Friday, November 30, 2012
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At 5,046 feet, Newfound Gap may be the lowest drivable pass through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but it’s still high on our list of favorite places to visit. Every season offers awe-inspiring views from this spot, but winter features a faraway feeling that makes you appreciate every sight and sound.
If you’re adventurous, the hiking can be unparalleled in this area during winter. If you’re more interested in staying warm, you can still enjoy the sights with a scenic drive along Newfound Gap Road, where multiple pulloffs offer great views of the valley and Little River below — always within reach of the warm car.
From December 1 through March 31, Clingman’s Dome Road is closed to vehicles, making it a perfect paved hike to reach the summit 7 miles ahead.
At 6,643 feet, Clingman’s Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the third highest mountain east of the Mississippi. The observation tower on the summit of Clingman’s Dome offers spectacular 360-degree views.
But be prepared, with the gain in elevation there will be a noticeable drop in temperatures, often as much as 20 degrees cooler than the lower areas of Newfound Gap.
In December, snowfall is always possible and temperatures can vary greatly with elevation. Average high temperatures for December in nearby Gatlinburg are a balmy 52° compared to the average high of 37° on Clingman's Dome, where the average snowfall is 8 inches.
Charlies Bunion off AT
Andrews Bald off Forney Ridge Trail
Webb Overlook off Newfound Gap Road
Oconaluftee Valley Overlook off Newfound Gap Road
As if the Appalachian Trail bisecting the state line between Tennessee and North Carolina is not enough, there are multiple hiking trails that spur off Newfound Gap Road and Clingmans Dome Road, offering everything from short to moderate to extreme excursions.
» Forney Ridge Trail
» Huskey Gap Trail
» Sweat Heifer Creek Trail
» Chimney Tops Trail
» Alum Cave Trail