While there are dozens of amazing vistas to experience in the Smokies, we wanted to share two of the most popular spots and why you should reserve some time to ensure you don't miss what they have to offer. We'll tell you about the awesome grandeur you'll experience from the observation tower at Clingmans Dome, thousands of feet up in the clouds. Back down on earth, you can take a short but incredibly picturesque drive on the Roaring Fork Motor Trail. Both of these scenic adventures provide enough wow moments to make you want to come back again every year!
Clingmans Dome offers a double treat: The hike in to the observation tower provides numerous opportunities to stop along the way to photograph the awesome scenery. The half mile walk up to the tower can be a hard climb for many people (there are several rest spots along the way, and the trail is paved), but the walk is definitely worth it, as from the tower, on a clear day, you can see for at least 20 miles.
Start on your way to Clingmans Dome by taking the 7 mile Clingmans Dome road [directions are at the bottom of this page]. Look forward to ascending to the 6,643 feet height, which is the highest point in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Now that it's April the access road will be open so it's a great time to come to the observation tower and enjoy the sights as you gaze over the expanse of spring grandeur in the Smokies.
Since snow can occur at this elevation into May, it's a good idea to get a current weather forecast for the area before visiting Clingmans Dome. Visitors have reported that going up there early in the day is best, as it is less crowded and on a clear morning, the views are quite spectacular. As it can still be cool this time of year, you may wish to bring some warm clothing along.
What a treat, and a no-cost one at that! Come and surround yourself with natural wonders and literally walk among the clouds! A definite must-see for your Smokies vacation bucket list!
This 5.5 mile self-guided motor trail is one of the most popular places in the Smokies! Treat yourself to the spectacles around every bend! From the historic buildings that housed the first settlers to scenic overlooks, this is a must-see drive.
Take your time, but you can complete the drive in about a half an hour, if you prefer. This time of year is the perfect time to come because you'll notice all the newly blossomed flowers and bushes as you drive along.
Visitors like it because it's not far from Gatlinburg's downtown. You can go anytime you like; some people prefer early morning and others like the middle of the day or dusk. Park on some of the pull outs and walk to see natural beauty first-hand, or complete the entire drive from the car. Either way you'll be treated to quite a range of flora and fauna. Birds, bears, deer, they're all here, and many people have seen all of these, then hiked off Roaring Fork Motor Trail to Rainbow Falls, for an extra treat.
The road is a bit narrow in spots, but if you take your time you'll be glad, because there is a lot to enjoy; especially the vistas of the Smoky Mountains. Now is a great time to come, but note that this trail is closed in winter (from about December 1 - April 1). Call the Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau at 800-588-1817 to see if it's open before you drive over, if you come late fall to early spring.
Get more information about Roaring Fork, plus directions, from the National Park Service's website.