“A good route for wildflower viewing that descends along a ridgeline to Springhouse Branch Trail.”
— David Hitchcock
Fall Colors · Views · Wildflowers
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.
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 the Clingmans Dome
As you follow the Forney Ridge Trail, at .1 mile, the trail takes left while the Clingmans Dome Bypass Trail
continues straight to the Appalachian Trail. You'll descend through a forest sprinkled with dead trees. These firs are dead due to the infestation of the balsam wooly adelgid insect. You'll notice these dead trees throughout the Clingmans Dome
The rocky and root strewn trail continues to descend until it levels out along the ridge. Throughout this section of the trail, various wildflowers bloom in the spring and then later in the summer, and raspberries and blackberries ripen as the season progresses towards fall.
At 1.1 miles, the Forney Creek Trail
breaks off to the right as it makes its way to the Lakeshore Trail. Our trail, Forney Ridge Trail, continues straight at the junction. The trail can be very muddy and eroded in places, so the Friends of the Smokies have put in log trails in sections to help combat this problem. Utilize these elevated logs to help keep your feet dry and preserve the trail. After a level stretch, the trail climbs steeply back into a forest of spruce trees. Once the trail levels out, it drops down toward Andrews Bald
at 1.8 miles where views of the Smokies open up before you. The large, open, grassy meadow is a great place to sit and enjoy lunch or a snack before you continue on your way. Flame azaleas and Catawba rhododendrons bloom in late June, putting on a spectacular show of color for wildflower enthusiasts. Once you've enjoyed the views and a snack, the trail continues for another 3.6 miles.
In the final miles of your journey, the trail continues down the ridge line until it reaches a narrow exposed end of the ridge. The trail continues to descend, crossing some wet areas caused by springs on the uphill side. This whole area is great for wildflower hunters. At 4.25 miles, the trail levels out and is less rocky as the trail transforms into hard-packed dirt. The trail descends until it reaches the junction with Springhouse Branch Trail
. It's a long climb back up to your car, or you can explore the other trails in the area.
Flora & Fauna
Flame azaleas and Catawba rhododendron come into full bloom in late June or early July, making this a popular route for wildflower lovers. Raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries can also be found in the area.
Trillium, blue bead lily, lousewort, trout-lily, and other spring wildflowers can be found throughout the cooler, damp areas of the trail.