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Joey Dawson
(inabag) - F

Locale: Northern VA
Clingman's Dome Loop - 3 Days on 01/24/2013 09:08:46 MST Print View

I need some guidance on a 3 day hike (most likely 2 long days, and 1 short day) that would include Clingman's Dome in GSMNP. I am not familiar with the area, aside from the AT going through it. Would love some recommendations on a loop. Ideally looking for 10-12 miles a day max.

Alex H
(abhitt) - MLife

Locale: southern appalachians or desert SW
Re: Clingman's Dome Loop - 3 Days on 01/24/2013 12:48:55 MST Print View

The problem with GSMNP is working with the campsites. You could park at Clingmans and drop down either Forney Creek or Forney Ridge (through Andrews Bald) and camp at #71 or #74 on the lake. Then go up Bear Creek trail to Welch ridge, taking the side trip to the old High Rocks fire tower for the view if it is clear then up Welch Ridge to Silers Bald shelter. Last day is short (like 5 miles) back to Clingmans. Total is around 30 miles.

Misfit Mystic
(cooldrip)

Locale: "Grand Canyon of the East"
RE: Clingmans Dome Loop on 01/24/2013 13:45:07 MST Print View

Hi Joey,

Lots of good options on both sides of the ridge. One thing to note: Hwy 441 through the park is closed due to a landslide on the NC side. May affect your plans as far as reaching a trailhead. Have a great trip!

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Clingmans on 01/24/2013 14:04:47 MST Print View

I did a trip like that within the past couple years. The NC side, including Forney Creek and Ridge are pretty nice. I goes down to nice little grassy bald, Andrews Bald. I think we came back up on Noland Divide trail. Its a pretty nice area with lots of easy access high country. Some of the sites need to be reserved so call in advance. I don't have my map with me now but I think most of that is correct. I can't really say why, but I usually prefer the NC side. The only downside of Clingmans Dome is the traffic going thru Gatlinburg on the weekends. Its horrible.

Edited by alexdrewreed on 01/24/2013 14:05:46 MST.

Steve Meier
(smeier) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
suggestion on 01/24/2013 16:48:02 MST Print View

Joey, I just did a 57 mile loop from Clingman's Dome in last September. It's a great area. You'll need to get to the dome from the TN side due to the landslide that was mentioned earlier.

You might want to look at departing the dome and heading west on the AT before going south on Hazel Creek Trail. Stay at campsite 82--that's about a 11 mile first day or so, most of it downhill. Head east onto Cold Spring Trail and then east on Bear Creek Trail, and finally north on Forney Creek Trail to site 71. That's about a 13.5 mile second day but tough to get around that. From site 71 back up Forney Creek to the dome is about a 9 mile last day, maybe shorter, but all up hill and a tough go. Call the backcountry office and they can get you more specific mileage.

By the way, a lot of water crossings that first day, like a dozen. And several on the last day.

Good luck!

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: WNC
Re: Clingman's Dome Loop - 3 Days on 01/24/2013 18:51:00 MST Print View

Plenty of better and less impacted options in the Pisgah if you're not firm on paying to camp in the Smokies.

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Re: Clingman's Dome Loop - 3 Days on 01/25/2013 06:32:48 MST Print View

Would it be easier for you to come in from the Tennessee side or the North Carolina side? Newfound Gap road is closed for the foreseeable future due to a landslide and the road going to Clingmans Dome is closed until April 1st.

Is there any reason you want to include Clingmans Dome? There are other places in the park that are better for backpackers (though this off season while the road is closed is a good time if you want to go).

Hightlights in the park are Gregory Bald, LeConte, Charlies Bunion, Mt Cammerer, Mt Sterling.

Joey Dawson
(inabag) - F

Locale: Northern VA
Clarification on 01/25/2013 08:02:14 MST Print View

Thanks for the replies so far!

I should have given more info.

1) We are going in May.
2) This is part of a longterm effort to see the high points in each state, so Clingman's is a must of the trip.

I like what I am seeing so far. I have found some trip reports on the web - but I just want to make sure we make the most of our three days.

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Re: Clingman's Dome Loop - 3 Days on 01/25/2013 13:22:14 MST Print View

Option 1 -

Starting and Ending at Elkmont on the Tennessee Side

Day 1: Beginning at Elkmont take the Little River Trail for 4.2 miles until you reach the junction with the Rough Creek Trail. Then follow the Rough Creek Trail for 2.8 miles until it terminates along the Sugarland Mountain trail, which you can follow up to the main ridge of the Smokies and stay at the newly remodeled Mount Collins Shelter. Total Miles 11.5

Day 2: From Mt Collins Shelter continue on the Sugarland Mountain Trail for half a Mile until it terminates into the Appalachian Trail. Head south on the AT and cross over the summit of Clingmans Dome in 3.5 miles. From the Summit of Clingmans Dome if you are feeling good take the side trip 3 miles round trip down the Forney Creek Trail to Andrews Bald, then continue on the AT for 1.9 miles until you reach the junction with the Goshen Prong Trail. Take the Goshen Prong Trail down for 4.4 miles until you reach campsite #23. Total Miles 13.3 (including 3 mile side trip)

