GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WKRN) – The most easily accessible trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is just a short walk and steep hike away from the parking lot, to the observation tower at Clingmans Dome.

The paved trail to the tower takes you up 330 feet. But there are benches along the steep pathway so you can stop and enjoy the view. And what a view it is. Once you reach the summit you will find yourself at the top of the Smokies. Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains, at 6,643 feet.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Clingmans Dome Facts:

It is the highest point in Tennessee and third highest mountain east of the Mississippi. Only Mt. Mitchell (6,684 feet) and Mt. Craig (6,647), both located in North Carolina, are higher.

View from the Top

The observation deck for Clingmans Dome was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1959. Because of the height of the dome, it’s common for the temperature to be 10-20 degrees cooler at the tower. On a clear day, you can see over 100 miles from the top.

Check out a few from the webcam at the top of Clingmans Dome.

Clingmans Dome Facts:

The Appalachian Trail crosses through Clingmans Dome, as well, making the region the highest point along the popular trail.

Myths & Legends of “Mulberry Place”

The Cherokee name for the region was Kuwa’hi, or “Mulberry Place”. According to legend, the area was home to the White Bear, a chief for all bears. Cherokee myth also claims the dome is home to Ataga’hi, an enchanted lake that could heal wounded bears. The lake would also restore the energy of geese and duck who would land there during migration. The Cherokee say that no one can see the lake, except for the occasional hunter that would fast properly, be in the right mental state, and travel on a particular day.

Clingmans Dome Facts:

The only trees that grow in Clingmans Dome are the Frazier Fir, the Red Spruce, and Mountain Ash.

The History of Clingmans Dome

Library of Congress

The namesake for the dome comes from Thomas Clingman, a former congressman, and Confederate Army colonel. Clingman had a debate going with Elisha Mitchell, a North Carolina professor, on where the highest peak in the Appalachians could be found. Clingman believed it to be the region known as the ‘Smoky Dome’, Mitchell argued it was the ‘Black Dome’.

Arnold Guyot, a geographer who worked on a comprehensive study of the Great Smoky Mountains, settled the argument with his research – Mitchell won by just over 40 feet.

Clingman was still honored with having ‘Smoky Dome’ named after him. ‘Black Dome’ was also renamed Mt. Mitchell in honor of Elisha Mitchell.

News 2 is taking a deep look in the Smokies with the digital exclusive series “The Great Smoky Mountains: The Good, The Bad, The Future”. Click here to see more.

Janet Ivey is a special correspondent for News 2 on this report. Learn more about her here.