Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Hike To Andrews Bald In GSMNP

Directions to Trailhead:

From the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, drive 13.2 miles south along Newfound Gap Road to Clingmans Dome Road. Turn right onto Clingmans Dome Road and drive 7 miles all the way to the end of the road. Because of its popularity, the parking lot for this area is quite large. Andrews Bald is accessed via the Forney Ridge Trail, which is located at the far end of the parking lot.
From Cherokee, drive north 20 miles to reach Clingmans Dome Road.

Trail Description:

Andrews Bald is an outstanding destination for hikers seeking spectacular views in the highlands of the Great Smoky Mountains. The hike is just long enough to escape the crowds at Clingmans Dome, but short enough for almost everyone in the family to enjoy.

The upper portions of the Forney Ridge Trail used to be an extremely rugged pathway of creek run-off, rocks and small boulders. Fortunately for hikers of all levels, the Friends of the Smokies, through the Trails Forever program, made some much needed improvements to this section of trail in the fall of 2008. Hiking to Andrews Bald is now much easier than it used to be.

The central reason for hiking to Andrews Bald is to enjoy the spectacular panoramic views that await you at the end of the hike. If it's fogged-in, what's the point?

 The first section of trail passes through a spruce-fir forest, which typically occupies the higher elevations of the Southern Appalachian Mountains, and is basically a relic of the last ice age.
At just over one tenth of a mile into the hike the bypass trail to the Appalachian Trail forks off to the right. To continue onto Andrews Bald, turn left here.
Roughly one mile from the trailhead the Forney Creek Trail branches off to the right, which eventually dead-ends at Backcountry Campsite 74 near Lake Fontana, 11.4 miles away. Go straight here at this junction to continue onto the Bald.

You'll enter Andrews Bald at roughly 1.7 miles. To get to the best views, continue on for another 100 yards or so. From here you'll have several acres of open grassy meadow from which to choose a picnic spot, or to simply take in the incredible views.
High Elevation grassy meadows in the Southern Appalachians are known as balds. Andrews Bald is the highest grassy bald in the Smoky Mountains. However, without maintenance from the Park Service, both Andrews and Gregory Bald would be reclaimed by forest. Both balds are also known for their spectacular displays of azalea and rhododendron blooms in late spring and early summer.
Andrews Bald is a beautiful hike especially on a clear day . Plenty of breath-taking views , wild flowers and small wildlife but don't let that make you at ease and let your guard down. Your very close to Clingmans dome parking lot were numerous amounts of tourist come to see the views and most of the cars are full of food to attract bears. So always be aware and have a safe hike !

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