Day 3: From Campsite 23 continue on the Goshen Prong Trail for 3.3 miles until you return to the Little River Trail, which you can follow for 3.4 miles back to your car. Total Miles 6.7


Option 2 -

Starting and Ending at Clingmans Dome Parking Lot

Day 1: From Clingmans Dome take the AT south for 3.8 miles until you reach the intersection with the Welch Ridge Trail. Follow the Welch Ridge Trail for 1.7 miles until you intersect the Hazel Creek Trail. Follow the Hazel Creek Trail for 7 miles until you reach Campsite #82. Total Miles 13

Day 2: From Campsite 82 Continue on the Hazel Creek Trail for about a mile until you intersect the Cold Spring Gap Trail. Follow the Cold Spring Gap Trail for 3.5 miles until you reach the intersection with the Bear Creek Trail. Don’t miss the side trail to High Rocks, the site of an old fire tower with great views and the remains of the old fire warden’s cabin. Take the Bear Creek Trail for 5.9 miles until it terminates on the Forney Creek Trail. Once on the Forney Creek Trail you will travel 2.4 miles and reach the junction with the Springhouse Branch Trail and Campsite #71. Total Miles 13.8

Day 3: From Campsite #71 take the Springhouse Branch Trail for 4.2 miles until it intersects the Forney Ridge Trail, which you follow for 4.5 miles, across Andrews Bald and back to the parking area at Clingmans Dome. Total Miles 8.7



Option 3 -

Starting and Ending at Deep Creek Ranger Station on the NC side

Day 1: From Deep Creek Ranger Station follow Deep Creek Trail for 9.6 miles until you reach Campsite #53 and the junction with the Fork Ridge Trail. Total Miles 9.6

Day 2: From Campsite #53 take the Fork Ridge Trail up to the main ridge of the Smokies, crossing Clingmans Dome Road to the AT. Take the AT south for 3.5 miles until you reach the summit of Clingmans Dome. Backtrack north on the AT or walk Clingmans Dome Road until you reach Noland Divide Trail (the trailhead is on Clingmans Dome Road and doesn’t technically intersect the AT, though there is a faint cut through) and follow the Noland Divide Trail for 3.7 miles until you reach the intersection with the Noland Creek Trail, which you will follow 1 mile to Campsite #61 Total Miles 11.3

Day 3. From Campsite #61, go back to the Noland Divide Trail and follow it 7.8 miles back to Deep Creek Ranger Station and your car. Total Miles 8.8

Disclaimer - I have not stayed at CS#53 or done the upper sections of the Noland Divide Trail or the Fork Ridge Trail.

Option 4 -

Starting at Ending at the Road to Nowhere on the NC side

Day 1: From the tunnel on the Road to Nowhere take the Lakeshore Trail for 1.9 miles until you reach the Whiteoak Branch Trail. Take the Whiteoak Branch Trail for 1.8 miles until you intersect the Forney Creek Trail. Take the Forney Creek Trail for 2.5 miles until you reach the intersection with the Jonas Creek Trail, which you follow for 4.1 miles up to the Welch Ridge, then take the Welch Ridge Trail for 2.4 miles until you reach the AT. Turn south on the AT and in a few tenths of a mile reach Silers Bald Shelter. Total Miles 12.7

Day 2: From Silers Bald Shelter take the AT north for 3.8 miles until you reach the summit of Clingmans Dome. From Clingmans Dome take the Forney Ridge Trail 5 miles, crossing Andrews Bald to the intersection with the Springhouse Branch Trail. Take the Springhouse Branch Trail 2.8 miles to the intersection with the Noland Creek Trail and Campsite #64. Total Miles 11.6

Day 3: From Campsite #64 take the Noland Creek Trail 4.1 miles to the Road to Nowhere and roadwalk about a mile to the parking lot at the tunnel where you left your car. Total Miles 5.1

Option 5 -

Starting at Fontana Dam and Ending at Clingmans Dome Parking Area. This does require a shuttle (call the Hike Inn) but does allow you to reach Clingmas as your goal at the very end of your hike.

Day 1: Beginging at Fontana Dam, take the AT north for 10.9 miles until you reach Mollies Ridge Shelter. Be sure to stop and check out Shuckstack Fire Tower along the way. Total Miles 10.9

Day 2: From Mollies Ridge continue north on the AT for 11.4 miles across Rocky Top, Thunderhead Mountain and Brier Ridge to Derrick Knob Shelter. Total Miles 11.4

Day 3: Continue north on the AT for 9.5 miles until you reach the summit of Clingmans Dome. From Clingmans Dome take the bypass trail for 0.5 miles to your car at Clingmans Dome Parking Area. Total miles 10