rest. There’s a small area you can sit on the ground at the overlook area.

Because of a fire a few years ago, you can’t hike as far as you used to be able to. And so, you’ll be hiking to just an overlook and not all the way to the actual “chimney.”

 

 

8. Alum Cave Trail

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome drive. near alum cave trail hike, newfound gap road. smoky mountains travel blog

 

This is another hike you can do on your way back to Gatlinburg after your trip to Clingmans Dome. 

You have a few options on how to do this, depending on your preference for what you want to see and how long you want to hike for. 

You can hike to Arch Rock, the Alum Cave Bluffs, or the Mt LeConte summit. The further you want to go, the earlier you’re better off starting your day! 

 

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome drive. near alum cave trail hike to arch rock, newfound gap road. smoky mountains travel blog
👆 Read about hiking to Arch Rock.

 

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome drive. near alum cave trail hike to alum cave bluffs, newfound gap road. smoky mountains travel blog
👆 Read about hiking to Alum Cave bluffs.

 

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome drive. near alum cave trail hike to mt leconte summit, newfound gap road. smoky mountains travel blog

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome drive. near alum cave trail hike to mt leconte summit, newfound gap road. smoky mountains travel blog
👆 Hiking to Mt LeConte summit.

 

Hiking poles will also be helpful on this hiking trail no matter what your final destination is. You are hiking up the mountain.

 

 

9. Morton overlook

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome drive. morton overlook, newfound gap road. smoky mountains travel blog

 

This is another roadside stop that you’ll come across as you’re driving. More mountain views in the Smoky Mountains. You can read about Mr. Morton while you’re here.

 

 

10. Newfound gap overlook

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome drive. newfound gap overlook. smoky mountains travel blog

 

The most popular spot that’s located right along Newfound Gap Road! You will come across this as you’re driving. There’s a pretty big parking lot here, but it can still get pretty full. Be sure to have a look on both sides for different views of the Smoky Mountains!

 

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome drive. newfound gap overlook. smoky mountains travel blog

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome drive. newfound gap overlook. smoky mountains travel blog

 

Notably, this is also where you can find a sign of the Tennessee – North Carolina border.

 

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome drive. newfound gap overlook. north carolina tennessee border in great smoky mountains national park. smoky mountains travel blog

 

The other notable thing about the Newfound Gap parking lot is that this is one spot where you can find access to the Appalachian Trail. 

So if you want to be able to say that you’ve hiking a small part of the nearly 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail, well you can do that at Newfound Gap!

 

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome drive. appalachian trail hiking, newfound gap road. smoky mountains travel blog

 

And if you want to keep hiking, you can make it a day hike to Charlie’s Bunion. You’ll likely want to give yourself 4-5 hours for this 8 mile round trip hike.

 

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome drive. near appalachian trail to charlies bunion hike, newfound gap road. smoky mountains travel blog

 

 

And then you’ll keep driving just a little further past the Newfound Gap parking lot…

And you’ll see the sign to make the turn onto Clingmans Dome Road! It will be a final 7 mile drive UP the mountain.

 

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome Road drive. smoky mountains travel blog

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome Road drive. smoky mountains travel blog

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome Road drive. smoky mountains travel blog

 

And then you’ve made it to the Clingmans Dome parking lot!!

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome road parking lot. smoky mountains travel blog

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome road parking lot. smoky mountains travel blog

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome road parking lot. best smoky mountains views. smokies travel blog

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome road parking lot. best smoky mountains views. smokies travel blog

 

Be sure to see more about hiking to the Clingmans Dome observation tower!

 

And that’s a bit of how you can spend your time along Newfound Gap Road!

 

Are you heading to Cades Cove too?! Also see what’s on the drive from Gatlinburg to Cades Cove!

Also see the best waterfall hikes to add to your Smoky Mountains vacation!

 

HAPPY DRIVING NEWFOUND GAP ROAD!

 

Gatlinburg to Clingmans Dome drive. best stops along newfound gap road. best things to do in great smoky mountains national park for the views. smokies travel blog

 

 

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Best shoes for hiking in the Smoky Mountains

You will want good shoes for hiking in the Smoky Mountains.

In general, the best shoes for hiking in the Smoky Mountains will be hiking boots (more ideal) or trail running shoes (more versatile for everyday activities compared to hiking boots but still will give you advantages compared to regular shoes).

I liked wearing my hiking boots for the thicker soles (good on rocky trails) and the waterproof (water resistant) nature of them.

They were especially helpful on rainy day hikes to keep my shoes (and socks!) dry! They are also better to be walking on mud compared to regular shoes.

On rougher terrain (like the trails that are a bit rougher with more rocks), hiking boots are more ideal so you won't feel it on the bottoms of your feet as much.

If you want shoes that can work out better as everyday "out and about" kind of shoes, then you might like trail running shoes better! Trail running shoes are a little more durable than regular shoes, so they can also work out as good hiking shoes. Trail running shoes are a bit lighter weight and less bulky compared to hiking boots.

Shoe fit is very important for your feet! Be sure to break in your new shoes by walking around the neighborhood and/or at the grocery store before you go on your "big hike" in the Smoky Mountains!

Shop for hiking boots: Merrell is popular and known as a good quality outdoor shoe brand for hiking

Shop for trail running shoes: Salomon is popular and known as a good quality outdoor shoe brand for trail running