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AT Clingmans Dome/Spence Field

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This section of the AT offers many views as well as a diverse geology
Near:Gatlinburg, TN
Distance:22.1 miles
Elevation Gain:4420 ft
Hike Time:11.5 hours
Trail Condition:OK, but a few difficult spots
HikeType:Point to Point

Summary: Your hike begins at the highest peak on the AT, Clingmans Dome at 6643' but don't think it's all down hill from here.Over the 16.4 mi we'll call it GaK (Gaps and Knobs) RollerCoaster, you'll encounter 7 gaps, 4 knobs and 3 mountains.Head up the paved trail to the overlook.Go south on the AT for 4.6 mi until you reach Silers Bald Shelter for a lunch break.There is a sign at Buckeye Gap stating 1.8mi to Derrick Knob but it's more like 2.8mi until you reach the shelter for Day 1 of 10.6mi.The next 6.2mi is the most remote section of the AT in the GSMNP.4.1mi you will reach Beechnut Gap the last of these and welcome sight of switchbacks that will help you climb Thunderhead Mtn.First peak is marked by a benchmark and a stack of stones elevate you for a view.Then down to the third peak so obviously named Rocky Top, great lunch spot.1.1mi you will enter Spence Field and intersect with Bote Mtn Trail then to Anthony Creek Trail to Cades Cove Ranger Station for 11.5 mi on Day 2
Trailhead:  Preferred route: I-40 (Knoxville) to 140 East to 129 South follow signs to 411N/321N then continue on 321N to 73 East and you will enter the GSMNP. 7 miles to the Cades Cove, leave one car at the ranger's station. After you sign in, drive back to Little River Road at the Townsend intersection. Follow this road to Newfound Gap Road/441 to Newfound Gap. Just past Newfound Gap turn right on Clingmans Dome Road.
****Optional 2nd night stay at Spence Field Shelter, 3rd day continue on the AT to Russell Field and connect to Russell Field Trail and to Anthony Creek Trail to Cades Cove Ranger Station.

*****Clingmans Dome Road closed Dec 1 to Mar 31***** (Lat:35.62273 Lon:-83.49969)

Trail Guides for AT Clingmans Dome/Spence Field:
Exploring the Appalachian Trail: Georgia North Carolina Tennessee (Exploring the Appalachian Trail)
by Doris Gove (Stackpole Books)

White Blaze Fever
by Bill Schutte (

Day & Overnight hikes in GSMNP
by Johhny Malloy (Menasha Ridge Press)

Best Seasons: Fall, Spring, Summer,
User Groups: Hikers,
Ranger Contact: 423-436-1231 Backcountry Office
Localhikes Reporter: This hike was submitted by Bobby Trotter, who has posted  74 other hikes on this site
Trail Reviews  Submit your own review
Reviewed by Andrea on 11/6/2010
AMAZING! My first "real" backpacking experience - my boyfriend and I just sold everything and are traveling the States in our car. We did a 22 mile hike and it was intense. Nothing to mess with, but an incredible experience. Check out my blog post here - lots of pictures :)

Reviewed by MC on 3/15/2009
Hey, planning my first backpacking trip. i'm 25 in good shape and absolutely love hiking and am considering this trek down and back up to clingman's dome, but the "gap" reference kind of intimidates me. what type of gap and will i need any climbing gear for this?

Reviewed by Lucinda on 3/21/2008
Bobby, Have you done a review for the hike to Spence Field via Lead Cove - Bote Mtn? I don't see a review for the route to SF. Could you please write one? I need it to show my family, whom I plan to take there this week. thanks, Lucinda

Reviewed by Stansberry on 9/7/2006
The ridge between Clingmans Dome and Thunderhead is very gnat-infested in late Spring and early Summer, so be sure to pack some Off. For those looking for a shorter dayhike, it's just 4.5 miles from Clingmans Dome to Silers Bald. A very short spur trail on the north side of Silers Bald's summit leads to a spectacular 180-degree view of the northwest section of the park, from Le Conte to Rich Mountain.

Reviewed by Brandon on 11/4/2004
I love hiking to spencefield anf then going to Rocky Top it is one of the most beautiful sites i have seen i would do that hike every day if i lived in Tennessee.

Notice: Traveling in the backcountry can be hazardous. You are responsible for informing yourself about these hazards and taking necessary precautions. Information on this web site comes from volunteer reporters and may contain errors or omissions. A current guidebook and proper equipment are essential for safe enjoyment of the hikes posted on this site.
Keys: Tennessee Hiking, Tennessee Trails, Tennessee Hikes, Sevier County Hiking, Sevier County Trails, Sevier County Hikes

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