Yesterday, I cross-country skied on Clingman’s Dome Road.This 7-mile road leads up to the highest point in the Smokies, Clingman’s Dome, at 6,643 feet. This road is a popular tourist destination in the warmer months, but in the winter it is closed to all motorized vehicles(until April 1). This high elevation road probably gets more snow than anywhere else in the Park! And since it is closed in the winter, it never gets plowed, creating great conditions for great cross-country skiing and snowshoeing!
Those that are feeling ambitious go the whole distance to Clingman’s Dome – 14 miles roundtrip! When they arrive at the Clingman’s Dome Observation Tower, they may have the whole place to themselves – a rare occurrence at this popular spot! I wasn’t feeling quite that ambitious, so we skied 2 miles in and 2 miles out.
It is amazing how much it has snowed so far this winter here in the Smokies! It’s made for some treacherous driving, but has also been great for winter sports! Up on Clingman’s Dome Road there were between 10 inches and 2 feet of snow (depending on how sunny or shady the spot)! What started out as near perfect powder, became somewhat sticky beneath our skis as the day warmed up.
After an hour or so, we took a break and I decided to build a snowman! Over the next half hour I had a blast building my creation which ended up being a snowbear! At first I was sad to leave him, but I’m glad that I don’t have to watch him melt! Hopefully he will make a few people smile as they pass by in the next few days!
Unfortunately I don’t know of ANY places around here that rent cross-country skis or snowshoes. Usually we don’t get this much snow, so renting out these items probably hasn’t been profitable in the past. If you are coming to visit Gatlinburg from far away, my advice is to find some cross-country skis or snowshoes before you leave and bring them with you! You can always find them online too. Try Craigslist for a used pair – I actually found a few used pairs in the Knoxville area!
If you decide to try out Clingman’s Dome Road this winter, I hope you have fun! I parked right by the closed gate, off to the side so that other cars can get by. The Park Service might prefer that you park in the Newfound Gap parking lot, but then you would need to walk on the sometimes busy road, so I am not sure which is best. Use your best judgement!
Make sure you bring everything you normally would for hiking: water, hat, gloves, sunglasses, snacks. Keep in mind that you will warm up fast since this is GREAT cardio! This is where layering is important. I only wore my jacket for about 5 minutes! Then it stayed in my backpack for the rest of the day.
Top 10 Reasons I like Cross-Country Skiing
I will leave you with my Top 10 Reasons why I like Cross-Country Skiing. I am also a snowboarder, but the more I cross-country ski, the more I prefer it to snowboarding*! Here’s why:
No Lines – I never have to stop moving
No Lifts – I don’t get cold sitting on the lift.
I can bring my dog and it’s great exercise for him too!
- I can do it in my backyard, and a bunch of other places!
- It is GREAT exercise.
- Easy to learn (and less painful).
- I can watch winter wildlife and look for tracks.
- It gets me outside and into the sun, which helps beat winter blues.
- It’s FUN!
*Nothing against snowboarding. I still love snowboarding!
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