Clingman’s Dome, TN
November 28, 2019
Some holidays are best spent on the road. For Thanksgiving 2019, I opted to summit Clingman’s Dome in Tennessee with my good highpointing friend Jake. After a few days in Nashville and Bryson City, we headed to the Deep Creek campground in Great Smoky Mountain National Park to kick off our journey.
November is a great time to backpack through GSMNP, so long as you can prepare for the cold and handle a small chance of snow.
The Deep Creek Trail, where we started, provided a gentle start to our trip. The route meanders alongside rippling creeks, through rhododendron groves, and over countless water crossings – decent hiking poles are a must.
Making camp at site 53 along the creek, we fired up our winter stoves for dinner and tea.
After supper we were lucky to find enough downed wood for a campfire, which we shared with a family of four who also chose to take their holiday on the trail. Once the fire died down, the cloudy skies relented enough for us to snap a few clear shots.
The next morning after a quick breakfast, we made it across Deep Creek and headed north along the Fork Ridge trail for our 3000 foot climb to the top.
Tired from the climb and eager to have the best holiday dinner possible on the trail, we opted to head to the shelter early to provide ample time to forage for firewood.
The Mt. Collins Shelter – right along the Appalachian Trail – is a large shelter with a built-in fireplace and ample space for guests. We were joined for Thanksgiving dinner by a wonderful family with two boys in Scouting, who all sat with us and chatted by the fire for hours.
Up the next morning, we prepared a warm breakfast, hot coffee, and took a relaxing start to our day.
From the shelter, the Appalachian Trail leads directly to Clingman’s Dome through a cool and foggy pine forest. Naturally below the treeline, the highpoint is marked with a large viewing platform and was surprisingly crowded with park tourists by the time we arrived. After a quick photo, we set off down the mountain back towards Bryson City, eager for some relaxation at the pub.