is the highest bald in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It's a great place to take in views and have lunch. Without periodic work from the National Park Service, Andrews Bald
would be reclaimed by the forest. It's a favorite route for visitors and locals, so the likelihood that you'll be alone is slim.
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. This hike follows Forney Ridge Trail
, so look for the trailhead at the end of the parking lot by the access road to Clingmans Dome
As you follow the Forney Ridge Trail
, at .1 mile, the trail takes a sharp left while the Clingmans Dome Bypass Trail
continues straight to the Appalachian Trail. You'll descend through a red spruce and Fraser fir forest, although most of the firs are dead due to the infestation of the balsam wooly adelgid insect. You'll notice these dead trees throughout the Clingmans Dome
area. 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.
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
where views of the Smokies open up before you.
You have reached the destination of the hike. Andrews Bald
provides great views of the surrounding mountains. The large, open, grassy meadow is a great place to sit and enjoy lunch or a snack before you continue hiking. 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, return to your car via the trail that you traveled.
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.
The bald is named for Andreas Thompson who herded cattle up to the area in the 1840s so that they could graze in the summer. He and his family moved there in the 1850s.