Great Smoky Mountain National Park
1.8 miles (3.6 R.T.) SKILL: Novice to
Wildflowers CONS: Crowds, Road closed in
Winter, rocky, wet, trail
Notes: Highest bald in the park. Best
in the Spring and Fall (Wildflowers)
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of the Southern Appalachians
the Southern Appalachians, there are dozens of high elevation "balds".
Max Patch, Gregory Bald, Stratton Bald and Andrews Bald are some
of the more well known. In the Smokies, as well as other areas,
farmers would drive their livestock to the highest balds in the
summer. Grazing the cattle would keep many of the balds free of
trees. Today, maintenance of the balds is sometimes the only reason
that some of these balds still exist. Andrews Bald must be maintained
by the Park Service in order to retain its' wide open space.
highest bald in the park
is an easy and pleasant hike that begins at the third highest point
in the eastern United States.
any hiker with even the least amount of experience can do this hike
without any difficulty. For this reason expect to see other hikers
on this trail. No worries though, Andrews Bald is large enough to
handle even the biggest crowds and still afford hikers with their
own little picnic spot. The views make this a worthwhile hike, in
spite of the company.
hike begins at the Clingmans Dome parking lot on Forney Ridge. Be
sure to walk the .25 of a mile up the hill to the Clingmans Dome
Tower. This is the third highest point in the Eastern U.S. and the
highest point in the park.
Dome Observation Tower
don't see a very good view from here, and you probably won't, taking
the trail to Andrews Bald will drop you far enough in elevation
to put you below the mist that usually surrounds Clingmans dome.
The large Red Spruce forest that covers the dome was cut during
World War One to supply the materials for Allied airplanes. An elaborate
flume was constructed here to move the cut logs to sawmills at lower
elevations in the Deep Creek area. Luckily this forest has grown
back and is a very beautiful sight to behold.
damage to the red spruce atop Clingmans dome.
hike to "Andrews" begins at the parking lot edge. Before
climbing to the observation tower and before the bathrooms, you
will notice a trail to the left that has an immediate
drop in elevation. This is the trail that leads to one of the best
picnic spots in the park. It is very rocky, comprised of the unique
sandstone that is called Anakeesta. The first unmarked trail to
the right leads to a treatment plant that is for the bathrooms on
the ridge. Not worth checking out, unless you have some nose-plugs.
hike to the bald is only one mile and a half long (give or take).
The trail follows a mild grade through a Boreal forest commonly
seen in northern New England. Old Growth Red Spruce, Fraser Firs,
Moss and lots of Ferns. The trail stays wet from springs that use
it as a path. In freezing weather the loose sandstone and ice can
make this treacherous. These same springs "feed" a Boreal
Bog type environment and a damp yet delightful odor fills the air.
Creek Trail joins to the right at approximately the halfway point
in this hike. After that, the trail travels through puddles
and bogs to the great open area called Andrews Bald.
depending upon the season, the plant life puts on almost as good
of a show as the views. In mid June the Rhododendron and Flame Azalea
flowers burst into bloom with an accompanying sweet perfumery scent.
The fiery colors will take your breath away. In the Spring and the
Fall wildflowers cover the Bald with a show of their own.
'round the views are great.
This is the spot where you spread out the blanket and open the well
stocked wicker picnic basket. Lounging around in the sun and taking
in the views are a great past time for the many couples who visit
Andrews Bald. Luckily the Park Service and dedicated volunteers
maintain this area to keep the views open.
maintained bald is almost impeccable in appearance. Once again the
Park Service has taken a small budget and stretched it to make to
backcountry more enjoyable! Be sure to bring a
wildflower identification guide anyway, it may add to your hiking
experience to identify to wide variety of flora that is found here.
At the opposite side of the bald from
where you entered, the trail continues down Forney Ridge to the
Deep Creek area of the park. If you would like to continue, the
views on this section of the trail are outstanding. The crowds diminish
as you move away from Andrews Bald and you can always backtrack.
ENJOY THE VIEWS !
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