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Clingman's Dome: An Uphill Battle

Bryson City, NC, United States
12 Kudos
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Following a playful morning in the creeks, we decided to check out the scenery of the Smoky Mountains National Park from a top view in Bryson City, NC. Before we visited this National Park, we started this trip by taking the bypass highway which has a less traveled route up to the mountain peak, stopped at the Sugarland Welcome Center where we parked and talked to the park rangers. We stopped at the Sugarland Visitors Center initially to use the restrooms, but also ended up walking on one trail while there. It was a busy place with many tourists also preparing for day hikes, climbing adventures and looking for camping locations. They offered kids programs and also ranger led hikes for those interested. This visitor center offers plenty of information and maps along with very clean restrooms, a snack machine and a place to sit outside to enjoy the views and breath in the fresh air that the mountains provide. It was well worth the stop! After we hopped back in the car, we then drove along windy, narrow roads that took us about an hour to travel. There are no guard rails so it's kind of scary. As soon as we arrived at the Dome I saw a trail, but did not realize how long or steep it was until we were at the starting point. There was plenty of parking, but this is a busy place! We even saw school buses loaded with kids in grade school. For me, it was an uphill battle trying to push a stroller up to Clingman's Dome. While the kids ran up the path, I ended up stopping along the way to lean against a sign post and catch my breath. We climbed up the observatory tower and saw amazing views of the forest and mountain caps. If you're ever in the Smoky Mountains, stop by and take a look. It's breathtaking and you won't regret the photo opportunities it provides!
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Points of interest

Gatlinburg Bypass
If traveling from around the Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg area, take this bypass to eliminate the traffic congestion. This is a less traveled route and you'll see more landscape with less cars flying by.
Fighting Creek Gap Road
This road is very windy but offers great views of the valley. Take your time while driving and enjoy the ride!
Sugarlands Visitor Center
Before going on this 45 minute drive, be sure to stop at this center, talk to the park employees and get a little history lesson. The staff are very knowledgeable and helpful and can tell you where to go if you just ask. While here, grab a map, get some snacks for the kids and go to the bathroom!
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
No matter where you are in this mountain range, you're bound to see wildlife whether bear, deer, caterpillars or birds. There are several hiking trails and look out points to pull over and take in the natural beauty and smells of the clean fresh air. Be sure to take your time and really explore the area. Also there are signs at all the picnic areas that remind you not to feed the bears. The ranger told us that when people do that, it encourages the bears to attack people because they feel threatened that they're going to take their food.
Clingmans Dome
The Clingmans Dome offers free parking. and is the highest peak in all of the Smoky Mountains. The paved path is 0.5 miles long and it's steep, so make sure you have some walking shoes on. It will take effort to hike up this trail. Once at the Dome, you'll take a flight of stairs to the top which offer breathtaking views and also guard rails to hang onto while walking around this concrete observatory deck. When at the top it can get windy and it will feel like you're swaying. Just hang onto the railing and you'll be fine. On nice days this tower can get crowded, so be patient to grab that great photo.
Forneys Creek
The observatory is located in North Carolina. If taking this route from Tennessee you do actually cross into a new state!

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