Clingmans Dome Road is open April 1 - November 30, 2016, weather permitting. It is closed if Newfound Gap Road (US HWY 441 between Gatlinburg TN - Cherokee NC) is closed due to snow, ice or other conditions. For park road conditions, information can be found at twitter.com/smokiesroadsnps or by calling (865) 436-1200 and dialing extension 2, 2.
Note: Due to the amount of water that drains through this area, if it's been raining, you may need to choose another trail.
Features: River/Creek — Waterfall — Wildflowers
Dogs: No Dogs
There are seven creek crossings, and the trail is fairly rocky. The route is fairly ideal for hiking, but not running.
To reach the trailhead, drive 13.2 miles south from Sugarlands Visitor Center on Newfound Gap Road to Clingmans Dome
Road. Turn right and drive another 7 miles to the end of the road where you reach the parking lot. Look for the trailhead at the end of the parking lot by the access road to Clingmans Dome
tower. To access this trail, make your way 1.1 miles out the Forney Ridge Trail
to reach the Forney Creek Trail junction.
Forney Creek Trail follows an old logging railroads that were used to heavily log this area before it became part of the national park. The trail descends steeply (1700 feet in 2.5 miles) as it follows the high ridge down the mountain. After a quick view of Clingmans Dome
, the trail descends through a red spruce forest that gradually transforms into a hemlock forest as the elevation changes. The trail nears Forney Creek, but moves away from the creek instead of crossing it. You come to the first crossing of Forney Creek, which consists of a rail holding rocks in place. Looking up the creek, you can see a series of cascades surrounded by rhododendron. From this point, the trail follows a railroad bed and evidence (cables, buckets, etc) of the logging companies can be seen around the trail. At 2.0 miles, Forney Creek goes down Rock Slab Falls, a spectacular cascade.
The creek continues to get larger as the trail moves down the mountain. The trail passes campsite 68b at 2.4 miles, and then crosses the creek several times as it moves through creek valleys and gullies. After passing campsite 69 at mile 6, there is a creek crossing that requires wading followed by another creek crossing that can be tricky in high water. After this, the trail runs along the left side of Forney Creek until it comes to a foot log that crosses the creek. At mile 7.4, Campsite 70 lies between Forney Creek and Jonas Creek. More creeks flow into Forney Creek as the trail begins level out. At mile 8.6, campsite 71 sits on the left hand side of the trail and is the location of the old Bee Gum CCC camp. The trail finally ends at the junction with the Lakeshore Trail, 11.4 miles from the trailhead. Campsite 74 is located here, although it is heavily used.
This is a long trail that intersects several trails along the way. Jonas Creek Trail
, Springhouse Branch Trail
, White Oak Branch Trail, Bear Creek Trail
, and Lakeshore Trail all intersect this trail providing alternative destinations for you.
Due to the amount of water that can be found in this area, a wide variety of flowers, ferns, and mosses can be found throughout the area. Since the area was heavily logged, it is a prime example of a forest and ecosystem in recovery.
Creeks, cascades, pools, and other water features can be found along this trail as the Forney Creek is fed by a variety to tributaries.