Clingman’s Dome Summit hike, in Great Smoky Mountain National Park, is totally kid-friendly and makes for a great family adventure with sweeping mountain views.
Of course, each family has its own unique needs. You know your family best and are ultimately responsible for discerning the safety and appropriateness of this hike. Please read our full disclaimer here.
Clingman’s Dome Summit Hike in The Smoky Mountains
The wonder starts as soon as you enter the parking lot. The views towards the front of the lot are completely stunning. Although if the mountains are particularly smoky that day, the view may not be completely clear. The walkway is nice and large to safely accommodate kids for a family photo; however, there is no guard rail to keep you from falling down the mountain, so you be sure to stay on the sidewalk.
As you exit the parking lot and approach the trailhead, you will pass several other hiking spots, including Andrew’s Bald. This is another kid-friendly hiking trail that you can visit on the same day if you have time. To the right, there is also a small store with park merchandise, drinks, and small snacks. When you have kids, it always seems like you are bound to forget something. This store might wind up being your saving grace because there is no convenience store in the middle of the forest.
Although there are no picnic tables, there are plenty of benches near the store where you can sit to eat your lunch. The day we went was pretty chilly, so we opted to eat ours in the car. There are several restrooms. Although they do not have running water, they are each equipped with hand sanitizer. At least it’s something!
As you begin the trail, everyone will be feeling pretty positive. The path is nice and wide. There is no chance of your children falling off the mountain. It is also paved, which eliminates the roots and rocks that so often lead to spills and falls. It all seems hunky-dory.
Related Read: 20 Best Family Hikes In The Smokies
Then, you start walking and you realize that your kids are leaving you in the dust and you just may die before you reach the top. The trail is extremely steep. You are literally walking straight up the mountain. Kids are built for tasks like this because they are generally fit and energetic. Adults, not so much. Even the fittest adult in our group was huffing and puffing by the time we got to the top. But, everyone made it. There were even many elderly folks up at the top. So, it can be done!
The good thing about this trail is that it is only 1/2 mile each way and there are rest benches every few yards. So your misery will be brief and your payoff will be big. We definitely took advantage of the rest benches. Every last one. Meanwhile, an ex-military vet with 1 prosthetic leg left us in the dust. But, who’s comparing?
Once you get to the top of the mountain, you then have to climb the tower. I honestly thought that the incline of the tower was a lot more manageable than the trail. The tower climb also has handrails, which is something the main trail lacks. At the top, the 360-degree views equal if not surpass the ones in the parking lot. In fact, descending hikers kept us motivated by cheerfully assuring us, “It’s totally worth it!” as we trudged our way to the summit.
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Please keep in mind that this section of the park is closed from December through March. This is due to the fact that snow and ice create walkways that are too dangerous for hikers to navigate. In fact, during our April hike, there was still ice and snow on the ground. The tower walkway was completely iced over in some spots, and we had to slide up and down using the handrail. Don’t worry. It sounds more intense than it actually was.
Throughout our whole adventure, Brian had our 6-month-old son in his carrier. He didn’t have any issues at all, even climbing the tower. We certainly were not the only people with a baby in a carrier.
Several people also had strollers; however, due to the incline of the trail, I do not recommend this in any way. It is hard enough to climb the mountain without pushing a heavy stroller. And, I don’t even want to think about what might happen if you accidentally tripped or somehow lost control of the stroller. As previously mentioned the trail is short and there are plenty of rest benches. If your kids are too large for a carrier, they should be fine to walk.
From my family to yours, we truly hope you enjoy your visit to Clingman’s Dome. May your memories made be plentiful and the inter-sibling arguments be few!
Please check out our other adventures in the Smoky Mountains.