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There's plenty to see and do in the Great Smokies. Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the park at 6,643 feet, is actually in Tennessee, and is in fact the Volunteer State's highest point.
Of course, at the highest peak you want to get yet higher. The Clingman's Dome observation tower looks like a flying saucer. On a nice day in early August 2008 while visiting with my brother Tim and his wife, Tara, the observation deck remained crowded.
|Here are some of the views from the tower.
Many of the trees show the devastating effects of disease, pests and pollution.
|The half-mile path to the observation tower is paved but pretty steep. Notice the edge of the parking lot in the background below the mountain peak in the photo at left.
The benches at right are across from restrooms halfway up the walk.
|The Appalachian Trail reaches its highest point at Clingmans Dome, and North Carolina's Mountains-to-Sea Trail starts at Clingmans Dome on its way to Jockeys Ridge on the Outer Banks.|
Wildflowers grow around the parking lot and along the path to the observation tower.
|We spotted a rabbit trail-side, too.|
|The 120-foot Mingo Falls is one of the lesser known features of the Great Smokies. It is actually on the Qualla Boundary, aka the Cherokee Reservation, and not in the park, but is just beyond the Oconaluftee Visitors Center at the Cherokee entrance to the park.
The stairway to the falls is steep and has more than 150 steps, but it's a beautiful waterfall.
|As we were leaving the park, we spotted this elk in a field. Notice its collar, part of the re-population program.|
|Clingmans Dome Road, which is a 7-mile drive from Newfound Gap, is closed in the winter. Newfound Gap is on U.S. 441 west of Cherokee at the North Carolina/Tennessee border.|
|Tara Nelson shot the other photos on this page.|